Thursday, 5 November 2015

Honey .... we're HOME!

Been a while ain't it? :) We've been travelling a lot ... l've been in the States for some time in the state of Arizona. Got myself back into motorbikes whilst l was there and have continued to do that now back in UK. Done lots of other stuff too.

We left because we felt we'd done as much as we could and the N2D Forum continues our work. It's now run by friends of ours and they still help cross-border shoppers who have problems with Border Force. We'd particularly like to thank Eezyrider along with the other Mods and regular members for doing such a fine job. They are very knowledgable about all the regs etc and the tactics of Border Force (< who are still not fit for purpose). As always ... all the advice on N2D Forum is free!

So, why are we back? Well, we still receive lots of mail but 99% is handled by the Forum. Amongst this mail has been something that has interested us. lt's not about cross-border shopping ... it's about a Border Force section that call themselves the Revenue Fraud Detection Team (RFDT for short) and abide at Freight Clearance Centre, Lord Warden Square, Western Docks, Dover, Kent.

RFDT look to have gone rogue ... with help from other departments in HMRC and our 'friends' at the National Post Seizure Unit. RFDT live in Ivory Towers and don't like any public intrusion or attention.

So, we thought it's time to do just that and let the public know what these excuses for public servants are up to. Give us a couple of days to clear the cobwebs out the office and we'll show you how they are harassing and destroying legitimate UK Companies just because they deal in raw tobacco leaf.

What crime have these companies committed? ... NONE

What evidence do RFDT have against these companies? ... NONE

OF course you'd think RFDT are abiding by their own rules and regulations ... THINK AGAIN

Watch this space ... we shall reveal all :)

Right, time to clean office

Thursday, 15 January 2015

HMRC Consultation on Control of Raw Tobacco ... your chance to ANSWER!

Here is our answers to the HMRC Consultation on the Control of Raw Tobacco. You can either use it as is or edit it if you want to.

Here are the links. We prefer PDF but not all can edit PDF so it is in .doc form too (Word)

Consultation Questions and Answers PDF

Consultation Questions and Answers (Word)

We can't stress strongly enough how important it is to reply to this. HMRC are really expecting no replies other than the usual suspects re Tobacco Control ... ASH and the like. HMRC expect to be able to get these draconian measures through without any objections.

Let's show them we aren't sheep!

Simply download the doc and when you are ready attach it to an e-mail  and send it to:-


Post it to:-

Raw Tobacco Consultation
Tobacco Policy Team
Ralli Quays,
3 Stanley Street
M60 9HL

Don't be worried about sending it.  There are no personal details required. If you want you could even create a new e-mail address just for this.

If you are on the snuff forums, e-cig forums etc etc ... PASS IT ON! GET THE WORD OUT!
If your mates use leaf, no matter how little they use ... then tell them too

We need as many answers as possible. Ok some of you may say it's pointless BUT we have to try!


or rollover and get shafted without a murmur!

Responses to Consultation have to be in by 30th Jan 2015!


It'll only take you a couple of minutes.

Below is our suggested response


Many readers have asked us to suggest a reply to this consultation, as most found it quite daunting; which indeed it is. The questions in our honest opinion are loaded to "agree' with what HMRC propose.

As an end-user respondent, you could alter or delete any of these answers to suit your own circumstances, or you could leave them as they are. We have taken note of our readers' comments, and included most of their points in these answers.

To allay any doubts held by the HMRC Consultation Team, these replies will be from private individual end-users, not companies or businesses. All these answers are to that effect (although private individuals may alter our suggested answers).

HMRC intend to reply to these responses with one standard answer to all. We have the right to do the same, although individuals' answers may differ in detail.

Consultation Questions 

Question 1: Does the proposed definition encompass all forms of raw tobacco, which could be used to manufacture tobacco products? 

As a member of the EU, the UK should make no changes unless the EU Directives and Regulations change. Raw Tobacco is defined as an agricultural product within the EU.

Question 2: Should plants which have not been harvested but are still growing in containers such as pots or bags also be included to prevent an alternative route to evade duty? 

