Nail the New York shoppers, ISME chief urges customs officers

Christmas shopping trips are a one billion euro loss to Irish business

ISME, the Irish Small & Medium Enterprises Association, has outlined that Irish shoppers heading to foreign destinations are killing Irish jobs, undermining local businesses and robbing the Irish economy of millions of Euro in unpaid taxes.

The association slammed the Government and Customs and Excise for their 'blind eye' attitude to the level of consumer products brought into the country by Irish people on foreign shopping trips, particularly from US cities, in the run up to Christmas.

According to ISME chief executive Mark Fielding, it is estimated that over €1billion worth of products are brought into the country by Irish shoppers from foreign destinations, with little or no intervention by Customs and Excise. The significant revenue loss to the local economy from illegal imports, particularly in the run up to Christmas, is enormous, while the loss to the Exchequer is in excess of €300m.

To indicate the extent of the problem, last year 291,000 Irish shoppers travelled to New York and spent an estimated €1,900 each, a total of €553 million. This figure is replicated across US and other international cities as the problem gets worse, with Irish shoppers' spend abroad up 30 per cent in the first quarter of the year and transatlantic travel up 35 per cent.

"As Irish retail sales plummet, the level of product being brought in illegally tax-free is having a serious impact on local shops and suppliers who are being undercut and “losing out” on business. Because it is mainly 'only' small local business suffering, the Government, true to form, have turned a blind eye, which encourages this illegal activity and once more sells small business down the river. Each illegally filled suitcase is another job lost," outlined Fielding.

"While the association firmly believes that freedom of choice is essential for all shoppers, it is galling that the customs authorities are not clamping down on the levels of product that are brought into the country illegally.

If a small business was importing stock in a similar fashion, the full rigour of the law would be applied to them. We are seeking that the same principle is applied in this scenario," said Mr Fielding.

He called on the Irish Customs and Excise “to carry out their functions properly, ensuring that the deluge of consumer goods, currently being brought in by Irish shoppers, is restricted to normal quotas and all items above quota are taxed accordingly, to ensure a level playing field for Irish suppliers and retailers. Christmas shopping imports are exporting our jobs,” he concluded.

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