The introduction of a rebate on fuel duty for goods vehicle operators in the Republic of Ireland (ROI) this summer may tempt more UK operators to use illicit fuel, the RHA has conceded.

RHA policy director Jack Semple said the 7.5 cent rebate, which fully licensed vehicle operators in the ROI will be able to claim back every four months from July, would further increase the discrepancy between the duty levels payable in the ROI and UK.

He agreed that the move might make illicit fuel more appealing to UK hauliers facing competition from their counterparts in the ROI, “particularly UK hauliers located around the GB/Irish ports”.

The rebate will effectively reduce the amount of duty payable on a litre of fuel in the ROI from 48.5 cents to 41 cents – around 34.5p at current exchange rates. That’s around 59% of the 57.95p payable  per litre in the UK at present.

The rebate will also make ROI hauliers using legitimate, duty-paid fuel even more competitive against their counterparts in Northern Ireland and GB, said Semple.

While this might help to reduce demand for illicit fuel within the ROI itself, it may also encourage the export of more illicit fuel to the UK. “Anecdotally, we hear of more and more of this stuff coming across to Great Britain in bulk,” he said.

Greater enforcement needed

Semple repeated recent calls for more action to be taken to clamp down on the criminal organisations behind the production and supply of laundered fuels.

“The use of laundered diesel and defrauding of the exchequer is several orders of magnitude greater in the ROI than the UK,” he said.

“It’s a matter of bringing those who are suspected to court, getting a conviction and getting an adequate sentence and as part of that, the resources to HM Revenue and Customs are probably a very significant issue, along with the political will to really get to grips with this problem.”