|Author (Person)||Chapman, Peter|
|Series Title||European Voice|
|Series Details||Vol.7, No.27, 5.7.01, p7|
TAX chief Frits Bolkestein is investigating MEPs' claims that UK customs officials are harassing citizens who shop abroad for cheap alcoholic drinks and cigarettes.
The UK currently has some of the highest excise duty rates outside Scandinavia, resulting in the increasing popularity of so-called 'booze cruises' to French ports such as Calais, Dunkirk and Cherbourg. EU rules allow visitors to bring back goods for their "personal use" only and not for re-sale on the black market.
But Scottish Conservative MEP John Purvis has written to Bolkestein claiming he had received complaints from constituents who had been harassed by customs officials acting "virtually outside normal legal constraints". "The British government is attempting to maintain its very high excise rates on products such as tobacco and alcohol by intimidating travellers who are availing themselves of their rights to purchase tax-paid goods anywhere in the EU," Purvis argued.
He said the British customs force has increased in numbers with a remit from the UK treasury to eliminate the huge drain of excise taxes from its coffers. "They have therefore taken to confiscating individual travellers' purchases of tobacco, beer, wine or sprits on their own assessment of whether or not it is for 'personal use'," Purvis claimed.
In reply, Bolkestein is checking whether the UK has breached a 1992 directive that sets minimum guidelines for the amounts of goods which constitute personal use - although member states can set quantities above these levels. These include 800 cigarettes, 200 cigars, 10 litres of spirits, 110 litres of beer and 90 litres of wine.
He added his officials would examine the legality of the "system of controls and sanctions" applied by the UK.
Tax chief Frits Bolkestein is investigating MEPs' claims that UK customs officials are harassing citizens who shop abroad for cheap alcoholic drinks and cigarettes.
|Subject Categories||Internal Markets|
|Countries / Regions||United Kingdom|