The Association of Convenience Stores (ACS) has welcomed proposals for tougher sanctions to tackle illegal tobacco in its response to an HM Revenue and Customs consultation.

HMRC is considering the introduction of fines for up to £10,000 for persistent offenders selling large quantities of illicit tobacco, and the six-month removal of track and trace codes (economic operator ID) for severe cases of non-compliance.

In its submission, ACS highlighted the lack of previous meaningful enforcement action when it comes to dealing with businesses that were found to be selling illicit tobacco.

It said that in 2019 almost half (48%) of the businesses found to be selling illicit tobacco received a verbal warning, and called for a low tolerance approach to send a clear message that selling these illegal products was not acceptable.

ACS chief executive James Lowman said: “We strongly welcome any measures aimed at tackling the dangerous illicit market which harms both consumers and responsible retailers. If introduced, these tougher sanctions must be backed up with proper local enforcement to get these products off shelves and deter others from purchasing them from criminal gangs.”

The government estimates that the tobacco tax gap (tax income lost in unpaid duty and VAT) was £2.5bn in 2020-21.