Taxes on Italian Wine in Europe – What Are They And How Much Should You Expect to Pay

The great Benjamin Franklin once said that there is nothing certain in life but death and taxes. He was talking in reference to the United States Constitution. And yet, we feel there are probably plenty of people out there who mirror his sentiments.

While we all know that death is a certainty, taxes seems like one of those things that should be in our control. And yet, we pay them in so many areas of our lives that they are now normal. Taxes apply to almost everything that you buy.

And that goes for wine just as much as any other commodity.

There are two key taxes that apply to the sale of Italian wine, or any other type of wine, in Europe. These are:

  • Excise Tax
  • VAT

In this article, we will examine what each type of tax is and help you to understand more about the taxes you’re paying to get your hands on a bottle of Italian wine.

Explaining Excise Tax

The European Union explains Excise Tax (or Excise Duties) as follows:

“Excise duties are indirect taxes on the sale or use of specific products, such as alcohol, tobacco and energy. The revenue from these excise duties goes entirely to the country to which they are paid.”

Every country in the EU has agreed to rules that ensure that these taxes are applied in the same way and to the same products throughout the EU. However, these rules do not determine exactly how much a country may choose to charge in Excise Tax. What’s more, many European countries decide not to enforce it at all.

The idea behind these rules is to prevent trade distortion within the single market, thus ensuring that all businesses are capable of competing. And while this is noble goal, the fact is that some countries pay more in Excise Tax than others.

The following is a list of countries in Europe that charge Excise Tax and how much of it they charge for a single 750cl bottle of wine. These figures come from Tax Foundation and were compiled in January 2020.

  1. Belgium – €0.56
  2. Denmark – €1.13
  3. Estonia – €1.11
  4. Finland – €2.98
  5. France – €0.03
  6. Ireland – €3.19
  7. Latvia – €0.76
  8. Lithuania – €1.24
  9. Malta – €0.15
  10. Netherlands – €0.66
  11. Poland – €0.30
  12. Sweden – €1.82
  13. United Kingdom – €2.51

As you can see, the exact figures vary wildly. People in France pay a miniscule amount of Excise Tax, likely due to the sheer amount of wine consumed in the country. But as we head towards Ireland and the UK, we start to see average Excise Tax taking up a significant proportion of the overall cost of the wine.

So, we see our first example of tax discrepancy.

As the amount of Excise Tax to charge rests in the hands of a country’s government, rather than the EU itself, there is no standard rate. Those countries that charge Excise Tax get to choose exactly how much. What’s more, that money then goes straight into the government’s pockets.

On its own, this may not seem like such a big deal. After all, countries have charged taxes on luxury goods for centuries, so it should come as no surprise that you have to pay taxes on wine.

However, those who live in the above countries may find themselves frustrated by the fact that many other wine-loving nations, such as Spain, Portugal, and Italy, charge no Excise Tax on their wines. What’s more, those who do have to pay Excise Tax also have to pay VAT.

Explaining VAT

VAT is value-added tax and it is a general tax that every country in the European Union applies to practically all goods and services sold in the union. The tax even applies to goods and services that are imported from other countries.

Much like with Excise Tax, every country in the union has the ability to set its own VAT thresholds. But unlike with Excise Tax, every country opts to charge VAT on all goods and services.

VAT is usually charged at a percentage of the good being sold. For example, let’s say you have a bottle of Italian wine that costs €10 before any taxes are considered. If we assume no Excise Tax and a VAT rate of 20%, that bottle of wine will actually be sold for €12.

Collecting and paying VAT is the responsibility of the person who sells the goods or services. Typically, VAT is incorporated directly into the price of the item, meaning you don’t have to account for it before making a purchase. This is different to countries like the United States, where a similar tax applies but is not added to the cost of the item until you’re at the point of purchase.

Of course, a tax that applies to all goods and services will naturally apply to Italian wines. But how much VAT you pay will depend on where you live. In some countries, such as Portugal, VAT on still wine is as low as 12%. Other countries, such as Hungary, charge 27% VAT on wine.

Unfortunately, VAT stacks on top of Excise Tax in the countries that charge an Excise Tax. As such, the tax applied to a simple wine purchase can easily amount to 30% (or more) of the original price of the wine.

The Tax Conundrum

As we said at the beginning of the article, taxes are simply a fact of life. However, it appears that tax on wine applies differently depending on where in Europe that you live.

At Xtrawine, we aim to help with this issue as much as we can by offering wines at affordable prices. While we can’t do anything about the taxes applied to our products, we can aim to ensure you can buy our products at such reasonable prices that tax becomes less of an issue.

We can’t solve the tax conundrum.

But we can mitigate it.

To find out how we’re doing that, explore the amazing deals we’re offering on Italian wines today by exploring our catalogue.


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