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Court rules against lower duty for web wine

Shoppers hoping to buy cut-price alcohol from other European countries via the internet were disappointed last week when judges in Luxembourg ruled that the tax laws which have benefited British cross-Channel customers won’t be extended to web ones. The European Court of Justice overturned an earlier opinion by the advocate general allowing people to order alcohol online and pay the lower duty of other member states. The case came as a result of a group of Dutch wine drinkers, who regularly sent one of their number to France to buy wine. They went to court complaining that, after paying French duty, they then paid more tax to import into the Netherlands. The judges ruled, however, that products must be transported personally by the individual who purchased them. This put paid to British drinkers’ hopes for making huge savings on the price of their bottles without leaving home. Currently, a bottle of wine coming to Britain from France is taxed at £1.29. French tax on a bottle, on the other hand, is less than two pence. The flip side is that if the Government had lost the £16 billion or so a year it collects through excise duties, the money would have needed to be found elsewhere. Such a sum would be equivalent to four pence on the basic rate of income tax. But wine drinkers can still enjoy plenty of cheaper-taxed wine for the cost of a trip across the Channel. The guidelines allow one person to bring back 90 litres of wine.