Saturday, 16 April 2011

Why no tax on cyder?

Brewers were used to paying large amounts of tax. And were, in general, pretty resentful about it. Unsurprisingly, they didn't like the idea of anyone else getting away without paying tax. Like cider producers.


WHY NO TAX ON CYDER?

Those who before the war were advocates for the taxation of cyder now have become claimants. The thrice raised beer duty resulting from the present conflict buttresses their case so that it becomes invulnerable. Cyder was taxed from 1916 to 1923, since when it has been allowed a privileged position, which, frankly, is inexplicable. Those who have a mind for what is academic will be interested to have recalled to them this passage from the Report of the Royal Commission on Licensing (England and Wales) 1929-1931, page 263.

"From 1660 onwards intoxicating liquors began increasingly to be regarded as a source of State Revenue. In that year certain impositions on beer, ale, cyder, perry, metheglin or mead, vinegar-beer and strong water, or aqua vita-, as well as on coffee, chocolate, sherbet and tea, were granted to enhances the Revenue of the King for life. The taxation was increased from time to time and intoxicating liquor was found an increasing and easy source of revenue for State purposes."

So that cyder, which was taxed in 1660 to provide revenue for the King, stands untaxed in 1910 in the time of the country's greatest financial need.

When war broke out draught cyder was sold in many rural areas at 3d. or 3.5d. per pint. The alternative was beer at 4d. per pint: to-day, because of additional taxation, that beer is costing 7d. per pint. The additional 3d. per pint imposed on beer since the war has served to place cyder at a distinct advantage. We are well aware that in some areas brewers do not favour a cyder tax. Their main reason is that cyder gives to the agricultural labourer and to the poorer elements in the community a chance of patronising the local inn and consuming an alcoholic beverage at a low price. Further, that not infrequently such people are accompanied to their favourite hostelry by others who prefer to drink beer or alcoholic beverages other than cyder. Hence the, turnover of the licensed house is increased beyond what it would be were the prices of the national beverage and cyder brought nearer together by taxation of the latter. The vast majority of brewers, however, hold strongly to the view that it is unfair to penalise beer — solely because it is an alcoholic beverage — whilst leaving cyder entirely untaxed. For in the matter of alcoholic content, cyder is no mean opponent of beer. A Monthly Bulletin, in its July issue, reports that soldiersin some districts are drinking cyder because it is "stronger than light ales." Our contemporary states that it has received from a laboratory a table showing the amounts of alcohol in the cyder produced by a well-known firm and in the light ales of
three well-known breweries, as follows :—


Flagons of Cyder, Flagons of Light Ale.
Price. 11.5d. 1s. 5d. 1s. 5d. 1s. 5d.
Alcohol by weight 3.7 2.7 3 2.8
Alcohol by volume 4.7 3.1 3.8 3.5
Proof spirit 8.2 6 6 6.1


These figures serve to illustrate once again that cyder is an alcoholic beverage in this respect more than holding its own with beer. Until the Government take action by taxing cyder brewers will continue their agitation. Meanwhile they would do well to consider "rationing" their tied houses in the matter of a beverage which from price considerations is allowed to compete so unfairly with beer.

"The Brewers' Journal 1940" pages 631 - 632. (Published August 21st, 1940.)

I suppose I can understand brewers' frustration at cider being spared the big tax rises of the early war years. It is odd that for so long cider was untaxed. (It still is for those who produce fewer than 70 hl a year). I can remember when the cider tax was reintroduced in 1976. Teenagers and the homeless were crying on their park benches.

4.7% ABV seems quite low for cider. Still, it's a good bit higher than the Light Ale.Quite why they picked Light Ale for the comparison is a mystery. Perhaps because it came in flagons like cider. I'd have thought that a beer of similar alcoholic strength to the cider would have made a better comparison.

The reason for cider being untaxed is an intriguing one: to give the rural poor a cheap drink. Sounds a fair enough objective to me. This would explain why the cider tradition was mostly concentrated in the less prosperous parts of Britian, such as the West Country. Consumption of cider was much lower and much more localised than it is today. Somewhere I've some nice shiny figures to back that up. Ah, here they are:

Consumption of alcoholic drinks in the UK

Spirits(100% alcohol)
Wines
Beer
Cider

per head (litres)
per head (litres)
per head (litres)
per head (litres)
1962
0.75
2.41
88.6
1.6
1963
0.8
2.54
89
1.6
1964
0.85
2.86
92.6
1.6
1965
0.91
3.09
91.9
1.7
1966
0.83
3.09
93.7
1.8
1967
0.83
3.09
94.8
2.1
1968
0.83
3.68
96.6
2.1
1969
0.83
3.73
100.4
2.4
1970
0.9
3.7
103
2.6
1971
1
4.4
106.2
2.6
1972
1.1
5
107.6
2.6
1973
1.4
6.3
113.3
2.8
1974
1.5
6.7
116.1
2.8
1975
1.5
6.3
118.5
3.3
1976
1.6
6.5
120.7
3.8
1977
1.4
6.3
119.1
3.6
1978
1.7
7.5
121.3
3.7
1979
1.9
8.1
123.4
3.8
1980
1.8
8.2
118.9
4
1981
1.7
8.6
113
4.4
1982
1.6
8.7
109.8
5.2
1983
1.6
9.5
111.2
5.8
1984
1.6
10.4
110.6
5.8
1985
1.7
10.9
109.3
5.6
1986
1.7
11.3
109.3
5.7
1987
1.7
12
111.3
5.7
1988
1.8
12.4
114.2
5.5
1989
1.8
12.7
114.4
5.7
1990
1.7
12.5
113.9
6.4
1991
1.6
12.3
109.7
6.5
1992
1.5
12.6
105.9
7.6
1993
1.5
13.2
102.6
7.8
1994
1.6
13.6
104.8
8.3
1995
1.4
13.4
102.1
9.6
1996
1.4
14.1
103.2
9.7
1997
1.5
15.2
105.1
9.5
1998
1.4
15.7
100.9
9.5
1999
1.6
16.6
100.7
10.3
2000
1.6
17.3
97.2
10.2
2001
1.6
18.2
99
10
2002
1.7
19.6
100.6
10.1
Sources:
Statistical Handbook of the British Beer & Pub Association 2003 p.35


As you'll see, in 1962 there was bugger all cider drunk compared to beer. I'd also like to think that the peak in beer drinking in the late 1970's was in some small way due to my own efforts.

3 comments:

Rod said...

"I'd also like to think that the peak in beer drinking in the late 1970's was in some small way due to my own efforts"

Sorry, Ron - I defer to you in most instances, but I do feel that I deserve a share of the credit here.....

marquis said...

I can remember buying litre bottles of cider for 19 pence from Fine Fare in the late 1970s.A pint of Home Bitter at the time was generally 25 pence.
Unfortunately I didn't have a lot of 25 pences at the time !

Thomas Barnes said...

It seems to me that the reason why cider wasn't taxed is because it wasn't worth the exciseman's trouble.

Brewing and distilling are industrial processes which use distinctive equipment and ingredients which are often quite obviously intended for brewing. Thus, it's easy to find and tax brewers and maltsters, and to a lesser extent distillers.

By contrast, just about anyone with a garden or farm can grow and press apples and it's easy to hide a jug or firkin of juice. And, if you get caught with a barrel of fermenting apple juice, you can always say you were intending to make vinegar.

I'm sure that the tax authorities considered the disruptive, demoralizing and futile process of sending tax men to root through every shed, barn and haystack to catch cider-makers and then gave up on the idea.