By Ian Neubauer

Federal Health Minister Nicola Roxon has reiterated a threat to crack down on beverage manufacturers that use alcohol made from beer to circumvent the RTD tax hike.

The Minister told Channel Nine over the weekend that the Federal Government was looking for ways to close the loophole that has resulted in the introduction of ‘malternatives’ to the Australian marketplace.

"We take a very dim view of manufacturers trying to find another loophole," she said, following revelations that Diageo will begin selling beer-based RTDs before the year’s end, with other distributors expected to follow suit.

The Minister voiced similar sentiments in May, when she told the broadcaster the Government would seek a way to apply the RTD tax hike on non-spirit based RTDs. “What we’re doing is closing that loophole,” she said.

But closing the loophole may be easier said than done.

It would require a redefining of beer in the tax act in regards to taste and colour that would create mass confusion for craft and boutique brewers producing flavoured beers.

Complicating matters even further is the tenuous status of the RTD tax hike. Introduced as a bill in April this year, it has not been presented for approval in the Senate and inasmuch remains somewhat of an oddity in law.

Should the bill be rejected, the Federal Government would be required to refund hundreds of millions in excise already collected from consumers directly to distributors.

However, the Distilled Spirits Industry Council of Australia (DSICA) has indicated its members would not accept the monies and instead reroute it toward harm-minimisation initiatives and education. 

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The Shout Team

The leading online news service for Australia's beer, wine, spirits and hospitality industries.

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