Spirits sales generated more tax than sales of beer in the UK for the first time, according to recently-released figures.

The country's tax authority, Her Majesty's Revenue & Customs, said today that the amount of tax from spirits sales in the 12 months to the end of April rose by 7% on the corresponding period a year ago, coming in at GBP3.38bn (US$4.36bn). Beer, meanwhile, brought in GBP3.32bn in tax, a lift of just 1%.

Wine topped the chart, though, with a tax haul for HMRC of GBP4.17bn, a year-on-year increase of 5%.

Trade body The Wine & Spirit Association used the figures to highlight what it called a "painful" increase in the rate of duty on alcohol in the UK, earlier this year.

"Spirit makers were slapped with a painful 3.9% rise on alcohol duty in the March Budget," the WSTA said. "The UK's high duty rates mean that UK consumers pay 25% of all spirits duties collected by EU member states and a staggering 76% of the average price of a bottle of gin is taken up in duty and VAT."

Chief executive Miles Beale added: "The 7% increase on (spirits) revenue takings came as a result of the Chancellor of the Exchequer freezing spirit duty in 2016 and allowing the industry to grow and invest. It proves the point that cutting or freezing spirits duty brings rewards, which is why the inflation-busting rise in duty this year was such a disappointment and threatens the industry's ability to invest, grow and export."

The UK has the fourth highest spirits duty rates in the EU, according to WSTA, with 77% of a bottle of spirits accounted for by tax.

Tax from alcohol sales - The UK

2015/20162016/2017% change

Source: Her Majesty's Revenue & Customs