While the country sits waiting, cowering for the new round of fresh indignities to be heaped upon it, there seems to be consensus in the press that income tax rates will go up and that excise duties will be increased significantly. In case you have put the worthless botchjob that was last October's budget into repressed memory, let me remind you that our glorious leaders increased excise duty on wine by 50c per bottle only 4 months ago.
You would imagine that an increase of almost 25% on the most penal tax rates on wine in Europe, resulting in a 40% increase in business for the off-licence trade in Northern Ireland (and resultant loss of business for their southern counterparts and the Irish exchequer) would be damage enough for the time being. Add in the fact that the restaurant sector is haemorrhaging, the retail sector in Ireland stands at the edge of the abyss and what are we looking at? Measures to improve confidence and encourage consumer spending (in this jurisdiction)? Or another increase in taxes on consumption? I think we know the answer.
Every time Brian Cowen forecasts unemployment rates for the end of the year, it goes up - the latest forecast (or is it a target?) is 450,000. Shortsighted, soft, unimaginative increases in duty on alcohol will drive more people to drive up North to do their shopping and discourage people from taking up the great value to be had in Irish restaurants at present. The results will be:
- reduced tax take from booze
- no change in consumption
- huge increase in unemployment from retail and restaurant sectors
Not exactly a win-win, is it?
I know I am biased in this, but let me assure you there are no millionaire wine merchants in Ireland. Most are small business, trying to get by, glad to make a living from doing something we love.
It seems this government is intent on driving the country into the abyss on all fronts, but if you care about wine and can lobby your local TD about this, I think you should. Otherwise the only ones standing after the great depression of 2009/2010 will be the supermarkets with their offerings of industrial wine.