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Booze tax 'won't be cut'

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10:28 CEST+02:00
Swedes' mass private imports of alcohol from other EU countries have not persuaded the new government to reduce tax on alcoholic drinks sold in Sweden. The problem will instead be tackled by harsher penalties for illegal sales of alcohol and by increased vigilance at customs posts.

Maria Larsson, the new public health minister, said the government had not discussed tax cuts on alcohol.

"We haven't raised the question, and there is possibly not a common position on this in the Alliance," said Larsson, a Christian Democrat, to Swedish Radio.

Her comments were slammed by industry organization Swedish Spirits & Wine Suppliers (SWSS).

"It is necessary to cut taxes - around sixty percent of the alcohol we drink is bought outside the country," said Bertil Swartz, CEO of SWSS, to The Local.

He said that other measures to stem the inflow of cheap foreign booze were unlikely to be effective, "unless we build a wall round Sweden and ban all imports."

He also said that efforts to increase alcohol taxes in the rest of the EU were unlikely to be productive for Sweden in the medium term.

"Swedish alcohol tax is nine times higher than the EU minimum. They can work on increasing taxes across the EU, but I'll certainly have retired by the time they succeed. In the meantime, they should be cutting alcohol taxes here."

But Maria Larsson said that the question of tax cuts was "has not been on the agenda," despite an official report last year that concluded that such a move would slash alcohol imports. Larsson promised instead that the Alliance's welfare policy group would propose a range of policies to reduce illegal sales of imported drinks.

"This could mean, for example, harsher penalties for peddling alcohol to minors. It could mean increased controls of those with licences to sell alcohol."

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