Distillers issue spirited tax plea

WHISKY distillers in Tasmania met federal politicians at Parliament House last month and raised the possibility of excise tax cuts on whisky to assist the industry to grow.

The meeting was held to honour Sullivans Cove Whisky, which won the prestigious World's Best Single Malt Whisky Award in March this year, putting Tasmanian products on the world whisky radar.

Sullivans Cove director Patrick Maguire said it was an opportune time to show politicians, including federal Finance Minister Mathias Cormann, what the emerging industry was achieving.

He said distillers paid an average $25 tax on every entry level 700-millilitre bottle of whisky sold in Australia, plus GST.

For some Tasmanian distillers, this equates to a yearly excise payment of between $500,000 and $1 million.

``We have a strong, albeit small, whisky distilling industry in Australia, and it would be nice to get help where we can,'' Mr Maguire said.

``Without us requesting some sort of tax relief system - like the wine industry did - we are not going to get one.''

Mr Maguire said the political response had been promising.

``We are experiencing rapid growth, the problem is that we are limited by lack of funds.

``If we didn't have so much excise every month we would have a lot more to develop our infrastructure and marketing which is key,'' he said. 

``Minister Cormann was very interested and wants to continue discussions with us, as do the other (Tasmanian) senators.''

Hellyers Road Distillery general manager Mark Littler said Tasmanian whisky distillers - including whisky godfather Bill Lark, of Lark Distillery - had been requesting tax relief for years.

``The excise is a significant impost on our business . . . this financial year our distillery will contribute about $1 million to the federal coffers,'' Mr Littler said.

``The excise also has to be paid immediately, and that can create problems with cashflow.

``Any relief that we can get on excise could be reinvested into our export program which will then in turn benefit our local economy.''

 Read about the expanding Tasmanian whisky industry in next week's edition of The Sunday Examiner.  

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