Thursday, 1 April 2021
Department of Finance
Tobacco Control Measures
78. To ask the Minister for Finance the funding provided to the Revenue Commissioners for 2020 and 2021 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 the Revenue Commissioners combatting smuggling; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [17694/21]
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 dedicated to 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 continuously adjusted in response to changes in the level of risk in different sectors.
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 focus and commitment to confronting non-compliance, which includes tobacco smuggling. This commitment is given operational priority each year in divisional business plans and operational plans that reflect the particular nuances of some illegal trades and the modus operandi of those involved. Revenue’s actions under these operational plans are designed to maximise coordination 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, uses analytics and detection technologies and ensures the optimum deployment of resources on a risk-focused basis.
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.
Finally, 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 7,100kgs of illicit tobacco.