A taxing problem

A taxing problem

Jens Tholstrup describes being taxed to the hilt in his native country, and deprived of a decent choice of malts into the bargain

News 12 Jan 1999 | Interviews | By James Tholstrup

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Denmark is not the cheapest place to live. Any normal taxpayer will be relieved of 50 per cent of his salary before he even bothers the bank with what is left. Above a certain income this rises to 70 per cent. On top of this comes heavy indirect taxation; there is taxation of something like 220 per cent on a car. It is a little less with whisky; the tax on one 70 cl bottle of 43%Vol is £7.50 (US$12.50). Yes, it’s bearable, but on top of that you have to add the distributor’s and the retailer’s profit, and VAT at 25 per cent. At least this means that cheap akvavit is today taxed the same way as a 25 Year Old single malt, but it is only two years ago that the tax system was changed: it used to be aimed at hitting spirits harder the more expensive they were.Even this, however, didn’t stop the Swedes from coming to Denmark to shop for alcohol, while Danes living vaguely close to the German border (meaning anything within 200 miles) drove south once or twice a year to shop for beer and better spirits. The odd bottle of duty free could also be brought home from airports or ferries, but the duty-free limit is one litre of spirits. And mailing whisky to Denmark is illegal unless tax is paid, so mail order companies beware.One reason, however, that the Swedes like coming here to shop is that they (like the Norwegians) have wine and spirit monopolies; Danes can at least buy whisky at the grocer or the local supermarket, and you don’t have to be older than 15 to do your first spirit shopping. The idea behind this is that youngsters want to drink they should be able to do so under parental guidance – and there is nothing more effective than parental guidance for removing the mystique and excitement of alcohol.The bad news about Danish supermarkets is that the whisky is hidden behind a counter. You will be severely frowned upon if you start asking questions about the few malts on display, simply because you will be holding up the queue for bread, cakes and, most importantly, the national lottery. You will also be served by somebody with little knowledge about whisky, and less passion for it.Perhaps not surprisingly, the range available in Denmark is not huge. Until recently the whiskies available even semi-regularly were basically only Glenfiddich, Glenmorangie, the Classic Six and Macallan. Research done three years ago by The Malt Whisky Academy showed that the whisky brands the average Dane could mention were Glenfiddich, Chivas Regal and Johnnie Walker with Ballantine’s coming in fourth. Some also mentioned George IV and Tullamore Dew, the latter mainly because it is regarded in Denmark as the whiskey for Irish coffee, a popular drink among the coffee-loving Danes.Will this change? Quite possibly, and for the better, with the end of duty-free shopping within the EU. We Danes might at last get a better choice of single malts available at home – at a price.

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