Tobacco imported ‘for profit’ seized

Posted: 8th October 2012

The First-Tier Tribunal has adopted a wide interpretation of the phrase ‘for profit’ in rejecting a plea by three travellers that dutiable tobacco goods they imported into the United Kingdom should not have been seized because they were intended for family members rather than for commercial supply.

Although it was accepted that, in their own minds, the appellants were not acting for profit in the established sense of the word, the tribunal said that contributions made by the end recipients of the goods to the costs of their journey abroad technically amounted to a profit in money or money’s worth.

The appellants were stopped by customs officials at Belfast Airport on their return from Spain with large numbers of cigarettes and quantities of rolling tobacco, which would normally attract excise duty, in their luggage. The goods were seized under the powers contained in section 139(10) of the Customs & Excise Management Act 1979.

The appellants argued that the importation could not be viewed as commercial in the ordinary sense of the word because they had bought the goods for their own use and on behalf of family members who had contributed towards the purchase price of the tobacco and the costs of the trip.

However, dismissing the appeal, the tribunal ruled that the appellant’s view that they were not engaged in a commercial transaction did not accord with either the law or the policy of the United Kingdom Border Agency. The contributions made by family members to the appellants’ flight and other costs were ‘technically a profit’ in the hands of the appellants and their intention to distribute the goods amongst their family amounted to a ‘commercial use’ of the goods.