On 1st June 2020 in Punjab, liquor turned costlier as the state government decided to levy additional excise duty and an assessed fee ranging from Rs 2 to Rs 50 in lieu of ‘COVID Cess’ on alcohol. The said amount collected in form of additional taxes would be utilised for COVID-19 related expenditure.
The Punjab Chief Minister, Captain Amarinder Singh in an interview stated, “We have decided to levy additional excise duty and assessed fee in lieu of ‘COVID Cess’ on liquor with effect from June 1, 2020 These would range from Rs 2 to Rs 50 depending on the type and size of the item. The amount collected will be used for COVID-19 related expenditure.” Similarly, the Chief Minister had announced immediate opening up of shops, including liquor shops from June 1, 2020 in the non-containment zones from 7 am to 7 pm subject to compliance of the SOP as issued by the Health Department, Punjab.
It has also been reported that this new COVID cess that will be imposed from June 1, 2020 will have the Punjab Made Liquor to cost around Rs 5 per quart or Rs 3 per pint; the IMFL would cost about Rs 10 per quart and Rs 6 per pint and that prices have been increased by Rs 5 for every 650 ml and wine by Rs 10 for every 650 ml. Similarly the ready to drink alcohol prices have also attracted additional excise duty of Rs 5 per bottle. On the other hand the imported foreign liquor will become dearer by Rs 50 per 750 ml and imported beer would cost an additional Rs 7 per 650 ml. The Chief Minister also added that the Excise department has faced with a revenue shortfall of Rs 26,000 crore and therefore tough measures such as additional excise duty and assesses fees on liquor were necessitated. Furthermore the Cabinet sub-committee has allowed for the imposition of the COVID Cess and has also accepted the demand of liquor contractors to reduce the minimum guaranteed quota of liquor to be sold by them to 30 per cent for three months from May to July. Another measure brought about is that the licence fee for the period between April and May 7,2020 too are being waived because the liquor vendors did not function in the curfew period. A top officer in the Excise and Taxation Department stated, “Though the government is considering reducing the quota for three months, the quota will be enhanced subsequently, so that the government revenues do not suffer.”