Accounting for Wine Duty

Find out how to measure the volume and alcohol by volume (ABV) of wine or made-wine.

In this guide, ‘wine’ refers to both wine and made-wine.

You need to measure the volume and ABV of your wine to complete your duty return.

On your return, you need to calculate the amount you owe based on the litres of wine that are liable for duty at each duty band. You’ll also need to apply any reliefs that you can claim.

You should round down the quantity of wine to the nearest whole litre and then calculate the amount of duty you owe. You must work out each stage of the duty calculation process to at least 4 decimal places.

You round the amount of duty down to the nearest pence.

Measure the volume of wine

You can measure the quantity of wine by measuring each container or using an ‘average system’.

Use an average system

If you use an average system you need to make sure that the average contents of the packages are not less than the declared contents on the packaging.

The individual containers may be more or less than the declared contents as long as the average is not less that the declared contents.

You must take at least one sample for each production run. Each sample must be a minimum of 5 packages.

You can ask for permission to combine monitoring for different products if you make or package small amounts of a seasonal product, and monitoring it separately would not create an accurate result.

You should calculate duty on the quantity of wine in containers of:

  • 10 litres or less (small pack) based on the quantity on the label of the can or bottle
  • more than 10 litres (large pack) by measuring the actual contents through dipping, metering or weighing

Monitor your filling process

You must monitor your filling process to make sure that containers are not regularly filled with excessively more or less wine than the amount on the label.

You need to record the checks you make so we can check this.

Overfilled containers of wine

You’ll need to pay more duty if you have consistently and excessively overfilled your wine containers.

If you’ve not paid the correct amount of duty we’ll:

  • assess how much you owe based on your records
  • use our best judgement to assess how much you owe if your records are not enough

Measure the ABV of wine

You must measure the ABV of wine at 20°C and record it to one decimal place.

You must measure the strength of each batch for each of your products. It does not matter if a batch is then packaged into different containers, like boxes and bottles.

You’ll need to pay the duty based on the alcoholic strength of the wine when it becomes liable for duty.

How to measure the ABV of wine

You can use any method of measuring the strength of wine, but it should produce the same results as the distillation analysis method. You’ll need to be able to explain your method and show that the results would match the distillation analysis method.

If your method is not based on laboratory analysis, you’ll need to get an independent analyst to test the ABV of each of your products annually. This must be consistent with your calculation of ABV and you’ll need to keep a record of the results.

How we check you have the correct ABV

If there’s a dispute about the strength of wine we may take a sample of the wine and analyse it using the distillation analysis method.

We calculate strength by:

  • taking a sample of the wine and clearing it of sediment and gas
  • making it alkaline by the addition of calcium hydroxide
  • distilling it until it’s pure alcohol
  • bringing the distilled alcohol to the original measure by adding water
  • measuring the distillate’s density in air at 20°C using a pycnometer
  • working out the strength of the distillate by using the Laboratory Alcohol Table to find the percentage ABV that matches the density of the distillate

Using the declared strength

You can calculate the duty based on the declared strength of your wine. This is the ABV that you put on the packaging of your wine.

You need to explain the processes you’ve used to make sure the actual strength, on average, matches the declared strength of the wine.

Record how you check ABV

You need to check the strength of your wine continuously and show that the average strength is similar to the ABV on your return and on your packaging.

If the average strength goes above the amount specified on your return, you need to record the action you took to return it to the correct ABV. If you do not take action to keep the strength of wine consistent within the limits of your duty band, we may assess the strength of your wine, and you may have to pay extra duty.

Measuring one-off products

You do not have to measure the ABV of new products or products that are produced infrequently.

You’ll need to show that you’ve based the ABV on evidence from your other other products and your experience.

Published 11 July 2018