The European Commission is taking the UK government to task over a “failure to make customs duties available to the EU budget”.
It calculates that the UK owes the European Union some €2.7 billion in customs duties.
Commissioner for budget and human resources, Günther Oettinger is sending a “Reasoned Opinion” to the UK – the second stage in its formal infringement procedure.
This follows a 2017 report by its anti-fraud body which found that importers in the United Kingdom evaded a large amount of customs duties by using fictitious and false invoices and incorrect customs value declarations at importation.
It said that further Commission inspections confirmed the very large scale of this undervaluation fraud scheme operating through British ports between 2011 and 2017.
“Despite having been informed of the risks of fraud relating to the imports of textiles and footwear originating from the People’s Republic of China since 2007, and despite having been asked to take appropriate risk control measures, the United Kingdom failed to take effective action to prevent the fraud.
In addition, it says that the United Kingdom also infringed EU Value Added Tax legislation, leading to additional potential losses to the EU budget.
The United Kingdom now has two months to act; otherwise the Commission may refer the case to the Court of Justice of the EU.