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UKSolicitorJA, Solicitor
Category: Law
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Experience:  English solicitor with over 12 years experience
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In Nov 2012 me & my partner went to Belgium to purchase tobacco

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In Nov 2012 me & my partner went to Belgium to purchase tobacco for personal use. I looked on the internet for limits to find there are no limits if for personal use. We purchased 500 pouches with the intention that it would last us two years. This was confiscated along with my 2 year old car. At first we had planned on taking this to court as we had not done anything wrong. In the meantime the relationship broke between me and my partner and no longer on speaking terms. I wrote to inform them of the situation and that we were no longer proceeding to court. I received a letter to say there would not be any court costs. I have now received another letter saying I owe £2000+ in Tax duty. Do I have to pay this? I was never told that this was a possible cost during the customs interview
Do you know whether duty was paid on the tobacco in Belgium by whoeever sold it to you?
Customer: replied 4 years ago.

To be honest I am not sure, it was purchased from a shop in Belgium so I can only assume that it had the duty on it needed to buy from Belgium?


Okay thanks. We should assume that the shop in Belgium paid duty on it.

The legal position is that if duty was paid in Belgium and you intend to consume the tobacco for your personal use, then you are not liable to pay any duty in the UK due to the EU free movement of goods rules.

It appears that Customs suspected you of importing the tobacco for commercial use i.e. for ilicit resale in the UK due to the quantity which is why your car and the tobacco was impounded. They had the power to do so if they suspected that the tobacco was for resale and not personal use.

You should contest the demand for duty and reiterate that the tobacco is for your personal use in which case no duty should be payable and your car and the tobacco should be released to you without any payment.

Hope this helps

Customer: replied 4 years ago.

Originally I was contesting the decision to inpound the tobacco and my car, the only reason it didn't go to court is because me and my partner split and were no longer talking. I wrote to HMRC and explained this due to the breakdown of the relationship we were no longer taking the case to court, I have a letter confirming there would be no court costs.

Can I really just write a letter to contest the duty costs as it was for personal use, even though I didn't follow through with the court hearing?

Yes, you may do so, you do not need to go to court to dispute the duty and even if you said you will not be contesting in court, you are still free to do so as you can say you have changed your mind.

As long as the tobacco is for personal use, the law states that you do not have to pay duty on it. It is that simple and you should write the letter contesting the duty and pointing out it is for personal use for the next 2 years or so.

Hope this helps
Customer: replied 4 years ago.

They said that they didn't believe it was for personal use hence the confiscation. Do I have to prove it was for personal use to avoid the duty costs? If so, how can i prove it? We was interviewed for over 2 hours before they took the tobacco and car.


It is up to them to determine that the goods are for commercial purpose, not for you to prove that they are for personal use. See the Hoverspeed case:

Customer: replied 4 years ago.

I will write the letter as per your advise. What shall I do if they reject my claims that due the the tobacco being for personal use I do not owe any duty?

You may ask for a review of their decision and then appeal to the First Tier Tribunal:

All the best
Customer: replied 4 years ago.

So basically, if they reject my claims I can appeal, but if the appeal fails then I still have to pay?

How can they possibly prove that it was for commercial use if it wasn't?

What is the time frame for still taking to court?

Me and my ex partner are now on talking terms again, could we still try and take this to court and plead for personal use, even though the trip was in Nov 2012.

They have already taken £2000 pound worth of tobacco and a £5000 car from me

Yes, you can still go to court now if that is what you want.

If you had say 10 different brands of tobacco as opposed to 1 or 2 brands or you had never smoked more than a few puffs in the past and had sucha large quantity on you, or you made very many trips , it could show that the tobacco was for commercial purposes.

It really is up to them to show that you will use the Tobacco for non personal purposes.

I trust this has answered your original queries.
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