Soft Drinks Industry Levy (SDIL)

As part of the 2016 Budget, Chancellor of the Exchequer George Osbourne announced the introduction of a soft drinks industry levy (SDIL) on added sugar beverages from April 2018. The aim of the SDIL was to help tackle childhood obesity by encouraging manufacturers to reformulate soft drinks or reduce portion sizes to avoid paying the charge.

Consultation on proposals

The government published a consultation on specific proposals for the levy in August 2016.

In its summary of consultation responses in December, the government reported that more than half of respondents supported proposals for the SDIL. In fact, many proposed making other products with added sugar subject to the levy (not just soft drinks). However, different types of stakeholders had contrasting views: whereas 95% of medical and health bodies were in favour of the proposals, 78% of manufacturers and associated trade bodies opposed them.

Introduction of the levy

The Finance Act 2017 included primary legislation establishing the levy. The Soft Drinks Industry Levy Regulations 2018 was laid before the House of Commons on 17 January 2018 and the SDIL came into effect on 6 April 2018.

The levy was two-tiered, with a rate of 24p per litre applied to drinks with a sugar content of more than 8 grams per 100ml, and a 28p per litre for drinks with between 5–8 grams of sugar per 100ml. Revenue would be used to fund school sport, the Healthy Pupils Capital Fund and school breakfast clubs.

Impact

In November 2018, HM Revenue and Customs (HMRC) statistics showed that since the introduction of the SDIL, manufacturers had paid an extra £153.8m in tax. As intended, many drinks manufacturers also reduced the amount of sugar used to avoid the levy.

In 2019, a Public Health England (PHE) review found that between 2015–18, average sugar content in retailer own-brand and manufacturer-branded SDIL-applicable drinks reduced by 28.8% per 100ml. Purchasing of such drinks fell across all socioeconomic groups: however, this drop was smallest among the lowest socioeconomic group. 

Source(s)

UK government.
The Soft Drinks Industry Levy Regulations 2018.
UK government; 2018.

HM Revenue & Customs.
Policy paper: Soft Drinks Industry Levy.
UK government; 2016.

HM Revenue & Customs and HM Treasury.
Soft Drinks Industr;y Levy: Summary of Responses.
UK government 2016.

HM Treasury.
Soft Drinks Industry Levy comes into effect.
UK government; 2018.

Public Health England.
Sugar reduction: report on progress between 2015 and 2018.
Public Health England; 2019.

HM Revenue & Customs.
Sugar tax revenue helps tackle childhood obesity [webpage].
UK government; 2018.