Customs officers can now raid rented garages and homes as part of its investigations into alcohol and tobacco duty fraud.
Revised legislation has widened the definition of premises used by a trader to include those owned by a third party, such as a lock-up garage. HMRC can also oblige third parties including haulage firms, landlords and banks to reveal information about suspect traders. If they fail to provide requested information, businesses risk a hefty financial penalty.
The laws have also made it easier for Customs officers to demand and seize copies of documents that show how products have been shipped and whether duty was paid.
The FWD described the new powers as welcome. “Last year, HMRC was given the power to assess for lost duty from up and down the supply chain, and these new rights to enter domestic premises, inspect and remove documents, and obtain information from third parties will help to establish the route by which non-duty-paid stock finds its way to the market,” said chief executive James Bielby.
Last week’s Budget revealed that the government planned to “explore potential legislative measures to tackle existing and emerging threats to alcohol duty receipts” in the Finance Bill in December.