Retailers face a growing threat to tobacco sales from e-bootleggers offering cut price cigarettes on the internet, VAT experts have warned.
The outfits have begun aggressive email spam' campaigns, bombarding cybershoppers with offers for packs of 20 cigarettes for £2.50-£2.75 ­ compared with the average UK duty paid price of £4.50, warned VAT specialist John Davison.
Claims that the sites are legitimate because their tobacco is duty paid in Spain and is being purchased as a gift are false, said Davison, of accountants Baker Tilly. "Consumers should be aware these goods will be seized at customs and the sites will not let you cancel credit card payment."
The low value imports rule, which allows goods to be imported free of tax if the cost price is less than £18, does not apply to cigarettes, said Davison. Moreover, the gift rule, which enables shoppers to send low value gifts into the UK without VAT or duty, only covers 50 cigarettes at a time.

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