A Kent business which sells products for disabled people is under threat because of EU Customs Union rules.
Kingsdown resident David Wilsher's firm Mission Cycles, based in Maidstone, was handed an £85,000 tariff bill for importing tricycles from China and Taiwan. Products specially designed for disabled people should be exempt from import duty. Mission Cycles brands itself as "disabled specialists" and insists it only sells to that group. HM Revenue and Customs officers (HMRC) initially said the tricycles weren't "specifically designed for disabled people" and enforced a duty rate of 6%.
Following representations over 15 months – including from me – HMRC reduced the bill to around £60,000 and arranged a visit to Missions Cycles to discuss the remainder. But a week before the visit the officers cancelled, stating: "I am sorry this will be disappointing new and that it comes so late in the day. The main reason for this decision relates to the relationship between HMRC and EU auditors, who would not accept any variation of a Customs assessments resulting from non-statutory process."
It means Mission Cycles will have to seek a tribunal ruling if they want to overturn the charge. Mr Wilsher described it as "a gamble that could cost more than the debt they are asking for".
I contacted HMRC executive chair Edward Troup who told me that "goods receive a classification in accordance with the EU Common External Tariff and customs duty rates are also currently determined at EU level."
So I have now raised this directly with Treasury ministers. It cannot be right for a local business delivering a service for disabled people to be treated like this. Our officers were ready to be flexible, but then EU bureaucrats told them it all had to go through a costly legal process. But it does show what we will be taking back control of after Brexit.
This is the sort of red tape which is holding our businesses back. David told me he can't make future business decisions or even have a face-to-face meetings with anyone to get clarity.
It shows why leaving the customs union is the right thing to do. It means we will honour the referendum result, set our own rules and strike trade deals with the rest of the world.
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