Don't be fazed by the HMRC move

With reference to your article entitled 'HMRC gets tough on warehouses and hauliers' (12th March). The UK Warehousing Association (UKWA) draws attention to the increased activity by HMRC in fining third-party supply chain service providers, such as warehouse operators, hauliers and others, for unpaid duty on goods they may be storing or have had a part in moving. 

This in some cases is occurring despite the fact that the operator may be unaware that such excise duty is outstanding on the goods.

As an insurer providing cover for the liability of transport operators, TT Club has in the past experienced comparable situations in Continental Europe. We have also assisted our insured companies (our members) in the UK when unexpected fines have been levied for unintentionally transporting illegal immigrants into the country.

While such actions by the authorities are often unanticipated and therefore shock the industry when they occur; we would urge a calm review of the situation. Reasonable precautions can be taken by operators to protect themselves from unforeseen liability and TT Club's fines and duties clauses do cover our insured for such eventualities.

Clearly those operators of bonded facilities will be familiar with the standard checks on customers wishing to store or transport goods under bond (that is with duty not yet paid), and with the necessity to scrutinise accompanying documentation.

We would urge operators of non-bonded premises also to take similar and sensible steps in checking the background of dutiable commodities e.g. alcohol, perfume, tobacco and cigarettes, that are offered them for transportation or storage.

Any suspicious circumstances surrounding the goods or their shippers should be investigated with the operator's insurer or HMRC. If operators take such reasonable precautions and have the relevant insurance cover, then any resulting claim will be met to pay any fine they may receive.

TT Club feels that although operators should be fully aware of the HMRC's actions they, like the Club, should not be fazed by the move.

The Club is consulting with its members, lawyers and HMRC to advise on a protocol for checking the documentation of goods that are eligible for duty and the integrity of parties trading in these goods a. We'll make this advice fully available to our members in due course.

(Published Wednesday, 27 March 2013

Staff Author

TT Club