Choose your words carefully!

l was once asked what would l deem the most important piece of advice when shopping for your tobacco/cigarettes in the EU and then being stopped by HMRC ( I refer to the legitimate shopper and not Mr l go everyday to Calais man)..Without a doubt it would be 'Choose your words carefully'.

Let me explain, when stopped by HMRC you will be interrogated interviewed. First informally and then formally.
Every word you use has the potential of being used against you ... and believe me HMRC will, if given the opportunity. lt's up to you not to give them that opportunity.

The first thing you have to realise that despite how friendly the HMRC Officer seems ... he is not your friend. Got that? ... he is not your friend. Mr HMRC Officer wants you to think he is because he wants you to rabbit on because every word you utter has that potential of being used against you. Mr HMRC Officer wants to take your goods off you and wants YOU to help him do it. See, l told you he wasn't your friend.

So what do you do? When you are first stopped, ask them why they are stopping you. Make them answer because they are not allowed to stop travellers at random for excise goods. This doesn't mean that even if they do admit it was random that you will be free to go with your goods but it may come in useful later if your goods are confiscated and it goes to appeal. Especially if you accidentally had your mobile on voice record. Make them tell you for what reasons they stopped you or give it a damn good try.

After this you will probably be ushered into one of their screening interrogation interview areas. lf you've been partying whilst away, had too much to drink the night previous etc, got a hangover and suffering from lack of sleep, feel sick ... tell them! lf you need the toilet ... tell them. lf you need a drink of water ... tell them. lf they refuse ... insist and keep insisting.

lf your luggage is not x-rayed and they ask you what's in it ... ask for the officers id first . You need to know that they are really HMRC officers,don't you? You don't want someone in fancy dress asking you questions do you? When id is verified and they ask you the question again just reply  'nothing illegal, just personal'. Ask them what they are looking for. lf they don't answer specifically ... ask again. Remember, you are doing nothing illegal and Mr HMRC Officers are stopping you from going on your way. They have to tell you why they are stopping you. Again, give it a damn good try.

Eventually you will end up opening your luggage to show it's contents and be at the same stage as if your luggage had been through the x-ray. When they now ask you about the contents, tell them what's in it and they are your personal goods. At this stage they will try and ask you more questions .... this is the informal interrogation interview. lf you answer any questions here they will NOT be recorded or written down. Anything you say will be interpreted by them alone at a later stage if your goods are confiscated and it goes to appeal. lt will be to HMRC's benefit and not yours because it will have become what is known as a 'substantial statement' ... not good for you!

So, don't answer their questions yet until you have demanded and got a formal interrogation interview (it's coming anyway). Demand it till you get it. Don't take 'no' for an answer. Your reason for demanding this is that you want nothing left to misinterpretation. Your goods are on the line here, protect them. You are not refusing to answer questions but refusing to answer questions 'off record' that may be used against you.

You will eventually get to the formal part of your ordeal one way or another. They will read you your rights (HMRC call it a commerciality statement .... unsure if there is such a word but hey ho) which will end in 'you can leave anytime'. You can indeed leave but not with your goods. Don't be intimidated by veiled and not so veiled threats of court cases and prison. You have nothing to be afraid of, you've done nothing wrong! lf it's not the same officer that you got id from ... ask them again for identification. They will then ask you if you have any medical conditions that will effect your interrogation interview. lf there is tell them, if not say 'no medical condition' but don't forget to mention your hangover, you drinkers you!

Personally l'd ask for this interrogation interview to be recorded but as yet have never got one. They just refuse to do it but my request does go down in their notebook ... l make sure of it.

The rest of the questions come in no particular order and sometimes not all are used. When answering them, answer them factually and brief ... don't explain and make it into a bloody story. The more information you give them, the more they have to work with. Remember l said they want YOU to help them confiscate your goods? Don't forget it.

