Japan has shelved plans to reform its three-tier beer tax code until at least 2017, a Japanese news agency has reported.

The government had planned to condense the three different tax levels - which includes lower tax levels for low-malt and beer-like beverages - into one but now say more consultation is needed, Jiji Press said last week. Discussions on a new tax rate are now likely to take place for fiscal 2017, which starts in April 2017, the report said.

According to Jiji, taxes on beer and quasi-beer vary considerably in Japan. A tax of JPY77 (US$0.62) per 35cl is imposed on beer, JPY47 on 'happoshu' quasi-beer with low malt content and JPY28 on beer-like beverages with little or no malt content.

Japan's Asahi Shimbun reported in August that the new plans would call for a uniform rate of JPY55, which would make the two non-beer categories more expensive for consumers. It said one goal of the plan was to stop breweries avoiding higher taxes for beer by producing imitation beverages that fall short of the definition of beer.

In 2012, Suntory reportedly said it was exiting the happoshu low-malt quasi-beer market in favour of third-category beer because happoshu shipments had fallen by 40%. That trend appears to have reversed with happoshu shipments up 12.4% in the first half of 2015, according to figures released in July. Japan Times said the increase was driven by strong demand for new products targeting health-conscious customers.

Japan's beer tax is 17 times that of Germany and about ten times higher than in the US, the Asahi Shimbun newspaper said.