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HMRC internal manual

Hydrocarbon Oils Strategy

Post detection audit and assessment: Appendix D: HODA Section 13(1A): persons liable to duty

The legal entity responsible for the misuse of the oil in each and every case must be determined by examination of the facts. In the majority of cases the legal entity to assess will be clearly stated in the case papers. There should be very few cases where the issue is unclear.

However, some cases are not so straightforward.


Example 1

A vehicle belonging to a large haulage company is detected running on UK rebated fuel. The driver was given cash by the owner of the company, to fuel the vehicle with Ultra Low Sulphur Diesel (ULSD) / Sulphur Free Diesel (SFD) while out on the road. He pocketed the cash and filled the vehicle with UK rebated gas oil from a drum that he has bought and keeps in his garage. The vehicle is registered to the owner of the business but is actually owned by a finance company.

Although the law places the responsibility for the fuel in the vehicle on the owner, we have a person who has taken over that responsibility by admitting that he actually did the deed so the driver will be issued with any assessment.

Example 2

Heavy Goods Vehicle (HGV) fuelled with rebated gas oil. Owner / driver is solely contracted to transport lumber for a national firm and is paid a rate per load.

This is a sole proprietor who provides his own fuel. He is responsible and the assessment should be notified to him.

Example 3

Courier van has been fuelled with laundered UK gas oil. Business is owned by a sole proprietor who employs fifteen drivers and owns fifteen vans. All vans are provided with fuel cards. Statements from the fuel card company reveal that fuel purchased at a legitimate price equates to mileage carried out by all of the vehicles.

There is no assessment due. In cases of this type Special Investigations (SI) should follow up the discovery of the fuel by visiting and testing the retail stations where the last fuel was purchased. The driver is guilty of using rebated fuel in a road vehicle but has a ‘reasonable excuse’ in that he purchased the fuel at the normal retail price from a reputable company with no idea that the fuel may be rebated. SI should not issue any civil penalties.

Example 4

A business is a limited company carrying out haulage with a fleet of fourteen HGVs. The operating centre has a bulk storage tank and pump from which the drivers fuel the vehicles before setting out on a run. The fuel is ordered from a local distributor by a director of the business and paid for by company cheque. A roadside check on one of the vehicles finds that it is fuelled with rebated fuel.

In this case the company is responsible and the assessment should be issued to the company. There are other issues which may also need investigating. The supplier of the fuel should be registered as an RDCO. Their duty of care should be considered and a recommendation for a visit made to check compliance with the RDCO scheme.

Example 5

A major oil company owns a retail filling station. A manager is employed with full responsibility for the day to day running of the site. A routine test on the ULSD / SFD tanks shows signs that it is laundered UK rebated gas oil.

It appears that the manager has been knowingly buying laundered fuel and keeping the profit made. However, he is not the owner of the site. In this case, the legal entity of the business has no relevance as to the assessment. At the present time we have no power to assess the supplier of the laundered fuel for any type of duty. One civil penalty can be issued and the case passed to SI for them to be considered for prosecution action.

Example 6

A local coach company is run by husband and wife partnership. Coaches are used for school runs and occasional day trips. Business has bulk fuel supplies on site which is used to fuel all of the coaches. The coaches in the yard are tested and found to be fuelled with UK rebated gas oil. The bulk tank is also tested and found to contain rebated gas oil. Some coaches are out working. There are three private diesel cars belonging to the drivers at the premises. These are also tested and one is found to be fuelled with rebated gas oil.

Any assessment issued should be to the partnership, all partners being jointly and severally liable for the amount due.

The car belonging to the driver should be treated separately. An interview with one partner has shown that the fuel is only for the business, not for employee’s private vehicles.

As the Strategy excludes assessing private vehicles, they should not be assessed. The driver should be interviewed separately instead, and dealt with under the guidance in the Strategy with fixed penalties.