No more shortage of liquor!

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Those getting ready to celebrate the New Year have finally cheered up as supply of liquor, which dropped by 80 percent since July, is set to be restored to full capacity within a week after a row on the issue of excise duty on raw alcohol settled down between the Punjab Excise and Taxation Department and Murree Brewery, country’s largest liquor production company.
The dispute resulted in a loss of Rs 100 million in revenue for the Punjab government. But the Murree Brewery has now agreed to pay the excise duty on raw alcohol under the mechanism designed by the Excise and Taxation Department.
The dispute began when the department demanded the brewery to pay excise duty of Rs75 per gallon on spirit purchased from sugar mills for use in producing alcoholic beverages. The distillery was also directed to pay tax on 450,000 gallons (Rs 32.4 million) before it could purchase any more from the sugar mills. But initially, the brewery rejected the demand and insisted to pay excise only on finished products. The Murree Brewery, which was established in 1860, had earlier suspended most of its production and threatened to start a legal fight.
The news proved to be refreshing for the liquor-lovers, who had started purchasing their favourite brands at an exorbitant price. Revellers of New Year have taken a sigh of relief and termed the reconciliation as welcoming and timely when both the mega events are round the corners.
However, the bliss is attached with surge of price in all liquor products manufactured by the Murree Brewery. It has been decided that the brewery will pay excise duty on raw alcohol as well.
With the latest development, the prices of various brands have increased.
Meanwhile, the black marketers have rolled up their sleeves to cash in the situation. “Among others, the most popular beverages – London Dry Gin, Vat 1 and matured whiskeys up to 21 years old, that constitutes 85 per cent of total supply, will be sold at higher prices,” a hotel staffer working for the black-marketing told Pakistan Today on the condition of not to be named.
He said prices would further increase on the eve of Christmas.
A senior official in the Excise and Taxation Department said as per rules and regulations prescribed in liquor licence, there was an excise duty in bond, which was paid by licence-holders in advance. Excise Duty was applied on both used and wastage material included in raw alcohol called rectified spirit, he added.
“Brewery kept dodging the department smartly to evade the duty but now it has to pay all arrears and other dues in terms of excise duty on raw alcohol in line with the rules,” he further said.
Eleven factories in the Punjab produce some 182 million litres of raw alcohol per year under the supervision of the Excise and Taxation Department.
This is then sold to distilleries including Murree Brewery with valid licences and homoeopathy or medical laboratories.
A CM Secretariat official said the Murree Brewery was learnt to be largest supplier of liquor products to Sindh and other parts of the country. “It makes up 70 per cent market share in Sindh. With the brawl between company and the Punjab government, Sindh was most affected province.
The Sindh government had lost Rs 300 million in revenue. The Sindh government wrote to the Punjab government asking that the issue be settled,” he said.

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