THE difficulty wholesalers have in competing with rivals that cheat the tax man was set out by the industry’s leading representative group in a recent summit with HM Revenue & Customs.
The Scottish Wholesale Association arranged the meeting with tax officials following the launch late last year of a new HMRC task force, which aims to tackle tax fraud in parts of the alcohol industry north of the border.
At the time of its launch, a spokesman for HMRC told SLTN it would focus specifically on Aberdeen and Inverness, and cover all aspects of the drinks supply chain, from production through distribution to retailing, and the main forms of taxation – duty, VAT and income tax.
The latest activity followed a similar campaign in the Scottish pub and club trade last summer, and a concerted effort to tackle fraud in the restaurant sector in 2011.
In its January update for members, the SWA explains that the meeting with HMRC team leader Michael Connolly was used by president George Benson and executive director Kate Salmon to outline “the challenges faced by the wholesale trade in competing with those engaged in duty fraud activities or evading duty more generally through trading activities”.
Connolly responded by explaining that the task force was part of the Coalition’s wider drive to tackle tax evasion, avoidance and fraud, which kicked off in 2011-12.
He said the UK government’s initial £917 million investment has since been boosted by a further £77m to extend the activity over the next two years (announced by the Chancellor at the last Autumn Statement), with the aim of bringing in an additional £7bn each year by 2014/15.
The Revenue has pledged to bring in a total of £22bn as a result of its non-compliance activities, including avoidance, evasion and fraud, by 2014/15.
Connolly told the SWA leadership that businesses engaged in the supply of food, drink and allied products should expect pubs, clubs and alcohol to be the focus of the new task force.
Meanwhile, the SWA was preparing to host its annual Achievers Awards dinner at Edinburgh as this section of SLTN went to press.
The awards dinner and prize-giving ceremony, which will take place at the Sheraton Hotel tonight (February 21), will see nine prizes handed out to wholesalers and four to suppliers. See next issue for full results coverage.