Who to assess: the correct legal entity
The majority of excise assessment provisions refer to a “person” who may be assessed. Other provisions allow HMRC to assess, for example, the “occupier of the warehouse”, “the proprietor of the goods” or “the master of the ship”.
No matter which provision you are making your assessment under, you must ensure that you make it against the correct legal entity. In most cases you should have little problem identifying who this “person” is as they will be registered with the Department (or approved, authorised etc, as appropriate).
In other cases it may seem obvious who the “person” is as the assessment provision, or the regulation that determines who is liable to pay the duty, will specify, for example “the proprietor” or “the person shown … as having arranged the guarantee”. But even then you must ensure that you identify and assess the correct entity. For example:
- “proprietor” for the purposes of a CEMA section 94 or section 94/95 assessment is quite widely defined and includes “any owner, importer, exporter, …” (CEMA section 1(1) refers);
- an “importer” who is liable to pay duty on imported excise goods may be a company, an individual or a number of individuals;
- when rebated oil has been used as fuel for, or taken into, a road vehicle, only the “person” - coach company, haulage company etc - who actually used or took the oil into the vehicle may be assessed under HODA section 13(1A) (and not, for example, a filling station owner who is found to be supplying rebated oil); and
- when a bogus company has been set up to perpetrate a fraud, you should not assess that fictitious entity, but the person who in reality is liable to pay the duty.
If, having consulted your line management and relevant guidance, you are still unsure who is liable and may be assessed in a particular case, you should seek the advice of the appropriate regime Unit of Expertise. They may, if necessary, refer you to the relevant team in Excise Operations or Policy.