As a member of the EU, the UK should make no changes unless the EU Directives and Regulations change. Raw Tobacco is defined as an agricultural product within the EU.

Question 3: We would very much like to hear from businesses and individuals who use raw tobacco for purposes other than manufacturing tobacco products on which duty is payable, including manufacturers of e-cigarette fluids. It would be extremely helpful to know: 

•  the nature of your usage; 

There are many uses for raw tobacco, other than smoking. This range includes but is not limited to e-cig liquid, whole leaf vapourising, potpourri, insecticide, animal bedding, snuff, cosmetics, alternative medicine, dietary supplements and fragrances.

•   where and in what quantities you currently source raw tobacco, including 

Internet shopping, small quantities for personal use.

 • the approximate quantities used; 

I consider this question intrusive and unacceptable.

how you feel these proposals would impact you; 

I believe that they would seriously violate my Human Rights and my right as an EU citizen to legitimately  purchase an EU defined legal product. HMRC already have powers to investigate individuals should they have a valid reason. These proposals are likely to destroy a legitimate trade and leave me with fewer (or no) suppliers to choose from. The lack of competition will inevitably result in increased prices.

• is there an alternative substance that you could use in place of tobacco? 


Question 4: What are your views on a simplified scheme for low volume users for non-smoking purposes: 

•  Do you think there should be a simplified scheme for low-volume users and if so, why? 

Yes, the current one that exists within the EU Directives and Regulations. These are already adequate if they were implemented properly. Requiring purchasers of a legal product to register is unprecedented.

 • At what level do you believe that the threshold should be set for a low-volume user of raw tobacco for non-smoking purposes? 

There should be no threshold for own use. Any individual purchasing other than for own use would be running a business that would need to be declared to HMRC for tax purposes. 

• How could HMRC ensure that such a scheme was not exploited to avoid Tobacco Products Duty? 

HMRC have access to all VAT records and especially purchases/movements of raw tobacco within the EU, where only VAT registered companies can purchase it from the original suppliers.  I as a private individual cannot. I can do so from outside of the EU, but then it is subjected to import duty etc by HMRC. HMRC can then follow up any enquiry they deem necessary. The data and records are there.

•  Please supply any evidence you have of usage to support your view. 

No. l do not feel comfortable giving anyone access to my personal data and it is not a view but fact.

Question 5: If you would be required to register under this scheme, for which other taxes and duties are you already registered? 

None, I am a private individual, not a business.

Question 6: Paragraph 19 includes factors that will be considered as part of a fit and proper test: 

• What is your view on the suggested factors that would be included in a fit and proper test? 

They are outrageous. It would be seriously contrary to my Human Rights as a citizen of the EU that l could be refused registration merely on someone's unsubstantiated suspicions or any unspent convictions etc. The Hoverspeed ruling (R (Hoverspeed) v C&E Comrs [2002] EWHC 1630) confirmed that it was not up to private individuals to prove their innocence, but for HMRC to prove their guilt.

The criteria HMRC suggest for registration are draconian to say the least. HMRC include in these criteria that they should be satisfied that there are "no risks of duty evasion".  It is clearly impossible to attain such an absolute. Another criteria is that you cannot have any unspent convictions. "any"?  HMRC cannot be serious. 

The remaining criteria are just as bad.

It seems that HMRC do not wish for anyone to have registration. I realize that there will be an appeals/tribunal process but if this is anything like that of the Border Force then one cannot justifiably have any faith in them.

Why are just importers/users of raw tobacco being asked to register to this proposed HMRC scheme when cross-border shoppers who bring back non UK duty paid smoking products are seemingly exempt. ? The cross border shoppers have no limits/threshold set either. All they have is guidelines.

• Are there any additional items you think should be considered as part of 
this fit and proper test? 

None, see previous answer.

Question 7: What record keeping requirements do you consider would be necessary to assure HMRC that raw tobacco is being used for a legitimate purpose, i.e. is not being used to illegally manufacture tobacco products? 

All my purchases are by bankcard and thus show on my bank statements and those of the Internet companies that l purchase from. Nothing else is justifiable, given l am a private individual end user, not a business.

