The European Commission has opened a public consultation on the structures of excise duties applied to alcohol and alcoholic beverages in the EU. This is part of the process of the potential revision of EU law (Directive 92/83/EEC) which defines and classifies alcoholic products and their level of excise duty within the single EU market.

According to an October 2016 report published by the Commission, the Directive - which has not been substantially updated since its creation in 1992 - creates unnecessary administrative costs and burdens for both regulators and economic operators. In addition, the Commission has identified detrimental distortions within the EU market due to ambiguity in certain definitions. The Commission recommends a number of changes to the Directive including, inter alia, clarification of excise categorization of “other fermented beverages,” application of reduced rates to small producers of still and sparkling wine, ensuring consistent interpretation and application of excise duties for beer, and creating coherence concerning sparkling beverages for customs purposes.

The deadline for comment is 7 July 2017. The Commission will publish a report on the consultation as part of an impact assessment in the fourth quarter of 2017.

Input from trade associations, companies, and individuals is welcomed by the Commission. Consultations can provide good opportunities to shape the Commission’s thinking at the pre-legislative proposal stage. Those submitting comments often are invited to be involved in expert groups, targeted consultations, and/or are asked to provide information as part of the impact assessment or legislative process, thus providing additional opportunities to positively influence legislation. Corporations therefore should consider filing comments directly even where the trade associations to which they belong submit comments covering sectoral interests.