The joint HMRC/Border Force strategy to tackle illicit tobacco (‘Tackling Illicit Tobacco: From leaf to light’) published on 24 March 2015 reinforced the government’s commitment to tackle illicit tobacco at all points in the supply chain. This was further demonstrated by increased investment in resources to fight this fraud announced at Summer Budget 2015 and Budget 2016.
Effective action requires collaboration across government and HMRC and Border Force work closely with other enforcement agencies, including Trading Standards and the police to target those involved in the fraud. In the last two years alone, over 2.8 billion illicit cigarettes and over 660 tonnes of hand-rolling tobacco have been seized resulting in approximately 700 prosecutions.
HMRC has also reviewed the impact of sanctions and is currently developing options, with particular focus on the approach taken to repeat offenders.
In accordance with international commitments, HMRC is also developing a new track and trace system for tobacco products. This will go live in May 2019 and will make it easier to identify where genuine product has been diverted into the illicit market and more difficult for illicit goods to enter the legitimate market.