Question 8: Paragraph 25 states that HMRC will establish at the point of importation that raw tobacco is destined for a registered holder. It may therefore be necessary for the carrier or owner of raw tobacco being imported to provide proof of destination at the border. Are there any issues you can identify with this requirement? 

To suggest that my supplier (or others like them) would have to wait until they have enough orders from such as myself before they can import a shipment of fully allocated raw tobacco is ridiculous. I could be waiting months for my order. I am certain that organised crime would welcome your proposal though, as they would not be inconvenienced whereas legitimate businesses would be ruined. 

Question 9: Are there any potential wider consequences of this system that we have not identified here? 

Yes, companies within the UK would either have to close or relocate to another EU country. This would leave a void that organised crime would very quickly fill. Also any private individual could still purchase from other EU Internet companies that have moved and take the small risk of any shipment they purchase being seized. Even if this happens HMRC cannot issue a penalty for duty evaded as raw tobacco will still remain non dutiable.

No doubt Internet companies outside the EU will still operate as usual, with smaller but more frequent shipments. Whether HMRC would be able to intercept all these parcels is very doubtful. Regardless, given the low base price of raw tobacco, those Internet companies will probably just send out a replacement free of charge.

Question 10: Are there any equality issues raised by these proposals, such as a disproportionate impact on any particular group of the population such as ethnic groups or disabled people, for example? 

None l can see.

Question 11: Do you have any views on the potential impact of this scheme on businesses affected, including potential costs and burdens and any suggestions for how these can be kept to a minimum? 

See answer to Question 9. To keep costs and burdens to a minimum l implore you to use the data and records you already have access to. Any irregularities can be easily spotted. Such as 1 tonne going to an ice cream factory! (

Question 12: What documentation do you consider it reasonable and necessary for an importer or consignee to provide to prove that a consignment of raw tobacco is destined for a legitimate end use?

HMRC already have access to all VAT records and especially purchases/movement within the EU for raw tobacco where only companies VAT registered can purchase it.  I as a private individual cannot. I can from outside of the EU but then it is subject to import duty etc from HMRC, who can already follow up any enquiry they deem necessary.

Note:- it is impossible to prove that raw tobacco is destined for a legitimate end user. Your legal department will no doubt confirm this, if you cannot see it.

 Question 13: What are your views on broadening the seizure powers, including any issues, potential costs and burdens. Please supply any evidence you have to support your view. 

Border Force are widely considered "unfit for purpose" and in my and many others view justifiably so. I can foresee many problems in giving Border Force extra powers of seizure. 

It is well factually documented that some Border Force officers are over-zealous, bending the rules/regs and sometimes actually lying in order to get a seizure. Giving them extra powers will only allow them to victimise more legitimate private individuals and companies.

See for many factual examples.

Question 14: Are there any potential wider consequences of increasing existing powers that we have not identified here? 

Yes we should always be working towards harmonising with the EU and not creating different rules/regs that will make matters far worse. Your point that 2 countries have created different rules calls for closer scrutiny. Poland has introduced excise duty on raw tobacco in direct contradiction to EU Directives/Regs and is facing a legal challenge. Ireland on the other hand continually introduces everything they can think of regardless of the consequences.

In 2013 Ireland was 3rd (in 2011 it was Bulgaria!) in the table re tobacco duty avoidance (smuggling). The only 2 countries ahead of them were Latvia and Lithuania (Irish Tobacco manufacturers Advisory Committee). Yet, Latvia and Lithuania are actually reducing this tobacco duty avoidance year by year. Ireland is not, and looks odds on for becoming number 1 in the table very soon. Surely it is not the intention of HMRC to compete for this embarrassing position?

Organised crime will be waiting eagerly for proposals such as those in this consultation to come into force. They already operate outside of any regulations HMRC have. All they have to do is increase their trade to fill the gap created by these proposals destroying legitimate businesses.

Question 15: Do you have any alternative proposals for the control of raw tobacco and the prevention of avoidance of Tobacco Products Duty? 

Yes, harmonise with EU, and use the data and records you already have. Do not drive the raw tobacco trade underground into the hands of organised crime.

