The Deil’s Awa Wi’ The Exciseman

Baccy As the poet said “The Deil’s Awa Wi’ The Exciseman” or at least with HMRC’s senses. Via the ever excellent LegIron it has been brought to my attention that HMRC are taking steps to crack down on people not paying duty on tobacco products. This news I’m sure will make the Puritans shriveled hearts sing for joy, if they’re allowed to sing that is. HMRC have decided that it’s time to crack down on raw tobacco and that unless you qualify for exemption if you deal with raw tobacco in anyway you will have to register with them, so that they can make sure you’re paying any duty you’re meant to. So far on the face of it this isn’t entirely insane, as people have started importing cured tobacco leaves to shred at home and not pay duty on the processed tobacco the revenue obviously want their cut from such illicit activities.

However when you read the regulations the utter insanity of their scheme soon becomes apparent. Obviously having learnt the lessons of the legal highs debacle they aren’t going to be caught out by listing specific varieties that people can just work round, oh no they’re far to clever for that! Nope what they’ve done is make sure their new rules cover the entire genus! Genius move. Section 2.2 “Definition of raw tobacco” states:

“Raw tobacco means the leaves or any other part of a plant of the genus Nicotiana but does not include”

They’ve got us all bang to rights any sort of tobacco plant and HMRC want to know about it as soon as it’s dead. Of course the Nicotiana genus of plants covers a bit more than just the plants that can be smoked which are “Nicotiana Tabacum”, there’s also quite a few that are widely used as decorative plants, 67 species in all, so this regulation is going to impact garden centers, councils, parks and all manner of gardeners. Yes gardeners because these regulations according to section 2.3 cover all controlled activities and a controlled activity is: “activity involving raw tobacco, but don’t worry if you might be exempt! Section 4.4 tells us the good news:

“If you keep plants of the genus Nicotiana for horticultural purposes in the UK then you’ll be exempt from approval to hold or transport the plants when they die (at which point they are raw tobacco and subject to the approval scheme).”

Unfortunately it’s not quite that simple as there are exemptions to the exemptions most noticeably you must not:

“hold or transport an amount of waste raw tobacco which exceeds 2kg at any one time”

So grow too many plants and put them on your compost and you need to register, put it in a garden waste bin and the waste collected needs to be registered, run a nursery and have dead stock you need to register, really the list just goes on and on.

The madness doesn’t end there of course as even an individual growing decorative plants if they have too many has to keep records for 6 years, these records must relate to purchase and usage but they don’t tell you much more than that, businesses have to record even more including “sales records including customer UANs” so potentially when you go and buy your decorative border the garden center will need to check that you’re registered and record your details. I had hoped that such an idea might be far fetched but no, because even if you’re exempt and thus don’t need to register you still need to keep records! Section 6.7 “Record keeping for exemptions”:

“If you have an exemption for stalks and stems or nasal snuff you must keep, preserve and produce the records that relate to:

  • the import and export of exempt tobacco
  • the ordering and delivery of exempt tobacco
  • invoices and receipts relating to exempt tobacco

Any record that is required to be kept must be preserved for a period of 6 years and must be made available to an HMRC officer upon request.

Exempt tobacco means tobacco stalks and stems and packaged nasal snuff.”

Fortunately for all you gardeners it looks like you probably won’t have to record what you did with the trimmings from that one weedy little plant in the border at least not yet. Of course failing to register, keep records or breaching the terms on your exemption, perhaps your plants grew too well, means you’re liable to penalties probably just a £250 fine.

Now as I’m not the sort of person who would ever advocate breaking the law (no sniggering at the back) I stongly suggest that you register. Which is a painless task for as Nothign to declare report the HMRC don’t have an on line form for this, nor do they in fact have any sort of form at all! Nope if you need to register you have to write them a letter, but they do at least give some guidance on that, so I suggest we all get writing just in case there are any tobacco plants hiding in our herbaceous borders that might put on a growth spurt net year. Just hope that the HMRC consider you to be a “fit and proper” person. In the same spirit as the civic minded citizens I know you all to be, do be vigilant and if you think your local council or MP might have too many plants in their herbaceous borders do be sure to report them to the HMRC, and do let your local garden center know of their obligations. I’m sure the HMRC will appreciate our efforts in making sure that everyone who might be subject to these regulations registers properly. After all it really is important that we make sure that we register to legally grow harmless and completely legal plants that may die or need to be pruned.

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2 Responses to The Deil’s Awa Wi’ The Exciseman

  1. Excellent research … HMRC are gonna be busy it seems. Added you to our blog roll :)

    • Giolla says:

      Thankfully these regulations were a fairly short read – and yes as long as it’s “suitably” advertised and people are made aware of their legal duties then HMRC may have a little bit of work to o do. Most kind of you.