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Tax break will help craft breweries

British Columbia's small breweries no longer face a major tax bill for increasing their sales, says Rich Coleman, the minister responsible for liquor control and licensing.

Coleman said Monday the Liberal government approved a tax break that allows smaller breweries to expand without immediately paying the same taxes major beer producers face, but it's a move that has caused him a bit of a political hangover.

After all, Coleman said he returned Friday two tickets to the Bahamas, which were offered to a Liberal Party fundraiser by one of the smaller breweries, Pacific Western Brewing Company, that stood to benefit from the tax change.

"We should not have taken those," Coleman said. "No money was accepted."

Coleman said under the old liquor markup policy, a higher tax rate kicked in when a brewery produced 160,000 hectolitres of beer, each hectolitre being 100 litres of beer.

With the new policy, smaller breweries will pay increased taxes on an incremental scale that rises every 5,000 hectolitres sold above 160,000 hectolitres, he said.

The change will help seven B.C. craft breweries to expand and create local jobs, Coleman said.

"Now, a small brewery can look at this and know when they are going to hit certain thresholds of tax and they can make their business decisions on whether it's time to add a faster bottling line or increase their production," Coleman said.

The development of the beer policy resulted in a political wrangle for Coleman, starting on Nov. 14 with the Liquor Distribution Branch, the arm of government that sets liquor policy.

Letters were sent to beer suppliers, informing them of a new markup policy that included a tax rate covering sales from 160,000 hectolitres to 400,000 hectolitres.

But officials in Coleman's office issued a statement last week calling the Nov. 14 letter an inadequate version of the tax policy and said a new one was on the way.

The new policy announced Monday covers beer-tax changes from 160,000 hectolitres to 300,000 hectolitres.

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