Distillery claims unfair treatment by Revenue over Covid hand sanitiser

The Tullamore Co Offaly-based Arderin Distillery Ltd, which manufactures spirits including the 'Mor' range of gin, has taken a High Court action over the matter. 
Distillery claims unfair treatment by Revenue over Covid hand sanitiser

High Court reporters

A distillery claims it has been unfairly treated after Revenue allegedly refused to grant tax relief on alcohol it bought to make hand-sanitiser for hospitals during the Covid-19 pandemic.

The Tullamore Co Offaly-based Arderin Distillery Ltd, which manufactures spirits including the 'Mor' range of gin, has taken a High Court action over the matter.

Revenue denies the claims and says the company's application should be dismissed on grounds including that it has never made any decision either to refuse or grant the company tax relief on the alcohol in question.

The judicial review action was heard by Ms Justice Siobhan Phelan who, following the conclusion of submissions from both parties on Wednesday, reserved her decision.

In its action the company claims that after the outbreak of the Covid-19 pandemic in March 2020, it commenced making an ethanol-based sanitiser for the HSE for use at hospitals including Crumlin Hospital in Dublin and Tullamore Hospital.

It claims that normally alcohol is subject to excise duty in the form of Alcohol Products Tax (APT). However, in certain circumstances alcohol products, including those used for medicinal purposes or in hospitals, the APT does not have to be paid.

The distillery claims that it ordered 50,000 litres of alcohol to make the sanitiser after it was given assurances from an official with Revenue in late March that it would not have to pay APT.

Arderin claims it complied with all the requirements and filled out all the forms it needed to get the relief it sought.

It claims Revenue granted the distillery relief on APT for up to for 80,000 litres of alcohol.

In June 2020 Arderin claims it was informed by the same Revenue official it says approved its request for excise duty relief, that revenue had decided to deny the distillery the relief it sought.

Alleged assurances

It claims that the 50,000 litres of alcohol it used to make the hand-sanitiser during the Covid-19 emergency exposes Arderin to an excise duty or APT of approximately €2.1 million.

It says that had it not been given assurances from Revenue regarding the relief from APT, it would not have ordered the alcohol it purchased to make the hand-sanitiser.

Revenue, it is claimed was always aware of the company's intentions and was notified of the purchase of the 50,000 litres of alcohol to make the hand-sanitiser and not used to make any gin.

It claims that Revenue decided to grant it relief on APT and is not entitled to refuse the relief once all requirements for such relief have been met.

Other distilleries have also provided alcohol-based medical products to hospital during the pandemic, and are not being pursued for excise duties, the company claims.

No relief

Opposing the application Denise Brett SC, appearing with Kieran Kelly Bl for Revenue said that it never granted the company the relief from APT, as alleged.

Revenue claims that it never approved a request by the company for relief on the alcohol acquired by the company in March 2020, or that Revenue expressed its satisfaction or approval that the company intended to use to alcohol for a purpose exempted from APT.

While the company may have obtained approval from the Department of Agriculture Food and the Marine to market hand sanitiser Revenue denies that approval represented compliance with any conditions required by Revenue.

In the circumstances none of the orders sought by the company should be granted, Revenue also submitted.

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