Forbes makes plea for Chancellor to lift duties on alcohol for hand sanitiser

The Chancellor is being urged to scrap tax and excise duties on alcohol that is being used to make hand sanitiser.

Scottish Finance Secretary Kate Forbes made the plea as distilleries across the country have been switching production away from their usual products to make hand cleaning gels.

Firms such as north-east Scottish brewers Brewdog have changed their production lines after panic buying during the coronavirus pandemic left sanitiser in short supply.

Ms Forbes said she was “heartened” to see so many companies playing their part to replenish stocks.

Scottish Finance Secretary Kate forbes has raised the issue with Chancellor Rishi Sunak (Jane Barlow/PA)

She added that in these “exceptional” times “where it is clear that alcohol is being provided for the purpose of hygiene, sanitisation and medical use it should not be subject to excise or tax as a default”.

In her letter to Chancellor Rishi Sunak, Ms Forbes wrote: “I hope you agree the fewest barriers possible should be in place to support the Covid-19 response.

“In this time of uncertainty and national crisis, I am heartened by the many generous offers of support from organisations and industries who believe they can help the NHS.

“There are, for example, offers from the producers of alcoholic drinks, to turn their focus and activities towards the provision of hand sanitiser, and this is my reason for writing to you.”

Say hello to Punk Sanitiser 🙌

To help with the shortages, we have just started working on making hand sanitiser at our distillery in Scotland. We are determined to do everything we can to try and help as many people as possible stay safe.

It's time to keep it clean. pic.twitter.com/1rNoGqdVXF

— BrewDog (@BrewDog) March 18, 2020

Ms Forbes continued: “Given the exceptional circumstances the country is facing and the need to protect our key workers at this time, we would like to see the greatest flexibility applied – where it is clear that alcohol is being provided for the purpose of hygiene, sanitisation and medical use it should not be subject to excise or tax as a default.

“I want to see priority being given to supporting, processing and approving applications from companies who have offered to support the supply and manufacture of hand sanitiser to the NHS and other key frontline staff.

“For organisations who do not usually operate in the area of healthcare, there are many questions around overcoming regulatory barriers, as well as ensuring excise duty is not due on key ingredients, such as alcohol, when supplied for this purpose.”

A spokesman for HM Treasury said: “Spirit distilleries authorised by HMRC to produce alcohol-based hand sanitiser are already exempt from alcohol duty.”

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