Home > Dáil Éireann debate. Written answer 249 – Illicit trade [Tobacco] [24259/22].

[Oireachtas] Dáil Éireann debate. Written answer 249 – Illicit trade [Tobacco] [24259/22]. (17 May 2022)

External website: https://www.oireachtas.ie/en/debates/question/2022...

249. Deputy Louise O'Reilly asked the Minister for Finance the funding provided to the Revenue Commissioners for 2020 and 2022 to combat tobacco smuggling; if the Revenue Commissioners are developing a dedicated anti-smuggling strategy; if the Covid-19 Pandemic has had any impact on ability of the Revenue Commissioners to combat smuggling; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [24259/22] 

Paschal Donohoe, Minister for Finance: Revenue is a fully integrated tax and customs administration and, as a result, I am advised that it is not possible to disaggregate the resources deployed, or funding dedicated, at any given time to combat tobacco smuggling. Revenue currently has approximately 2,000 staff engaged on activities that are focused on targeting and confronting non-compliance. These front-line activities include anti-smuggling and anti-evasion, investigation and prosecution, audit, assurance checks, anti-avoidance, returns compliance and debt collection. Resources allocated to these different aspects of enforcement and compliance work are adjusted and realigned in response to changes in the level of risk in different sectors. 

I know that Revenue takes an integrated approach to combatting all forms of illegal trade and shadow economy activity, including combatting the illicit tobacco trade. I am advised by Revenue that, in its experience, those involved in the illicit tobacco trade do not necessarily confine themselves to a particular commodity type. As a result, Revenue implements an integrated approach to all forms of illegal trade as distinct from a product or commodity specific focus. 

Revenue’s Statement of Strategy 2021-2023 includes a commitment to confronting non-compliance, including tobacco smuggling. This commitment is given operational priority each year through Revenue’s business planning and delivery framework having regard to risk and trends and developments within illegal trades and the modus operandi of those involved. Revenue’s actions under these operational plans are designed to maximise coordination and efficiency Revenue-wide and deliver the best impact for the effort involved. 

I am advised by Revenue that it implements a range of measures to identify and target the smuggling, supply or sale of illicit tobacco products, with a view to disrupting the supply chain, seizing the products and, where possible, prosecuting those involved. Revenue develops and shares intelligence on a national, EU and international basis, and deploys analytics and detection technologies and ensures effective risk focused deployment of resources. 

The smuggling of tobacco products has a transnational and cross border dimension and, in addition to Revenue’s ongoing cooperation with An Garda Síochána in this area, I am advised that Revenue also works closely with its counterparts in other jurisdictions including colleagues in Northern Ireland through the Cross Border Joint Agency Task Force (JATF), and international bodies including OLAF (the EU’s anti-fraud agency), Europol and the World Customs Organisation.

I am advised that Revenue’s activities aimed at combatting tobacco smuggling continued throughout the COVID-19 pandemic. This work yielded excellent results and in 2020 Revenue seized 48.1 million illicit cigarettes and approximately 7,100 kgs of illicit tobacco while in 2021 Revenue seized over 60 million illicit cigarettes and 38,246 kgs of illicit tobacco. For this year, to the end of April Revenue has seized 9.67 million illicit cigarettes and 1,493 kgs of illicit tobacco. 

Finally, the Government has ensured through the Finance Acts over recent years that Revenue has the necessary statutory powers to enable it to deliver on its key functions. I am satisfied that the current legislative framework provides an effective basis for undertaking and continuing the important work against the illegal tobacco trade. I know that Revenue will continue to be very active in this aspect of its overall compliance work.

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