The British government could be fined to compensate France, Germany, Spain and Italy for lost customs revenue, according a report from the European anti-fraud office.
The team (referred to as Olaf after its in French, Office de Lutte Anti-Fraude) has made a recommendation that the UK should pay €1.98bn into the EU budget to compensate for lost customs duties. They claim that UK Customs has failed to crack down on criminal imports by gangs using fake invoices and making false claims about the value of clothes and shoes imported from China. Olaf estimates that the handling of customs at ports in the above countries has totalled €3.2bn between 2013 to 2016 in VAT revenues.
An Olaf spokesperson says: “Despite repeated efforts deployed by Olaf, and in contrast to the actions taken by several other member states to fight against these fraudsters, the fraud hub in the UK has continued to grow.”
A spokesman for the British Prime Minister said: “We’ve not received a bill from the European Commission. This report is not a bill. It’s an estimate. We don’t recognise the figures. HMRC are looking at it now.”
Richard Murphy of Tax Research UK has written: “That’s what happens when you refuse to have sufficient Customs officers: for the sake of a ha’pence of spend a fortune is lost, as I have said countless times about HMRC cuts. I know that much more than this has been lost because of the failure of HMRC to monitor tax abuse on eBay and Amazon. I have seen the data, and so have HMRC, who have refused to do anything consequential about it. If this is how good we are at monitoring trade now heaven help us after Brexit.”