They will question you about your finances ... mortgages, utility bills etc etc. l can never answer these because l simply don't know ... they are all standing orders/direct debits and all l know at the end of the month is that l have so much in my bank account. I simply don't know and that's it, l have to pay them is all l know. Take advantage of credit cards if you can, l often use a credit card 'personal reserve' when available. lt
By using credit card/loans, your personal finances have little relevance as it becomes a simple matter of economics .... spend say £2K .... save £3.6K (based on personal use of 2 cartons a week, years supply 100 cartons, L&B £20 a carton EU, £56 a carton Tesco UK).Oh, and keep your receipts!

Another question is about  how many you smoke a day. Not something you pay particular attention to in life but failure to 'know' is seen by HMRC as suspect and will be held against you. Do your maths people, it's as simple as that! l smoke about 60 a day (how can it be a definite figure?) so that's approx 2 cartons a week therefore a years supply is approx 100 cartons. lf you smoke 30 a day that'd workout at 50 cartons approx for a years supply. You 'roll your own' guys do the same with your tobacco. They also come out with 'Do you have any cigarettes on you now?'...  not forgetting a lighter of course. Same goes for you 'roll your own' guys but with the added request 'Can you roll one now?'
Do l have to tell you about this?????

lf they try the shelf life of tobacco or cigarettes ploy of saying it's 6 months or so ask them why they are giving you false information. Say ... . 'Are they lying or just misinformed? HMRC know the shelf life of tobacco/cigarettes is years and it is on record so why don't they know?'

Questions about gifts, hence the mixed brands you brought? We all know when Xmas is and we all know when our family members birthdays are. Some of you may just know the month. Do yourself a favour and carry a 'present list' with you. You can buy for your wife, you are a married couple with shared expenses, bank accounts etc etc. Can't definitely vouch for gay couples but l doubt if they dare question that because it would raise the question of gay rights, victimisation, homophobia etc etc.

Questions about how many times you've travelled. This infuriates me! ... they've taken your passport and the airline/ferry company has already given them the details. Why the hell are they asking me? They already know. Same goes for if you are travelling with anyone ... they already know, you checked in together etc! To avoid questions about who paid for the travel, please pay for your own and not your mates as well ... even if he did give you the cash. HMRC don't understand the concept of you paying for your mate and him paying you in cash. Don't try this on your wife though! :)  As for number of times travelled, HMRC fail on purpose to grasp the fact that going abroad for a weekend in the EU is statistically cheaper than going away in the UK. They insinuate every trip abroad is a ciggie shopping trip. Another piece of advice here, when you do go away make it a couple of nights. You've paid for the flights etc so another night won't break the bank and it'd be a waste if you didn't in my opinion. Enjoy the experience, see the sights and take lots of photos (useful when needed), go to pubs restaurants where you can smoke ... enjoy life!

When answering all of the above, keep your answers short and factual. Remain calm at all times and don't get angry and threatening. Don't rush your answers ... take your time. lf you don't know an answer simply say 'l don't know' ... do not try and make one up that you can't back up because it will probably come back and bite you. lf you answer a  question and they then simply look at you and say nothing ... don't fill in the silence. This is a trick used by detectives when interviewing suspects. People are a strange, they feel a need to break the silence and so end up talking more ... don't do it. Wait for the next question. Remember l told you that they want YOU to help them confiscate your goods? Don't forget! You people suffering with the hangovers etc ... make comments about it through the ordeal with HMRC so it goes down in their notebooks. Ask for drinks, ask for smoke break, ask for toilet. lt all has to go down in their notebook. There may be other questions but the above are the main ones. Mr HMRC Officer is not an expert on questioning, they are merely using a formula that works for them in the majority of cases. This is because travellers are simply not prepared ... don't be one of them! lt's sad that in this day and age you have to prepare yourself simply to go shopping and get bargains but HMRC have made you do it. You are deemed guilty by HMRC simply because you went shopping!

