Illegal cigarettes cost the state 264 million euros in one year

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More than one in eight of all packs of cigarettes used by smokers in Ireland last year were illegal, with a sharp rise in the number of counterfeit products being sold.

The latest survey commissioned by Revenue to assess the scale of illicit tobacco products found that 13% of all packets consumed by Irish smokers last year were classed as illegal.

It also estimated that 7% of all illegal cigarettes were counterfeit brands – the highest level on record since such investigations began in 2009.

The tax administration has estimated that the potential loss of revenue for the public treasury linked to the sale of 22.7 million illegal cigarettes is around 264 million euros.

The potential tax revenue lost due to the trade in illegal tobacco products last year increased by 9%, or 22 million euros.

Worryingly, the research revealed that 7% of all illegal cigarettes last year were classified as counterfeit products, whereby they were manufactured without the authorization of the legitimate brand owners.

Revenues said these products were designed “to mislead consumers and avoid paying duties”.

The vast majority of illegal cigarettes – nearly 9 out of 10 packs – are classified as contraband goods that have been smuggled into the Republic without duty being paid to the tax authorities.

The report also revealed that 4% of all illegal cigarettes consumed last year were “illegal blanks” – cigarettes made for the sole purpose of being smuggled and sold illegally here.

In addition to illegal tobacco products, an additional 8% of cigarette packs were found to be legal but ‘non-Irish duty-paid’, representing a further loss for the Exchequer.

tobacco products were made by Irish authorities last year worth over €67 million. File picture.” title=”Latest figures show that over 6,500 seizures of illicit tobacco products were made by Irish authorities last year worth over €67 million. File picture.” class=”card-img”/>
Latest figures show that over 6,500 seizures of illicit tobacco products were made by Irish authorities last year worth over €67 million. File picture.

They represent legal cross-border purchases of cigarettes.

The survey also found that 13% of all roll-your-own tobacco packets used by Irish smokers last year were illegal, up from 12% in 2019.

Revenue said the overall findings from the latest survey suggest the number of illegal and legal, non-Irish tobacco products acquitted “remains relatively stable”.

The level of illegal cigarettes peaked in 2009 when they constituted 16% of all packs in the Republic with an estimated loss of €285 million in lost excise duty and VAT.

Latest figures show that over 6,500 seizures of illicit tobacco products were made by Irish authorities last year worth over €67 million.

They included 60.7 million cigarettes with an estimated value of 43.5 million euros, an increase of 26% compared to the seizures recorded in 2020.

A joint investigation between the UK Revenue and Revenue and Customs authorities last year identified a major smuggling route between Germany and Ireland for illicit tobacco products, which resulted in the seizure of over 1.5 million cigarettes in commercial premises in Newcastle, Co Dublin.

A total of 38,246 kg of tobacco seized in 2021, worth €24.1 million, represented a fivefold increase from the previous year.

In 2018, Revenue and Customs officers uncovered the Republic’s first ever illegal cigarette factory when a factory capable of producing 250,000 cigarettes per hour was discovered in a barn in Jenkinstown, Co Louth.

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