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UK: Treasury launches tax crackdown on Scottish alcohol businesses

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A government taskforce targeting suspected tax cheats in the Scottish alcohol industry is hoping to recoup GBP4m (US$6.4m).

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Inspectors will visit companies to examine their records and carry out other investigations, the UK Government said today (20 November). About 300 companies, including wholesalers, distributors, off-licences and producers, are expected to be targeted. 

A spokesperson for revenue and customs told just-drinks Scotland's large Scotch makers will likely not be involved in the crackdown because they are continually monitored by the government's large business unit.

The Scotch Whisky Association said the Scotch industry has an on-going relationship with revenue and customs in the UK. "The industry is tightly controlled as part of the work to protect the definition of Scotch Whisky," a spokesperson told just-drinks. "Our expectation is the HMRC will be looking at the alcohol industry in a wider sense.”

The initiative is part of the government's ongoing clampdown on tax evasion and fraud, revenue and customs said. Chief secretary to the treasury Danny Alexander said: “It is just not fair that, while most people in Scotland are paying the right tax, a tiny minority are not paying what they should."

Taskforces have already investigated business in the scrap-metal industry and other retail trades, targetting one region at a time. The spokesperson said the Scottish alcohol crackdown could target other areas at a later date. He also said the crackdown could last up to a year. 

The Scottish government is planning to introduce a minimum price for alcohol in the country. A judicial review on the measure launched by the Scotch Whisky Association was delayed last month until January.


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