Carling is weaker than advertised, brewer admits in court

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The alcohol content of Carling lager is weaker than advertised, it has emerged.

While the flagship British lager advertises at 4 per cent alcohol strength, it has been brewed at 3.7 per cent for the last five years, its US owners Molson Coors have said.

The firm made the admission during a hearing brought by HMRC amid claims of underpaid tax.

The government department argued Carling owed more than £50m because it had paid tax on the 3.7 per cent level – not the advertised 4 per cent level – between September 2012 and January 2015.

Philip Rutherford, the Molson Coor’s vice president of tax, admitted the alcohol strength was reduced in 2012 in order to save on taxes.

However the strength recorded on Carling labels wasn’t changed over fears customers would “demand a slice” of the saving, tribunal documents said.

The firm successfully argued that it was right to pay less tax because it should pay according to the true alcohol by volume (ABV), allowing a variation of 0.5 per cent.

The tribunal found in favour of Molson Coors.

Molson Coors said in a statement: “As a major brand, the trust of our consumers is paramount. We abide by all legal requirements in the brewing and labelling of Carling.

“The natural process of brewing means all batches of Carling vary fractionally in alcohol content – the variation range for Carling is less than a quarter of 1 per cent (0.23 per cent).

“It is completely normal for consumable products to have a slight variation. For example, the allowed variation for wine is 1 per cent.”

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