About this blog

Accessible legal tips, know-how and news for anyone with a complaint or legal issue from Stephen Gold, author of The Return of Breaking Law, the book

Friday 27 January 2017

No Smoker's Cough

Smuggling fags into the country is at the least likely to be bad on your pocket and bad on your health.

In a case before the tax tribunal in which a decision has just been published, a man returning with his family from Iraq entered the green channel at Heathrow with 13,160 cigarettes in his luggage. Civil evasion penalties were slapped on him for £3,226. He appealed against them to the tribunal which accepted that the man had intended all the cigarettes for his own use.

Was the man dishonest? Without dishonesty, he could have escaped the penalties. There is an objective and a bit of a subjective test here. The tribunal first had to consider whether his actions would have been considered dishonest by the ordinary standards of reasonable and honest people. Then it had to consider whether he knew all the facts which made it wrong for him to act as he did. And applying those tests, the tribunal decided that.....he had been dishonest.

But what of the penalties? Were there grounds for reducing them? Customs & Revenue practice is to discount penalties such as this by up to 40% for coming up with all relevant information and documentation relevant to what has happened - it's known as disclosure - and up to another 40% for cooperating over what has happened. In the event, they had knocked off 10% for cooperation and nothing for disclosure. The tribunal raised the 10% for cooperation to 40% and so reduced the man's liability by £1,089.

Anything to declare?