Introducing mandatory licensing will help to recoup lost Exchequer funds

The country’s leading representative body for businesses engaged in the sale and distribution of solid fuels, Solid Fuel Merchants Ireland (SFMI), has this week called for the introduction of a mandatory licensing system. 

Under new Solid Fuel Regulations introduced in October 2022, producers of solid fuels must register with the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). SFMI asserts that this mandate should be extended to the sellers of solid fuels, by way of requiring that businesses register with the EPA and are subsequently issued a license in order to sell solid fuels.

SFMI contends that the introduction of a licensing system would support the following objectives:

  • Empower law enforcement officials to track unlicensed traders, helping to recoup a portion of €16 million lost to the Exchequer as a result of smuggling
  • Establish a clear database of responsible, licensed sellers of solid fuels
  • Ensure alignment of best practice standards across the industry
  • Protect consumers from unscrupulous sellers.

SFMI continues to highlight the impact of solid fuel smuggling on law-abiding retailers, who are being significantly undercut by individuals who are selling smuggled solid fuels via social media and other online platforms. These smuggled fuels are often brought across the border from Northern Ireland, where VAT is charged at a lower rate and no carbon tax is in place. In 2021, and as a result of coal smuggling alone, the Irish Exchequer was estimated to have lost €16.2 million in taxation revenue.

The introduction of a proportional licensing system would thus allow authorities such as the Revenue Commissioners and An Garda Siochana, to effectively track and trace the level of illegal activity; and ensure prompt enforcement of the law.

Chairperson of Solid Fuel Merchants Ireland (SFMI), Colin Ahern said: “Owing to increases in carbon taxation and the current cost-of-living crisis, the scale of solid fuel smuggling in Ireland has reached unprecedented levels.

In a bid to combat this issue, SFMI is calling for the introduction of a mandatory licensing requirement to be applied to all sellers of solid fuels. The necessity to register with the Environmental Protection Agency is already in place for producers of solid fuels; hence, in the interest of ensuring legislative alignment, it is prudent that a licensing requirement be extended to retailers.

“The introduction of a licensing system would not only go a long way towards improving enforcement and recouping lost taxation – it would also help to protect consumers, who can be confident that they are purchasing solid fuels from licensed, law-abiding retailers. In cases where unscrupulous sellers are propagating their smuggled solid fuels, it is the consumers, legitimate retailers and ultimately, the Exchequer, who all stand to lose.

SFMI therefore supports the introduction of a mandatory licensing requirement, as a priority, and we look forward to engaging with all stakeholders to advance this matter.”