Apparent tax evasion in e-cigarette liquids |

 Apparent tax evasion in e-cigarette liquids |


For the estimated two and a half million users of e-cigarettes in Germany, vaping has become significantly more expensive since February. Since February, only taxed liquids may be sold for this purpose. The tobacco tax is now 16 cents per milliliter. This attracts bootleggers who want to avoid the tax.

On the Internet, many providers can be found on websites, on Amazon and in classifieds who apparently avoid this liquid tax. A dealer named “Dark Burner”, registered in Burgwedel near Hanover, also offers liquids in several online shops apparently without a tax surcharge.

For example, he offers five liters of glycerin, the so-called base, which is used as a raw material for e-cigarettes, for 50 euros. That’s surprisingly cheap: With a tobacco tax of 16 cents per milliliter, the tax alone should actually amount to 800 euros here. A trial order of several aromas from the relevant shop shows that the legally required tax stamp is missing from the products.

Camouflaged as food flavors

On NDRWhen asked why he apparently does not levy tobacco tax on the products, the supplier replied in writing: “You bought flavors from our shop that are not intended for direct and immediate use in e-cigarettes. There is therefore no need to answer your questions with the false allegations made in this regard.”

But that doesn’t fit with his usual appearance: the supplier has registered his “Dark Burner” brand with the German Patent and Trademark Office for the sale of “essential oils/aromatic extracts for tobacco products or liquids for electronic cigarettes”. A recommended maturing time and dosage is also indicated on the aroma bottles. This is typical for flavors used in e-cigarettes.

This strategy is popular on the black market, confirms Dustin Dahlmann from the e-cigarette industry interest group “Alliance for Tobacco Free Enjoyment”. E-cigarette liquids are allegedly sold by many retailers as food flavorings and “flavors for various purposes” in an apparent attempt to avoid taxes. At the latest from the user comments it is clear that these are used for vaping.

Countless dealers are active, especially on sales platforms, who presumably sell products intended for e-cigarettes without taxes. The imprint shows that the dealers are located all over Germany.

Consumers can be prosecuted

Around 100 companies in Germany produce liquids for e-cigarettes. They are particularly annoyed about black sheep in their business. Thorolf Leddin has been active in the e-cigarette business in Lower Saxony since 2009. In the district of Celle, he has his products filled and taxed by an aroma manufacturer. Since the tobacco tax was introduced, he has invested around 250,000 euros in tax stamps.

The treacherous thing is that customers can make themselves liable to prosecution if they consume goods without tax. However, online it is usually not even clear whether a tax is shown on the product. Because the consumer only sees when the goods have arrived whether a tax stamp has been attached.

Leddin doesn’t think it’s fair that the black marketeers are gaining a competitive advantage in this way: “The customer only sees that it’s at least two euros cheaper. And where does the customer buy it? Of course, where it’s cheaper.”

Customs has not responded for five months

Leddin and his colleagues reported the “Dark Burner” shop to the Hanover customs office at the beginning of March. However, the shop presumably continues to sell its products online without taxes. On NDRWhen asked whether measures had already been taken after the notification, the Hanover customs office said “that more detailed information on the general procedure for controls due to tactical considerations is not possible”.

Dustin Dahlmann from the association “The Alliance for Tobacco-Free Enjoyment eV” condemns the black sheep in the industry. The association continuously reports dealers and shops that are not in compliance with the law. But above all, they see the duty of the Internet platforms and customs to act so that this sends a signal to other black marketeers.

Customs have not yet collected official figures on seizures since tobacco tax was imposed on e-cigarettes. According to Dahlmann, his association has evaluated around 30 published seizures throughout Germany in the past few months: this alone results in tax losses of 600,000 euros.

Customs authorities not well positioned?

Dahlmann also sees a problem in the high tobacco tax in Germany, which is the highest in Europe: “The higher the tax, and it is at a high level in Germany, the more attractive it is for consumers to avoid the tax.”

Frank Buckenhofer, chairman of the customs police union, criticizes the fact that the customs authorities in Germany are currently not well enough staffed and structurally. This also applies to the growing black market in the field of e-cigarettes. It is also attractive for professionals to produce illegal goods on a large scale. “We’re talking about an addictive substance and a relatively large and safe sales market because people don’t want to and can’t do without it,” says Buckenhofer.

For retailers like Thorolf Leddin, it’s frustrating that shops like “Dark Burner” can continue to sell their goods allegedly illegally: “Then you also ask yourself whether the state is even interested in pursuing something like this. Ultimately, it’s tax money. “

Tobacco tax on e-cigarette liquids is set to rise further by 2026, by which time 32 cents per milliliter will be levied. The e-cigarette dealers fear that this could increase the black market.


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