Work with the public, not against them. Certainly do not suggest that virtually no end users are legitimate, as you have done in this consultation. If private individuals are condemned out of hand then what have they to lose by becoming what you accuse them of?

Friday, 9 January 2015

HMRC want to ban ALL Tobacco Leaf for everyone... except for Big Tobacco

As usual it's legitimate Joe Public that are the target. HMRC have released a consultation setting out their proposals, with the help of a certain Priti Patel MP (Exchequer Secretary to the Treasury). Priti Patel MP was featured in an article recently by the Guardian which questioned her links as a consultant/lobbyist to big tobacco. You can read it here.

The article says she was billing British American Tobacco for 126 hours a month at £165 per hour! Priti Patel MP denied any conflict of interest in the article and has since lodged a legal complaint against the article. Does the lady protest too much? :)

Add to that the fact that Priti Patel MP is a member of David Cameron's influential policy advisory board and chair of the all-party parliamentary small shops group. The secretariat for Patel's parliamentary group is provided by the Independent Retailers' Confederation via the National Federation of Retail Newsagents and the Association of Convenience Stores.

I'd bet these shops will be more than happy to see these consultation proposals implemented ... as will the big tobacco companies because, in reality, they will be virtually the only ones allowed to have raw tobacco leaf.

Conflict of interest anyone?

Of course Patel/HMRC don't blatantly say Joe Public can't have raw tobacco leaf ... they intend to do it in a somewhat more devious way.

HMRC propose 2 schemes. One is "registration" which they prefer (you'll see why when you read on) and the other is to "broaden the existing seizure powers" on imports.

NOTE ... this is a consultation only, it is not what they are going to do. lt's what they want to do. 

We have no doubt they fully expect to have virtually no replies so they can implement whatever they wish. On their last tobacco consultation they received just 12 replies and 5 of those were from the usual suspects ... Health lobby groups.

We can change that! Let them know what we think. You need send no personal details ... just e-mail your objections. We'll do a draft reply for you to copy and paste shortly if you need it.
lt's up to you to do this ... or just be a sheep and rollover and get shafted!

1. Registration Scheme

They say that you, Joe Public, can legitimately purchase your 1kg of leaf BUT you have to register with HMRC. Except you can't just register with HMRC ... they have to approve your registration ... along with certain criteria you have to adhere to. lt will come as no surprise then that these criteria are impossible to fulfil.

Worth noting is that they state categorically that there is very few legitimate end-users!!! They do this with no evidence whatsoever but condemn you anyway.

What are these criteria in order to register? Well firstly, HMRC completely ignore the Hoverspeed ruling that says it is not up to Joe Public to prove their innocence and it is up to HMRC to prove their guilt.

The HMRC proposals state that you have to satisfy HMRC that there is no risk of duty evasion.
"NO RISK"? ... well that's clearly totally impossible!!!

HMRC go further.

In order to register:-

1. You must not have any unspent convictions. (any???)

2. You must not have any proven links with known non-compliant or fraudulent businesses. (proven links??? ... what the hell does that mean?)

3. You must satisfy HMRC your business is genuine. (yeah, right)

4. You can't have outstanding HMRC debts. (does that include being wrongly assessed?)

5. You have not been involved in any significant revenue non-compliance. (define significant)

6. You must have an approved accountancy system. ( for purchasing 1kg of raw tobacco???)

7. You have to keep records of purchase orders, invoices, delivery notes, stock records, production records and payment records. (for purchasing 1kg of raw tobacco???)

8. If you are using the raw tobacco leaf other than turning it into a host of non duty products such as snuff, e-cig oil, pesticide, medicine, animal bedding etc then HMRC want you to register as a tobacco factory along with all the regs associated with doing so!!! (tobacco factory???)

(HMRC then add that the above list is not exhaustive, meaning they may add more!
Some of you may be thinking that the above is just for businesses. Well, that's what they want you to be if you purchase leaf no matter how small the amount.)

2. Broadening Seizure Powers

Not much different to the above really. The importer would have to prove it is for a legitimate end-user. This again is impossible, how can you foresee the future and how the end-user will use the raw tobacco?

