Damp Squibs

As could have been predicted, the result was not nearly as dramatic as the trade, the media and the excited consumers might have hoped.

The EU Courts ruled to keep the status quo relating to the payment of duty on wine (and other duty-payable products) imported for personal consumption.

To be honest, I expected this. The law as it is is already very complicated to monitor, and I could already forsee all sorts of ways to get around the remaining Customs oversight if it had changed. Pragmatically, the Court decided that only wines bought in person, in another EU country, and transported back by the consumer themselves would not be liable for duty in the home country.

It is important to note that this ruling did reiterate that even for “personal consumption” purposes, there is a maximum volume of 90L that you can bring in. I do know that a lot of people assume there is no limit, and they also assume that they can ship it without paying further Duty. In many cases the values are too small for Customs to bother with, but the rules are there so you ignore them at your peril.

So, are we any further forward after this? Well, this argument helped to highlight the future benefit of harmonising tax regimes so as to remove this difference, but governments that charge high duty will still need the money, so they will only collect it elsewhere if this source dries up. I will not hold my breath until the UK decides to lower duty on wine & spirits for UK consumers.

Secondly, it did make wine (and cigarettes … shame we have to be connected all the time) the topic of a national conversation again. Unfortunately this was, once again, all about price and “savings”. In practice all you would save was the duty anyway, so it would disproportionately have benefited cheap wines. Not ideal.

Lastly, it did highlight that such a move would push most small merchants over the edge financially. Some of them got a chance to say this to a wider audience because of this story, so maybe, just maybe, there will be some consumers out there who take this to heart and decide to support those merchants by buying their wines from there instead. One can dream.