HMRC want to ban ALL Tobacco Leaf for everyone... except for Big Tobacco

As usual it's legitimate Joe Public that are the target. HMRC have released a consultation setting out their proposals, with the help of a certain Priti Patel MP (Exchequer Secretary to the Treasury). Priti Patel MP was featured in an article recently by the Guardian which questioned her links as a consultant/lobbyist to big tobacco. You can read it here.

The article says she was billing British American Tobacco for 126 hours a month at £165 per hour! Priti Patel MP denied any conflict of interest in the article and has since lodged a legal complaint against the article. Does the lady protest too much? :)

Add to that the fact that Priti Patel MP is a member of David Cameron's influential policy advisory board and chair of the all-party parliamentary small shops group. The secretariat for Patel's parliamentary group is provided by the Independent Retailers' Confederation via the National Federation of Retail Newsagents and the Association of Convenience Stores.

I'd bet these shops will be more than happy to see these consultation proposals implemented ... as will the big tobacco companies because, in reality, they will be virtually the only ones allowed to have raw tobacco leaf.

Conflict of interest anyone?

Of course Patel/HMRC don't blatantly say Joe Public can't have raw tobacco leaf ... they intend to do it in a somewhat more devious way.

HMRC propose 2 schemes. One is "registration" which they prefer (you'll see why when you read on) and the other is to "broaden the existing seizure powers" on imports.

NOTE ... this is a consultation only, it is not what they are going to do. lt's what they want to do. 

We have no doubt they fully expect to have virtually no replies so they can implement whatever they wish. On their last tobacco consultation they received just 12 replies and 5 of those were from the usual suspects ... Health lobby groups.

We can change that! Let them know what we think. You need send no personal details ... just e-mail your objections. We'll do a draft reply for you to copy and paste shortly if you need it.
lt's up to you to do this ... or just be a sheep and rollover and get shafted!

1. Registration Scheme

They say that you, Joe Public, can legitimately purchase your 1kg of leaf BUT you have to register with HMRC. Except you can't just register with HMRC ... they have to approve your registration ... along with certain criteria you have to adhere to. lt will come as no surprise then that these criteria are impossible to fulfil.

Worth noting is that they state categorically that there is very few legitimate end-users!!! They do this with no evidence whatsoever but condemn you anyway.

What are these criteria in order to register? Well firstly, HMRC completely ignore the Hoverspeed ruling that says it is not up to Joe Public to prove their innocence and it is up to HMRC to prove their guilt.

The HMRC proposals state that you have to satisfy HMRC that there is no risk of duty evasion.
"NO RISK"? ... well that's clearly totally impossible!!!

HMRC go further.

In order to register:-

1. You must not have any unspent convictions. (any???)

2. You must not have any proven links with known non-compliant or fraudulent businesses. (proven links??? ... what the hell does that mean?)

3. You must satisfy HMRC your business is genuine. (yeah, right)

4. You can't have outstanding HMRC debts. (does that include being wrongly assessed?)

5. You have not been involved in any significant revenue non-compliance. (define significant)

6. You must have an approved accountancy system. ( for purchasing 1kg of raw tobacco???)

7. You have to keep records of purchase orders, invoices, delivery notes, stock records, production records and payment records. (for purchasing 1kg of raw tobacco???)

8. If you are using the raw tobacco leaf other than turning it into a host of non duty products such as snuff, e-cig oil, pesticide, medicine, animal bedding etc then HMRC want you to register as a tobacco factory along with all the regs associated with doing so!!! (tobacco factory???)

(HMRC then add that the above list is not exhaustive, meaning they may add more!
Some of you may be thinking that the above is just for businesses. Well, that's what they want you to be if you purchase leaf no matter how small the amount.)

2. Broadening Seizure Powers

Not much different to the above really. The importer would have to prove it is for a legitimate end-user. This again is impossible, how can you foresee the future and how the end-user will use the raw tobacco?

Perhaps we should have some department or other that can check where these imports are going to? Oh, we have ... HMRC and Border Force. Why aren't they doing it?

3. Conclusion

In our honest opinion this HMRC consultation and the proposals therein are to the benefit of big tobacco and HMRC. Big tobacco becomes the virtual sole importer of raw tobacco and HMRC can claim to have done something whilst actually doing nothing.

This is all at the expense of Joe Public because he is an easy target. No way does any of HMRC's proposals have any impact on organised crime. The container loads will still flow in as they do with cigarettes and HRT. Indeed once again, organised crime benefits from the actions of HMRC/BF or perhaps we should say inactions?

Example 1. HMRC were contacted on their hotline in regards to a Chinese gang trying to purchase 500kg of raw tobacco a week for cash. HMRC never responded!

Example 2. Despite trying for months by their telephone helpline, online request and snail mail requests for information regarding raw leaf. HMRC never responded!

Example 3.  Some customers tried to contact HMRC on paying duty on raw tobacco they turned into smoking tobacco. HMRC never responded! 

Most of our readers here have had similar experiences with Border Force (or whatever they were previously called). They, like HMRC have at best what we call the "coffee machine" response. The with-holding of information from the public is a seemingly standard policy now.

Take the redacting out of information that states the public cross border shoppers can record all civil interviews on mobile phones etc when stopped by Border Force. HMRC did this and say they do it because it's not in the public interest to give out this information. Really? ... more like to stop Border Force officers been caught out abusing their powers! This is not hearsay, it's documented that this happens.

