Venues face fines for selling growlers without manufacturer licence

Venues face fines of up to $23,100 if they offer growlers without an alcohol manufacturer licence following changes to beer excise rules.

An ATO spokesperson confirmed that any venue filling growlers will need to have a manufacturing and excise licence, which is not so much a problem for brewpubs which presumably have the correct licence relating to their brewery operations, but more so for venues serving craft beer in growlers poured from containers taxed at the concessional rate.

The excise changes, which came into force at the beginning of July, stipulated that all kegs between 8 and 48 litres are now taxed at an equal rate. The changes were met with mixed reviews from brewers.

The ATO has since elaborated on the changes in relation to growlers, saying that an alcohol manufacturing licence will be needed if a venue repackages beer in growler form which has already had excise duty paid on it at a concessional rate.

It said this would affect venues which repackage beer into individual sealed containers that come in at less than eight litres – or 8-48 litres where the container is not designed to connect to a pressurised gas or pump delivery system.

An alcohol manufacturer licence would not be required where the beer has had duty paid on it at the non-concessional rate, and it is then repackaged into another sealed container, the ATO said.

It is required by law and will be enforced as such, they warned.

If the repackaging of alcohol requires a manufacturing licence, and a venue does not have it, there may be a penalty of 110 units. A penalty unit is an amount of $210, meaning offending venues could face fines of $23,100.

“The ATO continually reviews risks as part of the administration of the tax system and takes a differentiated, risk based approach to determine the most appropriate treatment strategies,” said an ATO spokesperson.

“These include help and education as well as audits and prosecutions. Our compliance approach supports taxpayers who engage with us and want to get things right.

“We do however take firmer action for those unwilling to meet their obligations. We base our approach on the relevant facts and circumstances of each case,” they said.

The ATO said that it is important for venues to know the correct rates and repackaging rules.

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