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HMRC internal manual

Tobacco Products Duty

Advice for Officers dealing with imported tobacco products: Hand-Rolling Tobacco (HRT), other smoking (pipe) tobacco and chewing tobacco: notes on the duty

The duty on HRT, ‘pipe’, and chewing tobacco is wholly specific by weight. Assessing the duty can, however, be particularly problematic because the duty rate for ‘pipe’ tobacco is much less than that for HRT but the two products can be almost indistinguishable to the naked eye.

HRT is defined in Section 1(2) of the ‘TPD Act 1979’ as tobacco:

  • which is sold or advertised by the importer or manufacturer as suitable for making into cigarettes; or
  • which is of a kind used for making into cigarettes; or
  • of which more than 25% by weight of the tobacco particles have a width of less than 1.5 mm.

Compliance with the first definition (sold or advertised …. ) should be obvious. It is worth checking the importer’s price lists and advertising material as either could indicate misdescription of HRT as ‘pipe’ tobacco for duty purposes.

The second definition (of a kind used for ….) is potentially fraught with problems. If you have any reason to suspect that an imported brand of ‘pipe’ tobacco is being used for hand-rolling cigarettes, you should refer the matter to the Tobacco Team. Under no circumstances should you initiate any offence action whatsoever without first seeking guidance from the Tobacco Team.

The third definition (‘cut width’) is the one where you are likely to encounter the most difficulty. The Government Chemist can only give a definitive decision. The sampling procedures contained in C2-3 should be followed. You should, when requesting the test and if appropriate, draw attention to the fact that the test result may be used in a prosecution.

Please note when sampling that it is quite possible that an importer will appeal against any assessment at the higher duty rate and it is important that correct sampling procedures are followed. In cases of doubt or difficulty, please contact the Tobacco Team.