Since the start of Australia’s first COVID-19 peak and its associated lockdowns, the Australian Tax Office (ATO) has been supporting the sale of takeaway alcohol by licensed venues, where state and territory liquor arrangements allow.

This support allows venues operating under pandemic restrictions to repackage and sell on alcohol for off-premise consumption without requiring an excise manufacturer licence or paying excise duty, as long as said sale meets the arrangement set by the local liquor authority. 

The support arrangement began on March 23, and was originally slated to end on June 30. The end date was then extended until September 30, but has now been extended again until January 31, 2021, after the ATO recognised “the ongoing impacts COVID-19 is having on the alcohol industry”.

In January 2021, the arrangement will be reviewed again to determine whether the support will continue further, but in the meantime, the move has been recognised as a win for the industry. 

The Australian Hotels Association (AHA) National CEO, Stephen Ferguson, said the support arrangement from the ATO has given publicans a fair opportunity to trade while their businesses are operating in a way far from normal.

“When COVID first hit and pubs went into lock down – they were all restricted to takeaway food and beverages and the sale of draught beer in Growlers became even more popular. Unfortunately Growlers attract a higher degree of excise,” Ferguson said.

“[Carlton & United Breweries] has led the way on this complex issue, arguing successfully that in these tough times it was unfair for pubs to have to charge higher prices due to the excise. The Treasurer Josh Frydenberg listened to the arguments and put in place concessions to allow publicans to sell take-away beer.”

As well as applying to growlers, the support allows venues to sell packaged cocktails to takeaway. It applies to all states and territories where venues operate under pandemic-related restrictions like the one person per four square metre density rule. 

The ATO has also reminded businesses that there’s a range of options available for those doing it tough as a result of the pandemic. 

ATO Assistant Commissioner Andrew Watson said “We know some small business owners are under incredible amounts of stress and facing uncertainty like never before. We understand your tax obligations may not be at the top of your list of things to do. So if you need some extra help with your tax and super affairs, I urge you to contact your registered tax professional or the ATO. We’re here to help.

“If you’re feeling overwhelmed or getting behind with your tax, let us know as early as possible so we can work with you to find a solution. No matter what your situation is, it’s never too late to ask for help.”

According to the ATO, the current and previous financial year will see many businesses making a loss when they ordinarily would be turning a profit. It noted that many businesses would be in this situation for the first time too. In any case, Watson recommends staying on top of record keeping, doing your best to keep up with tax and super obligations, and seeking professional assistance from a registered tax professional.

Find out more about the ATO support for excise alcohol here, or reach out to them at 1800 806 218 for any questions.

Brydie Allen

Brydie Allen is the Editor of National Liquor News. She has been with Food and Beverage Media since 2019, when she joined the company as a journalist across National Liquor News, Bars & Clubs, The...

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