At the end of the questioning they will then go away and write it up. l've always tried to make them write the questions and my answers down during the interrogation interview.Write down question, then write down my answer, write down next question and so on. l demand it to be factual and not what the HMRC remember it to be. They will then ask you to read it and sign it as a factual document of the ordeal. l can almost never read
their writing so l get them to read it to me. Anything l don't agree with l get it changed. l then attempt to read it myself. l then sign it with 'I have read the notes and they are not my actual words and therefore not completely true'. Surprisingly HMRC have never picked up on this, either with me or anyone else. I know my writing is very scrawly and almost unreadable to anyone but myself.HMRC are so used to you obeying them that they can't see that you signed it different to what they requested. lt simply does not cross their minds or eyes, they see what they told you to write and nothing more.

l'm not being devious here but how on earth can you sign it and say it's a factual account of your ordeal? You've been questioned for a long time so it's just downright impossible. Yet, if it ever comes to appeal/court, HMRC's notebook account will be taken as factual. Of course if they recorded everything there wouldn't be that problem, would there?

Your ordeal is almost over now. Mr HMRC Officer then goes away to make a decision  on whether to confiscate your goods or not. Oh, l forgot, before HMRC begin your formal questioning, ask the person who is questioning you if they will be the one making the decision and not some other person in an office making it wholly on the version given by the questioning HMRC Officer. You want the person who makes the decision to be one who's questioning you, don't you?

You then get the decision and leave with or without your goods (make sure you get a notice of the goods taken from you. Check the amounts are correct). lf it's without ... you will be going on to he appeal but that's for another time.

They have little or nothing to keep your goods because ... You chose your words well.

p.s. You can switch off your recording on the phone now. :)


  1. Top class post SH, you've excelled yourself. A learing curve that every 'daytriper' should read.

  2. agree with big yin. reminds me of

    just put england for sparta and hmrc for persians lol

  3. Outstanding SH. Big Yin's correct, everybody who's contemplating buying these excise goods from EU should read this.

  4. Excellent advice, l've not seen better. Kudos

  5. Went with Smoking 19th this month. Spent 2 nights in Sofia and had a fucking ball with him. Brought 50 Lammys back and 5 Superkings. All in cost me bout £1500 and thats with nights out. Cheap as fuck and the birds are worth going for alone. Fucking stunning. Nice one SH

  6. Ha ha Cobber. Remember next time you go that nodding your head in Bulgarian means 'no' and shaking your head means 'yes'. That was so funny! :)

  7. Yeah and l felt such a prat. Had great time though. Thanks

  8. Do customs hold all your travel details?


  9. Freebird ... when l talked about them getting your travel details l was remarking on the carrier that brought you in. For example if l came in on Easyjet my luggage would be tagged with Easyjet details and they usually stick my baggage details label on my passport, normal procedure. lt's then a simple matter of Customs taking your pssport and checking with Easyjet. l know this as they've done it a couple of times with me. Easyjet (as with other carriers) have your flight history on record and you can access this yourself online with your booking. How far it goes back l cannot definitely say but atleast a few months.

    Do Customs have your travel details themselves? l've asked them this and they say 'no' and they also say they don't have records on how many times they've stopped you. Personally l have my doubts to say the least. :)

  10. Good postings on your 'new' site SH, thanks for the heads up and welcome to the blogothingy, I will drop a link into my blogroll for you as this I have always thought is one of the 'important issues and a real infringement of our rights!


"In the eyes of the Tribunal the review letter contained several preconceptions, prejudgments and non-sequiturs"

"the absurdity of this reason is demonstrated by simply stating it"

"We therefore find that Mr Sked misdirected himself as to the Policy in carrying out the review and his decision is therefore one that no reasonable review officer could have arrived at."

... commonly known here at N2D as 'Skeds' ... that is to say these are Judges comments regarding UKBA Review Officer Ian Sked's reasons for rejecting peoples appeals against seizures.

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