It's widely know that Border Force have been labelled "not fit for purpose" and we honestly believe that can be applied to this consultation.

There are only a handful of established raw tobacco leaf suppliers in the UK and between them all, none of them have shipments of tonnes coming in. Even if they did, all have registered offices etc where the leaf is delivered and all is traceable. The Chinese Gang afore mentioned are by their own demands bringing in a minimum of 26 tonnes per annum ... far more than the established UK raw leaf suppliers put together.

Another very valid point is that to import raw tobacco within the EU you have to be VAT registered. All these imports are easily traceable by any Customs in any country within the EU. It's online for god's sake. Not forgetting that anyone VAT registered has to do VAT returns. Shipments from outside the EU have to pass through Customs where import duty is applied. How difficult can it be for HMRC/BF to see where it is going? 10 tonnes to a Chinese Takeaway?? Yeah, right.

When consultations like this label virtually everyone criminals but with no evidence to support it, then you can see why HMRC/BF lose the most important source of information they could wish for. That is information from the public. Experience has taught us not to trust Border Force and now we feel we are going to have to add to that list.

So, voice your objections to this consultation. As we said earlier we'll do a copy and paste for those who are a little daunted by the questions. We don't say we'll win but at least we can give them something to thing about.





  1. Please get that cut&pasta version up,online & 'linkable to' asap. We need to get it out there...maybe *even* Simon will link to it.

  2. HMRC: But, Mr Dent, the registration process has been available in the local office for the last nine months.
    Arthur: Oh yes, well as soon as I heard I went straight round to see them, yesterday afternoon. You hadn’t exactly gone out of your way to call attention to them had you? I mean like actually telling anybody or anything.
    HMRC: But the registration process was on display…
    Arthur: On display? I eventually had to go down to the cellar to find them.
    Mr Prosser: That’s the registration process department.
    Arthur: With a torch.
    HMRC: The lights had probably gone out.
    Arthur: So had the stairs.
    HMRC: But look, you found the registration process notice, didn’t you?
    Arthur: Yes yes I did. It on display at the bottom of a locked filing cabinet stuck in a disused lavatory with a sign on the door saying beware of the leopard.

    1. Yeah, l think that nails it. Hitch Hikers Guide to Customs

  3. Well, the first thing that is worth a comment is the involvement of Patel. It has been said that her 'previous' with tobacco company involvement biases her, but, in my opinion, her present involvement in the small shopkeeper area actually biases her even more against those people who want to be self-sufficient.
    If I 'do my own thing', it is because I wish not to be beholden to Big Tobacco or Big Small Shopkeeper or Big Anything. The law requires my to pay the duty which tobacco product manufacturers are obliged to collect. That is all.
    That is a first comment. Maybe more to follow in due course.

    1. The USA lets individuals do what they like with leaf as long as it for their own use.

  4. Reading the document, it seems that they are intent upon stopping gardeners growing tobacco plants (as is the case in Australia, but not in New Zealand). We really are getting into police state territory when a growing plant becomes defined as 'raw tobacco'!
    Jesus wept!
    OK. Good luck with that Mr Government. No Big Anything to pass laws to control their activities and milk them. Just little people with gardens and greenhouses.
    I wonder if plant growers and curers in EU countries have any knowledge of the intentions of Customs in the UK?
    So is there an answer? Well, yes. Smugglers will not be deterred at all. Trips to far away places like Bulgaria are on the cards, to buy the cheapest rolling tobacco (tax paid) possible 'for personal use'.

  5. Organised Crime could wish for no better partner than HMRC.

  6. A lot of N2D readers might wonder what this has to do with them, but I see a time when a lot of us will be turning to "home-brew" tobacco.

    Most of us are beating the punitive tobacco tax rates by cross-border shopping at the moment, but the tax difference will continue to be eroded. When I started in 2000, I used Spain, but that is no longer cost-effective. The newer EU states are looking forward to gradually winding up their tobacco taxes. As long a their neighbours are not cheaper, they can do so without losing out to cross-border shopping.

    For this reason, cross-border shopping will end in our lifetimes.
    We will then either pay through the nose, give up smoking, or take up tobacco home-brew. We should all do what we can now, to prevent this dirty trick.

    It's worth checking out Junican's post on this.
    Junican really digs deep in incomprehensible legal stuff, (deeper than I can usually follow).

    From my reading of the consultation, an importer can't supply us with leaf unless he takes our orders (as registered end-users) before he even imports any given shipment. So our orders pile up until they reach a viable quantity, then he orders it. It then crosses the border, complete with documentation of all the registered end users for the entire shipment. It gets delivered, separated into parcels, and then eventually posted to individuals.

    As a business model, this is a disaster. Legitimate businesses will disappear.

    This is meant to benefit Big Tobacco, Small shopkeeper, and Big Tax. The effect will only be temporary.
    Organized crime will see their customer base increase drastically. Containers from Russia and China are completely unaffected by this nonsense.

  7. sneaky gits arnt they. Patel tethering her nest.

  8. These proposals are an outrageous infringement of our human rights and natural justice!

    I`ve had the pleasure of purchasing whole leaf tobacco only for the last 6 months, and to think this simple joy is being threatened with these weasel word proposals makes my blood boil.

    Their feedback is on it`s way.

  9. Nice post,

    This post is very useful for smoke lovers


"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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