Government confirms additional sanctions to tackle illegal tobacco

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REUTERS/Michaela Rehle/File Photo

The government is set to introduce new legislation in the Finance Bill 2021/22 introducing additional sanctions to tackle tobacco duty evasion.

The measures will give the HMRC regulation-making powers to introduce tougher, more visible street level sanctions, linked to tobacco track and trace system. The HMRC will also get the power to make future regulations, including the ability to extend its track and trace enforcement powers to local trading standards authorities.

The plans are confirmed in the government’s response to a consultation on the topic. In other measures, the government has proposed a six month period for removal of economic operator identifier (EOID) code when non-track and trace compliant product is discovered, adding that it will continue to review circumstances where it would be proportionate to seek a longer period of removal.

A new track and trace related penalty for holding or possessing non-compliant products will also be introduced in the bill. The government will also introduce powers within the bill to make track and trace compliant stock found alongside illicit product liable to forfeiture in certain circumstances.

The Association of Convenience Stores has welcomed the government’s response, highlighting the damaging impact that the illicit trade has on legitimate retailers.

“The illicit market is extremely detrimental to legitimate retailers and we welcome the introduction of tougher sanctions to help eliminate illicit sellers from the market,” James Lowman, ACS chief executive, said.

“We encourage trading standards officers and HMRC to broaden their outlook on sources of illicit and non-duty paid tobacco products to address and enforce against those trading illicit tobacco in communities, such as criminals selling on streets and from private dwellings.”

The government has invited comments to a draft primary legislation. This consultation will run till 14 September 2021.