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This publication is available at https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/power-to-search-vehicles-or-vessels-under-section-163-of-customs-and-excise-management-act-1979/power-to-search-vehicles-or-vessels-under-section-163-of-customs-and-excise-management-act-1979
Who is likely to be affected
Those whose vehicle is involved in, or suspected of being involved in, the carrying of any goods upon which customs or excise duties have not been paid, or those carrying prohibited or restricted items.
General description of the measure
At present section 163 of the Customs and Excise Management Act (CEMA) 1979 provides for a vehicle to be stopped and searched, but does not explicitly state that an officer has the power of force to gain entry to that vehicle. This measure will clarify existing provisions by putting beyond all doubt the powers an officer actually has.
Tackling excise fraud is an HM Revenue and Customs (HMRC) priority. The ability to gain entry to a locked vehicle, where there are goods inside which have not had duty paid on them, is a valuable tool in the fight against duty evasion.
By making this amendment, officers will have clarity on the use and limitations of the power under section 163 of CEMA. The ability to allow officers to force open vehicles containing goods liable to forfeiture at any place is necessary to keep pace with today’s challenges in combating fraud and protecting businesses.
Background to the measure
Many of the customs powers and requirements in CEMA were originally designed to deal with smuggling and routine compliance checks at approved places such as ports and airports. However, officers are now frequently dealing with sophisticated diversion frauds involving excise goods, the majority of which are at inland premises, post-clearance, and not within the confines of these places.
HMRC is increasingly finding abandoned vehicles, at places other than an approved place, with excise goods visible inside. On those occasions customs officers need to force entry to the vehicle and secure the goods, removing them from the supply chain and protecting legitimate businesses. This amendment will put beyond all doubt that the power in section 163 of CEMA provides the power to use force, where necessary. Officers are trained in how to exercise this power and stringent rules, safeguards and guidance are in place, including on the limitations of the power, to ensure that officers’ use of the power is proportionate and necessary. This ensures the power is used in line with the Powers of Entry Code of Practice and this will be updated to ensure that the new power is properly reflected.
The measure was announced at Budget 2016.
The measure will have effect on and after the date of Royal Assent to Finance Bill 2017.
Current law is contained in Part XII, Section 163 of the Customs and Excise Management Act 1979.
Legislation will be introduced in Finance Bill 2017 to amend section 163 of CEMA 1979.
The legislation will provide officers, when stopping and searching a vehicle, with an explicit power to gain entry to that vehicle, where necessary. This amendment will clarify existing provisions.
Summary of impacts
Exchequer impact (£m)
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This measure is not expected to have an Exchequer impact.
This measure is not expected to have any significant economic impacts.
Impact on individuals, households and families
This measure is not expected to impact on individuals, households or family formation, stability or breakdown.
No equality impacts in relation to any protected characteristic have been identified in relation to this measure.
Impact on business including civil society organisations
This measure is expected to have no impact on compliant businesses or civil society organisations. It will only impact on those businesses whose vehicle is involved in, or suspected of being involved in, the carrying of any goods upon which customs or excise duties have not been paid, or those carrying prohibited or restricted items.
Operational impact (£m) (HMRC or other)
HMRC will not incur any additional costs implementing this policy.
Other impacts have been considered and none have been identified.
Monitoring and evaluation
There will be robust guidance on the use of this power which will include the limitations of the power, ensuring its use is proportionate and necessary.
If you have any questions about this change, please contact Marilyn Seago on Telephone: 03000 593391 or email: firstname.lastname@example.org.