Significant Excise Duty case

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This Excise case is worth a read. HMRC think this is an important case in their fight against smuggling. The Court of Appeal commented:

Counsel for HMRC contended that this case raises an important point of principle or practice, the outcome of which will have significant implications for indirect tax policy and HMRC's ability to fight excise fraud.

I fear it is part of a ruse to seek recovery of excise duty from innocent couriers, leaving the real criminals to continue their empires!

The substantive question considered whether HMRC could recover unpaid excise duty from the driver of a lorry carrying smuggled goods, where the Tribunal held that the driver did not know, and had no way of knowing, that duty was unpaid. This question was referred to the ECJ:

     (1) Is a person ("P") who is in physical possession of excise goods at a point when those goods become chargeable to excise duty in Member State B liable for that excise duty pursuant to Article 33(3) of Directive 2008/118/EC ("the Directive") in circumstances where that person

          (a) had no legal or beneficial interest in the excise goods;

          (b) was transporting the excise goods, for a fee, on behalf of others between Member State A and Member State B; and

           (c) knew that the goods he was in possession of were excise goods but did not know and did not have reason to suspect the goods had become chargeable to excise duty in the Member State B at or prior to the time that they became so chargeable?

     (2) Is the answer to question (1) different if P did not know that the goods he was in possession of were excise goods?

The Court of Appeal allowed the appeal on ‘reasonable excuse’ grounds, so the driver was released from payment of the duty.


If you are offered a cross-channel driving job, with export papers hidden in a pipe, and payment weekly in cash, it might be entirely legal. But it might not!

The decision is here:


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