Japan dismisses Sapporo’s tax objection over Goku Zero


Tax authorities have dismissed an objection filed by Sapporo Breweries Ltd. calling for the return of ¥11.5 billion in liquor tax that the company paid on its Goku Zero beer-like beverage, it was learned Thursday.

Sapporo Breweries will decide its response after listening to opinions from outside experts, said officials at Sapporo Holdings Ltd., the parent of the Japanese beer-maker.

Within about one month, the group will decide whether to bring the dispute to the National Tax Tribunal, which could potentially take months to reach its conclusion.

Lawyers, certified public accountants and former tax officials serve as judges at the tribunal. Those dissatisfied with the rulings can file lawsuits against the judgments.

In June 2013, Sapporo Breweries launched Goku Zero as a third-segment beer-like alcoholic product free from purine and sugar. But it stopped production after tax authorities began investigating details of its production method to confirm the tax-related classification of the product in 2014.

After reviewing the production method, Sapporo Breweries relaunched the Goku Zero as a happoshu quasi-beer with low malt content, to which a higher tax rate than third-tier beverages is applied, and paid liquor tax of ¥11.5 billion as the difference in levies.

In January this year, however, the firm concluded through an in-house examination that the original Goku Zero was a third-segment beverage. It called for authorities to return the extra liquor tax it paid, filing an objection after authorities refused to do so.