Excise delays levy process

Excise delays levy process

Non-alcoholic beer, sodium tax mulled

The Excise Department has put on hold a process to consider levies on salty food and non-alcoholic beer. (Bangkok Post photo)
The Excise Department has put on hold a process to consider levies on salty food and non-alcoholic beer. (Bangkok Post photo)

The Excise Department has put on hold a process to consider levies on salty food and non-alcoholic beer until the Covid-19 epidemic is under control, its chief says.

Given that containing the deadly virus outbreak is the top priority of the Public Health Ministry, which plays a vital role in mulling both excise taxes, such issues will be reconsidered after the situation improves, said Patchara Anuntasilpa, director-general of the Excise Department.

The department plans to apply World Health Organization (WHO) guidance on dietary sodium intake capped at 2,000 milligrammes per day as a benchmark to determine the levy rates. The Public Health Ministry will determine how much sodium should be allowed as ingredients in frozen food, instant noodles and rice porridge to avoid consuming sodium in excess of the WHO standard. 

For non-alcoholic beer, the ministry needs to clearly define zero-alcohol beer and whether its levy rate should be in between that of sugary drinks and normal beer, he said.

Given the lack of a specific tariff on non-alcoholic beer, the Excise Department applies the non-alcohol beverage rate, 14% of the suggested retail price, to non-alcoholic beer. Alcoholic beer is charged a 28% tariff of the suggested retail price.

The department considered the tariffs on non-alcoholic beer and non-beverage alcohol after the ministry voiced concern over the drinks.

Mr Patchara shrugged off some academics' opinions that zero-alcohol beer should be charged a higher excise tax rate than sugary drinks, saying non-alcoholic beer is one option in following the government's policy to reduce alcohol consumption.

However, non-alcoholic beer needs the same regulations as alcohol, including a prohibition on sales near schools, he said.

Mr Patchara said the Covid-19 epidemic will take a bite out of the Excise Department's tax revenue because of the decline in tourists.

The impact should become evident in March as the beverage excise tax is levied at manufacturing plants ahead of consumption, he said.

In fiscal 2019, the department managed to collect 24.2 billion baht in tax revenue from beverages, rising 10% from a year earlier.

Mr Patchara said the government's measures to boost domestic travel, including a planned extension of the Songkran holiday, could help improve the tourism industry.

For the four months through January, the Excise Department garnered 212 billion baht, up 27.2 billion or 14.7% over the same period a year before.

The largest excise tax sources were fuel, auto, beer, alcohol and tobacco.

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