Government targets tobacco smuggling

smuggled-tobacco The government has unveiled the latest step in its plans to help rid Britain’s streets of illicit smuggled tobacco.

In addition to a £917m funding boost – which will allow for the recruitment of new officers at both the UK Border Agency and Trading Standards authorities – the government’s refreshed Tackling Tobacco Smuggling (TTS) strategy also outlines plans to reduce traveller allowances.

At present the minimum indicative levels state that travellers can bring up to 3200 cigarettes and 3kg handrolling tobacco back to the UK from within the EU. In a move which has been broadly welcomed by retailers, this will be slashed to 800 cigarettes and 1 kg hand-rolling tobacco in the autumn.

Association of Convenience Stores (ACS) chief executive James Lowman said the measure would “help to better detect and deter individuals that abuse the EU rules to sell on tobacco bought in other parts of Europe.”

The government will also proceed with plans to invest in new detection technology, and intends to apply tougher penalties for those caught dealing in the illicit trade, including recovering lost taxes and charging penalties up to 100% of the tax evaded.

However, the ACS also urged the government to look beyond the problem of duty evasion, and shine its legislative light on the streets, where customs strategy was “at its weakest.”

A new “integrated enforcement strategy” that fully involved HMRC, the police, Trading Standards and the wider community, in conjunction with tougher penalties for street dealers, was what was needed to stop the illicit tobacco trade “thriving on the streets of our most deprived communities,” Lowman added.

By Gaelle Walker

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