Perhaps we should have some department or other that can check where these imports are going to? Oh, we have ... HMRC and Border Force. Why aren't they doing it?

3. Conclusion

In our honest opinion this HMRC consultation and the proposals therein are to the benefit of big tobacco and HMRC. Big tobacco becomes the virtual sole importer of raw tobacco and HMRC can claim to have done something whilst actually doing nothing.

This is all at the expense of Joe Public because he is an easy target. No way does any of HMRC's proposals have any impact on organised crime. The container loads will still flow in as they do with cigarettes and HRT. Indeed once again, organised crime benefits from the actions of HMRC/BF or perhaps we should say inactions?

Example 1. HMRC were contacted on their hotline in regards to a Chinese gang trying to purchase 500kg of raw tobacco a week for cash. HMRC never responded!

Example 2. Despite trying for months by their telephone helpline, online request and snail mail requests for information regarding raw leaf. HMRC never responded!

Example 3.  Some customers tried to contact HMRC on paying duty on raw tobacco they turned into smoking tobacco. HMRC never responded! 

Most of our readers here have had similar experiences with Border Force (or whatever they were previously called). They, like HMRC have at best what we call the "coffee machine" response. The with-holding of information from the public is a seemingly standard policy now.

Take the redacting out of information that states the public cross border shoppers can record all civil interviews on mobile phones etc when stopped by Border Force. HMRC did this and say they do it because it's not in the public interest to give out this information. Really? ... more like to stop Border Force officers been caught out abusing their powers! This is not hearsay, it's documented that this happens.

It's widely know that Border Force have been labelled "not fit for purpose" and we honestly believe that can be applied to this consultation.

There are only a handful of established raw tobacco leaf suppliers in the UK and between them all, none of them have shipments of tonnes coming in. Even if they did, all have registered offices etc where the leaf is delivered and all is traceable. The Chinese Gang afore mentioned are by their own demands bringing in a minimum of 26 tonnes per annum ... far more than the established UK raw leaf suppliers put together.

Another very valid point is that to import raw tobacco within the EU you have to be VAT registered. All these imports are easily traceable by any Customs in any country within the EU. It's online for god's sake. Not forgetting that anyone VAT registered has to do VAT returns. Shipments from outside the EU have to pass through Customs where import duty is applied. How difficult can it be for HMRC/BF to see where it is going? 10 tonnes to a Chinese Takeaway?? Yeah, right.

When consultations like this label virtually everyone criminals but with no evidence to support it, then you can see why HMRC/BF lose the most important source of information they could wish for. That is information from the public. Experience has taught us not to trust Border Force and now we feel we are going to have to add to that list.

So, voice your objections to this consultation. As we said earlier we'll do a copy and paste for those who are a little daunted by the questions. We don't say we'll win but at least we can give them something to thing about.




Thursday, 8 January 2015

We're Back!!!

Hope you guys all had a good Xmas and New Year. We've been asked to help with a new campaign. This time primarily against HMRC. So, watch this space ... it will be up in the next couple of days.

In the meantime, we say this :-

Monday, 18 August 2014

'Which' Tobacco Leaf Companies?

We've been promising to do this for some time now but finally we have got round to it. We found a number of 'companies' selling tobacco whole leaf. Of all the companies we looked at, only one is listed as a Limited Company, VAT Registered and a registered Tobacco Broker with HMRC. That is TL4U (Tobacco Leaf 4 U). Given that invariably you have to be VAT registered to purchase direct from source within the EU then none VAT registered companies would have to purchase from Tobacco Brokers such as TL4U or similar.That would explain why TL4U are selling retail Tobacco Leaf cheaper than the rest.

Another reason is TL4U dont sell USA/Canadian leaf like the other companies do. You can purchase from USA/Canada without a VAT number but you have to pay import duties on it because it is outside the EU. Couple that with shipment costs and you then understand why the USA/Canadian etc leaf is so expensive when compared to EU leaf.

Difference in the quality of leaf from EU and USA/Canada etc? Well, we've seen tonnes and tonnes of leaf all packaged in C48 boxes in EU Leaf Distributors all earmarked for such as  ... Imperial Tobacco. l think that answers the question. ln the end it's just down to personal choice.

