SWEDEN: Authorities chase internet alcohol excise

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Skateverket, Sweden's National Tax Bureau, has started the process of demanding what the tax authority claims are excise duties outstanding on alcohol products bought by residents of Sweden from online stores mainly in Spain, Poland and Germany.

Excise duty demand letters have been sent to around 10,000 people in Sweden, with Skateverket planning to issue another 10,000 letters by the end of September.

"The letters and the excise tax demands prove that we can track sales transactions and alcohol bought online that is being sold to persons in Sweden without the payment of proper taxes. We want to show that we can find people who buy alcohol online by working with the authorities in the countries where the alcohol is sold. There will also be penalties for late payment of taxes due," said Niclas Rönnberg, a spokesman for Skateverket.

The late penalty charges for defaulters, said Rönnberg, would amount to SEK1,000 (US$148) per order transaction. Very few Swedes have registered online alcohol purchases with Skateverket or the customs authorities. "The number of online purchases where taxes have been paid is less than ten," said Rönnberg.

A Swedish ban on deliveries of alcohol purchased outside the country was lifted after a European Court ruling in early June. Skateverket's hunt for excise duty defaulters has been criticised by opposition MPs and consumer organisations.

"What Skateverket is doing is unsustainable," said Christofer Fjellner, a Moderate Party Member of the European Parliament (MEP). "It is double taxation and contrary to the EU's single market rules. It must stop."

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