If you ever read the books about "The Scarecrow" by Russell Thorndyke, tales of smugglers on Romney Marsh, led by the local Parson, and forever doing battle with the men of the Excise, you will have come away with a healthy respect for the powers of the Excisemen, now possessed by HMRC. However, the smugglers still are at it, and HMRC are now looking at other ways to plug gaps.

In the same way as the government has turned residential landlords into part of its border control apparatus by imposing duties on them to ensure that prospective tenants have the right to live in the country, HMRC are now suggesting that landlords should, under pain of civil penalty, be obliged to police lettings taken up by tobacco (or other) duty evaders. First, that there should be a right to terminate a lease for unlawful activity (there generally is, of course), and that landlords should then be obliged to follow through on that by periodically checking premises for breaches of the law and evicting tenants in breach. is it right that the state should seek effectively to privatise part of its tax enforcement like this by passing on such obligations to private citizens and companies?

This is a consultation, and perhaps those in the property business might like to comment back to HMRC by the final date of May 12th of this year.