Lord Lucas asks more questions in Parliament re eBay and Amazon overseas sellers and VAT

Lord LucasWe introduced you to Lord Lucas last week and it seems that he’s still plugging away to get to the bottom of the problem of “Chinese sellers”.

As Lord Lucas said in Parliament today: “As HMRC knows, for some long while Amazon and eBay have been collaborating with hundreds of overseas retailers to defraud the taxman of millions of pounds every day. It seems that HMRC has been very slow in its response.”

These are strong words and many UK based sellers will be pleased to know that someone has taken up the issue. It will be interesting to see if his ongoing efforts reap any rewards.

You can find the exchange from Monday right here. And here are Lord Lucas’s questions in full and the Government spokesman’s replies.

Lord Lucas (Con): To ask Her Majesty’s Government what action HM Revenue and Customs is taking to reduce VAT evasion by overseas online retailers.

Lord Ashton of Hyde (Con): My Lords, Her Majesty’s Revenue and Customs takes all forms of evasion seriously. HMRC has established a task force to undertake operational and intelligence-gathering activity to investigate this form of VAT evasion by overseas online retailers. Joint investigations with other government agencies are already under way and further targets are being identified. Contacts have been established with key commercial players in the sector and liaison continues with relevant international fiscal and law enforcement authorities.

Lord Lucas (Con): My Lords, I thank my noble friend for that encouraging reply. As HMRC knows, for some long while Amazon and eBay have been collaborating with hundreds of overseas retailers to defraud the taxman of millions of pounds every day. It seems that HMRC has been very slow in its response. Does HMRC realise the importance of effective and speedy enforcement for the fairness of the tax system and for the protection of honest internet retailers, and why has it been so reluctant to work openly and actively with UK businesses that know this part of the internet backwards and are in a position to help it make its enforcement effective and speedy?

Lord Ashton of Hyde: My Lords, HMRC certainly engages with other businesses, in particular with online businesses, and has dedicated customer relationship managers. A meeting with the top online retailers at a very senior level took place only last month. HMRC has dedicated 25% of its customs and international trade operational resource to this problem and has set up a national task force to deal with it.