The Association of Convenience Stores has welcomed a renewed focus from MPs on tackling tobacco smuggling.
In a meeting of the House of Commons Public Accounts Committee, the chairman Margaret Hodge criticised the progress that had been made by HM Revenue and Customs (HMRC) and Border Force and recommended that HMRC do more with other agencies to stop the distribution of illicit tobacco.
ACS chief executive James Lowman said: “Tobacco smuggling is an issue that not only harms the taxpayer but also businesses and communities. Intervention is therefore necessary at all stages in the criminal supply chain, it must not be about just detecting and shutting down the big players, but also deterring the middlemen and bootleggers operating on our streets and in our neighbourhoods. A joined up approach at both a local and national level is the only way that we can stop damaging illicit tobacco industry in the UK.”
A report from the National Audit Office, published in June, revealed ‘major concerns’ that HMRC would fail to meet its target of saving £1.4bn in lost revenue because three initiatives had been scrapped or delayed. The audit office had found that less than 66% of the revenue expected to be recovered by HMRC in the first two years of its plan had been achieved.
Margaret Hodge said: “What concerns us is that three of the five HMRC initiatives to further tackle smuggling funded from the 2010 Spending Review had produced nothing by March 2013.
“HMRC and Border Force failed to make a realistic assessment of what really could be achieved and when. We are not convinced that the projects will cut revenue loss by £900m by March 2015, as predicted by the department.”