UK facing £20m garlic tax bill

 

It is enough to take your (bad) breath away - an EU bill for millions of pounds in alleged unpaid duty on imports of garlic.

The UK Government has received a European Commission ultimatum to hand over £20 million within two months or face legal action.

The wrangle is over the fact that import tariffs on frozen garlic from outside the EU are lower than the rates for fresh garlic.

And, according to the commission, UK authorities carelessly levied the lower rate applicable to frozen garlic on imports of the fresh product from China, in breach of EU customs rules.

A commission statement explained: "Between 2005 and 2006, the UK customs authorities allowed imports of fresh garlic from the People's Republic of China under wrong authorising documents.

"They have erroneously stated that the goods imported were frozen garlic for which significantly lower import duties apply.

"The commission considers that the UK authorities did not act with all due care when issuing the authorising documents and failed to collect the correct amount of duties. They are therefore held financially responsible for the loss of approximately £20 million to the EU budget."

All customs duties charged on imports of goods coming from a non-EU country are collected by member states on behalf of the EU and paid to the common EU budget as part of each member state's annual contributions. One quarter of the total raised from such duties is held back by the national authority to cover collection costs.

This form of contribution to EU coffers makes up about 12% of the total annual sum submitted by the 27 national exchequers.

The commission statement declared: "The commission is determined to protect the common EU interest.

"Fair treatment of all member states must be ensured. If a member state fails to make available all the money it owes the EU budget, the other member states need to pay more as a result."

The error was uncovered during an inspection by staff from OLAF, the EU's anti-fraud unit, in July 2006.

After exchanges of letters between Brussels and London in 2007-2010 on the issue, formal legal proceedings were launched, culminating in the latest final warning of impending court action.

But Conservative leader in the European Parliament Martin Callanan accused the Commission of "high-handedness" in pursuing the issue.

"Frankly, I think they've got a cheek," he said.

"They know Britain is facing austerity cuts. They know, by the way, that any error happened under Labour, not the current UK government.

"They know that we are already one of the EU's biggest net contributors - and now they want to send us a garlic bill for £20 million."

He added: "Excuse the pun, but it leaves a nasty taste in the mouth."

PA

Suggested Topics
Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
ebooksAn unforgettable anthology of contemporary reportage
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Business Development Manager / Sales - OTE £45,000

£35000 - £45000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This company is a solutions / s...

Recruitment Genius: Sales Executive - OTE £45,000

£18000 - £45000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A Sales Executive is required t...

Recruitment Genius: Test Development Engineer

£35000 - £40000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Are you inspired to bring new a...

Recruitment Genius: Trainee Motor Engineer

£14000 - £18000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is an exciting opportunity...

Day In a Page

Sepp Blatter resignation: The beginning of Fifa's long road to reform?

Does Blatter's departure mean Fifa will automatically clean up its act?

Don't bet on it, says Tom Peck
Charles Kennedy: The baby of the House who grew into a Lib Dem giant

The baby of the House who grew into a Lib Dem giant

Charles Kennedy was consistently a man of the centre-left, dedicated to social justice, but was also a champion of liberty and an opponent of the nanny-state, says Baroness Williams
Syria civil war: The harrowing testament of a five-year-old victim of this endless conflict

The harrowing testament of a five-year-old victim of Syria's endless civil war

Sahar Qanbar lost her mother and brother as civilians and government soldiers fought side by side after being surrounded by brutal Islamist fighters. Robert Fisk visited her
The future of songwriting: How streaming is changing everything we know about making music

The future of songwriting

How streaming is changing everything we know about making music
William Shemin and Henry Johnson: Jewish and black soldiers receive World War I Medal of Honor amid claims of discrimination

Recognition at long last

Jewish and black soldiers who fought in WWI finally receive medals after claims of discrimination
Beating obesity: The new pacemaker which helps over-eaters

Beating obesity

The new pacemaker which helps over-eaters
9 best women's festival waterproofs

Ready for rain: 9 best women's festival waterproofs

These are the macs to keep your denim dry and your hair frizz-free(ish)
Cycling World Hour Record: Nervous Sir Bradley Wiggins ready for pain as he prepares to go distance

Wiggins worried

Nervous Sir Bradley ready for pain as he prepares to attempt cycling's World Hour Record
Liverpool close in on Milner signing

Liverpool close in on Milner signing

Reds baulk at Christian Benteke £32.5m release clause
On your feet! Spending at least two hours a day standing reduces the risk of heart attacks, cancer and diabetes, according to new research

On your feet!

Spending half the day standing 'reduces risk of heart attacks and cancer'
With scores of surgeries closing, what hope is there for the David Cameron's promise of 5,000 more GPs and a 24/7 NHS?

The big NHS question

Why are there so few new GPs when so many want to study medicine?
Big knickers are back: Thongs ain't what they used to be

Thongs ain't what they used to be

Big knickers are back
Thurston Moore interview

Thurston Moore interview

On living in London, Sonic Youth and musical memoirs
In full bloom

In full bloom

Floral print womenswear
From leading man to Elephant Man, Bradley Cooper is terrific

From leading man to Elephant Man

Bradley Cooper is terrific