HMRC beer duty bungle leaves breweries struggling to pay online

Shiny new web form can't cope with Budget month

The UK's taxmen have scuppered several piss-ups after brewers discovered the Government Gateway's online duty calculator can't calculate the latest beer tax hikes.

"It would have been sensible if, prior to announcing the change, the Chancellor established whether HMRC and the businesses impacted were capable of administering it," Colin Bocking of the Crouch Vale Brewery told The Register.

Following the overnight March hike in beer duty, announced by Chancellor Philip Hammond, brewers tried to use HMRC's shiny new web-based EX46 beer duty form. However, bungling taxmen failed to allow the form to handle reporting periods that begin in the middle of the month – and were forced to take the web version offline.

"HMRC's own website will not accept mid-month dates as valid Beer Duty return period start/end dates. Hence it rejects the form," Richard Naisby of the Milton Brewery told us.

"I now learn that we are all going to have to submit paper returns. I only hope that they find a way of promulgating this instantly to the 1,000-plus brewers in the UK, because there are fines for late submissions and the deadline looms."

HMRC web monkeys have now pulled the web beer duty form offline. "The online form EX46 will not be available for March returns, please use the paper or print and post forms," says the EX46 page on gov.uk.

In spite of contacting HMRC earlier this month to ask about it, Naisby said the taxman had stonewalled him: "They have so far failed to respond with anything other than a holding email. Today is the last day to submit valid paper returns, and for a lot of breweries the last post will have been already collected."

Beer duty is calculated monthly. In Budget months breweries must complete two duty returns; one for the old rate and one for the new rate, which normally comes into force at midnight on the day of the Chancellor's Budget address to Parliament.

The tax is paid monthly by brewers to HMRC and has, until recently, been a paper-only form.

We asked HMRC whether it will extend the deadline for breweries thanks to the web cockup. We will update this story if we hear back from them. ®


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