The tobacco imports have long been a menace for HMRC and the UKBF (Home Office). Many seizures result from products which are suspected of being brought in to the country for commercial use and many more seizures take place for outright concealed smuggling.
From 20 May 2019, all packs of cigarettes and hand rolling tobacco manufactured in, or imported into the UK must carry at least five security features which include overt, semi-covert and covert elements.
Other tobacco products (for example cigars) do not need security features until May 2024. They are therefore not required to apply the features listed below.
If you manufacture or import cigarettes or hand rolling tobacco in the UK, from 20 May 2019 you must mark all unit packets with the following security features.
Unique identifier (UID), a unique, machine readable code generated from an alphanumeric code that’s supplied by the UID issuer appointed in the UK.
Guilloche Ornamental pattern of two or more interlaced bands that are printed in multiple non-standard colours.
Microprint Print using extremely small text that requires magnification to become readable by the naked eye.
In addition you must apply 2 of the following security features in any combination. For example you may choose to apply 2 anti-stoke inks, 2 molecular taggants, or one of each.
Anti-stoke ink that does not rely on florescence or illumination and requires a purpose built tool or a laboratory to be detected.
Molecular taggants Chemical marker, embedded within the base material that requires purpose built tools or a laboratory to be detected.
At least one security feature must be provided by somebody who is verified to be independent from the tobacco industry. The ID Issuer who provides the UID is considered to be independent for this requirement.
HMRC are to release further technical information about the UK’s selected security features to those businesses that are approved by HMRC as a manufacturer or importer of tobacco products.
All cigarettes or hand rolling tobacco manufactured or imported into the EU prior to midnight 19 May 2019, but not yet released on to the market, are not required to carry the security features listed above.
Such products may be legally sold in the UK until midnight 19 May 2020.
All tobacco goods, upon release from a warehouse, must be declared on the Form W6 for Excise and VAT purposes, guidance on completing the Form W6 is found here.
Legitimate personal use tobacco product import can be seized by the HMRC of UKBF on the suspicion of it being for commercial use. The department's policy is to also seize that vehicle which is used to import the items often valuing many times more than the value of the tobacco products being brought in to the UK.
It is important to take immediate action, you will be handed a Notice 12A by the seizure officer and a notice of seizure (this may also be later posted to you). You then have two options and, often it is prudent to launch both options in parallel.
The options are to challenge the legality of the seizure (within 30 days of the seizure) and to request restoration of the seized items.
Contact Hammad if your items have been seized by the HMRC or the UKBF for prompt advise.