Business / Corporate

Sapporo sues government for return of tax money paid on sale of beer-like drink

Kyodo

Sapporo Breweries Ltd. filed a lawsuit Tuesday against the government with the Tokyo District Court seeking a return tax money the company paid on its beer-like alcoholic beverage Goku Zero.

The beer maker has been seeking the return of ¥11.5 billion ($104 million) in additional liquor tax it paid for the beverage product, claiming the drink should have been subject to a lower rate.

Sapporo launched the drink in 2013 as a “third-category” beer-like beverage that is subject to a lower liquor tax rate than regular beer and low-malt beer called happoshu in Japanese.

But the company suspended shipments after the National Tax Agency requested data on its production, saying the product may not be third-category beer.

The brewery voluntarily paid ¥11.5 billion in additional liquor tax. After re-analyzing the product, Sapporo informed the tax authorities it was indeed a third-category beer and requested the refund, which the revenue collection agency rejected.

“We want to have a judicial decision” over the matter, Sapporo said with regard to the lawsuit.

The National Tax Agency declined comment, saying it has yet to receive a complaint in writing.

The nation’s makers of malt beverages have been engaged in a race to develop “third-category” beers given they are subject to the lowest liquor tax rate among the three rates for beer and beer-like happoshu drinks.

The three tax rates on such drinks are set to be unified in stages before 2026.