The chairman of the Japanese government's tax commission, Hiromitsu Ishi, has said that he would be willing to consider harmonising the tax rates on "happoshu" low malt beverages and beer. A tax hike for "happoshu" was being considered by the government last year but was eventually dropped.

It is not clear how the commission would realise the harmonisation of the two rates. It would inevitably involve a sharp rise in the tax rate for happoshu which currently has a far lower rate than beer, the main factor behind its strong growth. However, it also appears that a reduction in the tax rate for beer is also being considered.

Ishi said the harmonisation could happen within several years. He believes the alcohol tax system should be simplified, creating three large categories as opposed to the current 10. Under such a rationalisation, wine and sake would be put in the one category, while whisky, sochu and other distilled spirits would similarly be unified in one spirits classification.