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Home Grown Tobacco Law - Europe

In 1992, the EU passed a law to impose excise duties on home grown tobacco for personal use. All member states are required to amend their own laws accordingly.

This was incorporated into UK Law in June 2001. Plantation House have been in discussion with HM Customs & Excise since July 2001 in an attempt to clarify this matter. On August 31st 2001, HM Customs & Excise staff flew down to London to meet Plantation House to discuss this matter. You can read more about this in our news pages.

The latest information we have from HM Customs & Excise is the following letter dated 25th October 2001:



Excise Social Regimes
Alcohol & Tobacco Branch
3rd Floor West, 3 Stanley Street
Ralli Quays, Salford M60 9LA
Tel: 0161 xxx xxxx Fax: 0161 xxx xxxx
xxxxxxxxx@hmce.gsi.gov.uk


Mr C B G Gurney
Plantation House
96 Old Farleigh Road
Selsdon
Surrey
CR2 8QE

HM Customs and Excise Logo












Your ref:


Our ref:

25th October 2001

Dear Chris

Firstly, I am sorry it has taken so long to reply to your letter of 25 July about home-grown tobacco.

I can confirm that removal of the exemption from duty on tobacco intended for the grower's personal use is not a mistake. The UK Government agreed with our European partners in 1992 that there should be no exemption from duty for tobacco products intended for the tobacco grower's personal consumption. Nor is it an attempt to generate revenue from a previously untaxed product. Tobacco use is detrimental to health with significant wider social costs. Growing tobacco at home for personal consumption has, potentially, particularly adverse health consequences as its manufacture is totally unregulated and is not subject to the same limits on tar and nicotine levels as commercially produced tobacco. It is appropriate, therefore, to deter such tobacco consumption in the same way as the Government seek to deter consumption of commercially produced tobacco.

As you know, since you and others raised this issue, we have been considering the current system for administering and collecting the duty and have concluded that it is not appropriate for the non-commercial production of tobacco. We are, therefore, developing a simplified system specifically for individuals involved in this activity now that the previous exemption has been removed. By non-commercial, we mean tobacco made by an individual from plants he has grown himself for his own personal consumption. Tobacco products which are intended to be sold or given away will be subject to the full rigours of the existing system (and any other legislative requirements such as labelling or packaging).

You may also find it useful to know that we apply a risk-based approach to compliance and law enforcement to protect all the individual taxes and duties for which we are responsible, including tobacco products duty. There is not a great deal of home-grown tobacco smoked in the UK and we will certainly not be targeting potential domestic tobacco producers. Nor do we wish to devote a disproportionate amount of resource to the control of hobby growers and manufacturers.

You may wish to point out to your customers that duty only becomes due once the tobacco can be smoked i.e. when the cured tobacco leaves have been shredded. There is no duty on tobacco seeds, which are quite legal to buy, or on the tobacco plants themselves.

I will contact you again when I have a clear idea of how the simplified system of registration and duty collection will be operated. If you wish to discuss any of the above in the meantime, please do not hesitate to contact me.

Yours sincerely

KEITH HILTON

This clearly sets out the current position of HM Customs & Excise and at which point the excise duties will become payable. Although this has been made part of UK law, HM Customs & Excise have not yet devised a cost effective means of collecting this tax and that when they do, they will let us know.

Chris Gurney, owner of Plantation House, has a number of comments to make on specific sections of the letter from HM Customs & Excise. These are made below:

[HM Customs] - The UK Government agreed with our European partners in 1992 that there should be no exemption from duty for tobacco products intended for the tobacco grower's personal consumption
[Plantation House] -The duty on home grown tobacco is EU and UK law. I believe Keith Hilton, HM Customs & Excise, has made every effort to deal with the home grower fairly. So how can this duty be overturned? If any EU member state has re written their tobacco policy since 1992, and made a concession to the home grower, then this information would reopen negotiations with HM Customs & Excise. We need evidence, so if anyone with the skill and time to get this info posted on our Freesmoking.co.uk site, we will be in your debt.
[HM Customs] - Tobacco use is detrimental to health with significant wider social costs. Growing tobacco at home for personal consumption has, potentially, particularly adverse health consequences as its manufacture is totally unregulated and is not subject to the same limits on tar and nicotine levels as commercially produced tobacco. It is appropriate, therefore, to deter such tobacco consumption in the same way as the Government seek to deter consumption of commercially produced tobacco
[Plantation House] - As Customs are not in the business of health and welfare, I suggest the Government, or Treasury provided this section. True, the filter removes large amounts of tar and nicotine, and filters are available for those roll your own smokers if they wish to use them. As for the safety of the commercial manufactured tobacco, these use a pool of over 600 additives to create a lethal cocktail for each brand. Some of these items are poisons, but do you see them mentioned on the packet? No, only the tar and nicotine levels. So much for regulators!
 For overseas visitors to this site, "Golden Virginia" is a leading brand of roll up tobacco. If bought in France you would pay around £2.50 for 50 grams, in the UK nearer £9 for 50 grams. When did you last see tar or nicotine levels on the packet???
[HM Customs] - Tobacco products which are intended to be sold or given away will be subject to the full rigours of the existing system (and any other legislative requirements such as labelling or packaging)
[Plantation House] - People who wish to bring back commercial tobacco growing in the UK frequently approach me via e-mail. If this were done legally you would be competing against the wages and weather of third world countries; there is not a hope in hell of you making a profit. As for the illegal growers looking for a quick buck, any attempt to do this will jeopardise the hobby of thousands of UK growers, so don't expect any help from us.
[HM Customs] - You may also find it useful to know that we apply a risk-based approach to compliance and law enforcement to protect all the individual taxes and duties for which we are responsible, including tobacco products duty. There is not a great deal of home-grown tobacco smoked in the UK and we will certainly not be targeting potential domestic tobacco producers. Nor do we wish to devote a disproportionate amount of resource to the control of hobby growers and manufacturers.

You may wish to point out to your customers that duty only becomes due once the tobacco can be smoked i.e. when the cured tobacco leaves have been shredded. There is no duty on tobacco seeds, which are quite legal to buy, or on the tobacco plants themselves.
[Plantation House] - This section must have taken Keith the longest to write. It is very fair and proves the day I spent showing him the whole process on tobacco growing was not wasted. To the non-grower thinking of taking this up as a hobby, and not understanding the technical jargon I will explain it as if one were making wine. If you had your wine maturing in a 40-gallon barrel, you would not stop the maturing process of the bulk, just to remove a glass of wine. Likewise tobacco constantly improves over the years, so only a small amount is removed at a time, to be shredded into a smokeable product, so your bulk is free of duty.
 Now as for the duty to be paid, this will have to be on a voluntary process. With millions of smokers in the UK smoking smuggled cigarettes from overseas, I doubt Customs will be rushing to set up a phone line for the home grower. All in all I think we growers have got off lightly due to the incredibly difficult task HM Customs & Excise would need to overcome to ensure the duty is paid.
My final comment for now is "Don't shoot the messenger". Keith Hilton is just doing his job, and we belive that he's done it very well.

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