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Published:  23 July, 2008

By Jim Budd

Decanter has lost its appeal against paying excise duty to HMCE on wine imported from the EU for tastings. However, they lost on a technicality as they failed to notify customs of their tastings. More importantly, they have established that properly organised tastings by magazines are exempt from excise tax as they are held primarily for analysis and not for promotional purposes. Following a visit by a customs officer to their offices on 26 July 2002, Decanter was assessed as owing 6,619.91 in excise tax dating back three years. Customs argued that the wine tastings had a strong element of promotion of the wines' and so was not covered by duty exemptions accorded to legitimate tastings carried out by producers or importers for scientific purposes'. However, Rodney Huggins, chairman of the London Tribunal Centre, decided that Decanter's tastings are exempt from tax under the Excise Duties Relief Order 1991 on goods imported for tasting but, as they did not notify Customs of the tastings in advance nor later inform Customs of what happened to any wine left over, the appeal had to be dismissed. Although we have to pay the duty, we have won a moral and partial victory', said Sarah Kemp, Decanter's publishing director. We have established that our tastings are held for analytical purposes and are not a sales promotion. We are very pleased to have established this precedent, although it will involve us in more red tape.'