TOKYO -- Sapporo Breweries on Tuesday filed a lawsuit with the Tokyo District Court demanding the Japanese government return 11.5 billion yen ($104 million) in liquor tax that the brewery paid for its Goku Zero drink.
The Japanese brewery introduced the canned, quasi-beer alcoholic drink in 2013 as a "third beer," which is subject to a lower tax rate than regular beer.
The company's standoff with the government began when the National Tax Agency subsequently claimed that the product is "happoshu," another legal definition for quasi beers. This type of beverage is subject to a higher tax rate than third beer but lower than regular beer.
After the agency notified Sapporo of its views, the brewery conceded and suspended shipment of Goku Zero, which was introduced as the first beer of its type that does not contain carbohydrates or purines. It then paid back taxes on the drinks that had already been sold.
The unexpected tax payment forced Sapporo Holdings, Sapporo Breweries parent company, to book an extraordinary loss for the year ended December 2014.
Sapporo Breweries subsequently restarted selling Goku Zero in 2014 after changing its manufacturing method.