What is Excise?

Excise is a tax on alcohol, fuel and tobacco products.

Excise is a form of tax

If you make, sell or give away excisable items – alcohol, fuel and tobacco products – in New Zealand, we’ll charge excise duty on those products. You must also licence the area(s) where those products are made and stored.

Note: this is an overview. For full detail, please refer to the legislation.

Excise duty

Excise duty is generally payable on anything removed from or consumed in the licensed area, including:

  • tasting samples
  • promotional give-aways
  • donations
  • free supplies
  • bonus supplies.

Excise and excise-equivalent duties table (PDF 93 KB).

Excise duty exemptions

We won’t charge excise duty on excisable items if they’re:

  • exported immediately after they leave the manufacturing area
  • moved to an export warehouse that you’ve licensed with us
  • removed temporarily for a manufacturing process, and returned to the manufacturing area
  • legitimate manufacturing samples, eg for laboratory/quality control testing.

If you’re making alcohol, tobacco or fuel products for your personal use:

  • you don’t need to license your manufacturing area
  • we won’t charge you excise duty.

If you share those products with anyone else, for free or as a sale, you become liable for excise duty.  The criteria is outlined in the Customs and Excise Act 1996:

  • 68A tobacco 
  • 68B alcohol 
  • 68C biofuel and biofuel blends

Buy duty-free alcohol

We won’t charge excise duty on alcohol if you’re going to use it for:

  • museums, universities, hospitals and other approved institutions
  • approved scientific, educational or other commercial/industrial uses.

You can also use duty-free alcohol to make products that don’t attract excise duty, eg using liqueurs to make liqueur chocolates. This doesn’t apply if you’re making beverages.

You must apply for a permit to buy duty-free alcohol or alcoholic beverages used to make products. If the alcohol has been denatured according to an approved formula, you don’t need a permit.

Duty-free alcohol permits

You must apply in writing at your local Customs office.

Your application should include:

  • your organisation’s name
  • the address of the premises where you’ll store the alcohol
  • the amount and strength of the alcohol you’ll need each year
  • what you’ll use the alcohol for
  • the name and qualifications of the person using the alcohol.

If the alcohol is for commercial or manufacturing uses, your application must also include:

  • evidence for why you can’t use denatured alcohol instead
  • statements, where we require, that support your application – these might come from the Ministry of Health, Ministry for Primary Industries or properly-qualified food technologists
  • a forecast of how much you’ll be using and when to show that you’re applying for a reasonable quantity.

Your permit will detail its terms and conditions. We may audit permits.