Revenue rejects cigarette survey

The Revenue Commissioners have rejected as inaccurate a survey claiming illegal cigarette consumption in Ireland has risen to 28.2 per cent. Photograph: Danny Lawson/PA Wire

The Revenue Commissioners have rejected as inaccurate a survey claiming illegal cigarette consumption in Ireland has risen to 28.2 per cent. Photograph: Danny Lawson/PA Wire

Sun, Feb 24, 2013, 00:00

The Revenue Commissioners have rejected as inaccurate a survey claiming illegal cigarette consumption in Ireland has risen to 28.2 per cent.

Latest available figures from Revenue and the Tobacco Control Unit of the Department of Health, put illicit consumption at 15 per cent of total cigarette sales and Revenue said its own research was more “robust and comprehensive”.

The survey, conducted by market researchers MS Intelligence for Irish tobacco manufacturers, showed Waterford had the highest level of illegal sales with one-in-three cigarettes being “non-Irish duty paid”.

Navan, Co Meath was second on the survey list at 31.7 per cent with Limerick third at 31.4 per cent.

Dublin had the joint fourth highest level of illegal cigarette consumption with Bray, Co Wicklow at 30.2 per cent.

The survey was conducted by collecting empty packs from 22 towns and cities. But the Revenue Commissioners said the survey “does not distinguish between illicit product” and cigarettes “legally imported” by people arriving in the State from other jurisdictions.

For the research some 10,000 packs were collected between April 15th and May 5th 2012 and again between October 26th and November 10th and the figures were weighted to reflect the national population, according to a statement from the Irish Tobacco Manufacturers’ Advisory Committee.

The committee said the “shocking reality” was that one third of tobacco consumed in Ireland in 2012 completely avoided excise and Vat and despite the high level of illicit sales “there were only three convictions in 2012” for illegal tobacco trading.

The manufacturers’ advisory committee claimed the upsurge in the illegal market was a result of budget increases in December 2011.

The tobacco manufacturers also sharply criticised State prevention and control measures, claiming Ireland was a “low risk” operation and “haven” for international crime syndicates with “paltry fines and high reward” and gangs “making over €164.3 million a week.

But the Revenue Commissioners said there had been 103 convictions for smuggling with fines of €138,800 and 31 custodial sentences, 21 of which were suspended.

Unstamped tobacco products led to 57 convictions with fines of ¤115,850 and 14 custodial sentences of which seven were suspended.

The tobacco manufacturers also claimed illegal consumption at 28.2 per cent in 2012, marked an increase from their level of 24.5 per cent in 2011.

But Revenue said it was satisfied its surveys, conducted jointly with the Tobacco Control Unit in 2009, 2010, 2011 and 2012 were “more robust and comprehensive” and distinguished between legal imports and smuggled product.

The 2009 and 2010 surveys estimated 20 per cent of cigarettes had not been taxed in Ireland, with 6 per cent of that figure legally imported and 14 per cent representing illicit product and using 2006 census population figures.

Applying 2011 census figures, Ipsos/MRBI have revised the illicit levels to 16 per cent for 2009 and 15 per cent for 2010.

Figures for 2011 indicate illegal consumption at 15 per cent resulting in a loss of about ¤258 million in excise and Vat. The 2012 results are awaited.

Total cigarette consumption in Ireland in 2011 is estimated at 5.5 billion based on claimed smoking behaviour, according to Revenue.

An illicit rate of 15 per cent means approximately 770 million illegal cigarettes were consumed that year in Ireland.

Last year Revenue seized 95.6 million cigarettes worth €43.3 million as well as 5,277 kg of tobacco valued at ¤1.95 million.

In 2011 the figure was 109.08 million cigarettes worth €45.95 million and 11,158 kgs of tobacco valued at ¤4 million.

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