Some UK leaf suppliers we looked at were clearly a rip-off and subsequently disappeared very quickly. Don't be fooled by offers too good to be true because invariably they are too good to be true! You'll end up out of pocket for sure.

So, let's have a look at some of the companies that are trading and continue to do so.

1. Whole Leaf

Owned by Paul Redmond and in Bolton, Lancs. Paul has good reputation and it's well deserved. He sells EU/USA/CAN leaf along with shredders and flavourings. Recently added WorldPay payment gateway so can accept card payment. Payment gateways are difficult to get because tobacco leaf is discriminated against by most gateway providers so kudos to Paul for getting it.

Paul sells his leaf in llb amounts which works out as 453g whereas some others sell in Metric of 500g. It's worth noting this when purchasing leaf. Look at amounts they sell the leaf in.

Average purchase price incl p&p £24.98 for 454g (1 lb)   = £2.77 per 50g

2. Buy Tobacco Leaf

An odd one this.They only sell in bulk but what worries us about Buy Tobacco Leaf is that they want all your personal details incl a copy of your passport or driving licence AND a utility bill BEFORE they will accept any orders from you.. Take a look. We really don't like this at all ... so we'll leave it at that.

3. PureLeaf

Pureleaf have had their trials and tribulations ... we wrote about them here.  What the outcome was we have not learned. PureLeaf site was down for quite a while and then they came back but with a much reduced USA/CAN stock and frequently out of stock. They don't sell EU leaf. The site used to sell shredders etc but they seem to have been removed. What has also been recently removed is PureLeaf having a go at other Leaf suppliers and saying that their leaf is poor quality. That in our view was uncalled for.

Saying that, the owner Joe Tunnicliffe of Bournemouth, did have a good reputation with his customers.

Average purchase price incl p&p £24.98 for 450g (1 lb)   = £2.77 per 50g

UPDATED ... Thanks to Blocked Dwarf we see that Joe at PureLeaf is still slagging off the competition.We are not impressed at such tactics when we know for certain such claims are patently untrue.

4. Whole Leaf Tobacco Only

Belfast Company that's been around for quite some time. Doesn't sell EU leaf  and sticks to USA/CAN etc. Sells a big range including accessories. We are reliably informed that prices have been steadily rising but recently they have changed from selling in llbs to 500g instead so that's a positive. They are still the most expensive though.

Average purchase price incl p&p £30.49 for 500g   = £3.05 per 50g

5. TL4U Ltd (Tobacco Leaf 4 U)

Came to prominence in the last year. Only sell quality EU leaf and at really good prices. Reliably informed that their service and customer service are excellent.They are registered Tobacco Brokers with HMRC and a VAT registered Limited Company from Hull/Sheffield. They are to increase their selection of leaf when the new crops are released in late Sept/Oct 2014. That has to be good news.We also like the idea that postage & packing is at a flat rate of only 4.95 regardless of the quantity ordered.

Average purchase price incl p&p £19.95 for 500g   = £1.90 per 50g

6. Miss Virginia Burley

A lady no less! Relatively new and filling a niche market. Concentrates on smaller 250g sales for those with tight budgets. Her current leaf is excellent Burley Butted (15cm of stalk removed) and Virginia Strips (no stalks at all!). We think she should change the currency she trades in though ... from Euro to Sterling.

Approx average purchase price incl free p&p £11.99 for 250g   = £2.39 per 50g

7. Fred the Shred

Fred doesn't sell leaf but what he does sell is shredders ... and he takes it seriously. You won't find better service and dedication anywhere. What we really like is his humour ... we think of him as Professor A.A. Dinwiddie, DM (7th), D.Thau., B.Occ., M.Coll aka the Bursar from the Unseen University (Pratchett's Discworld). Hope the dried frog pills are still working mate. :)


We haven't covered all the leaf suppliers so if you can recommend any OR tell us of ones you think should be avoided, then drop us a line or put it in the comments and we'll add them to the list.

Take care y'all :)