13 July 2004

An enterprise promising to save drivers as much as 17 pence per litre on UK forecourt prices looks to be headed for trouble before it has even begun, Autocar can exclusively reveal. Draxfuel is a new company that promised to fill your fuel tank for less by importing petrol and diesel from continental Europe. It planned to exploit a ‘personal fuel allowance’ loophole, and supply fuel via independent garages for just 69 pence per litre of unleaded, and 65 pence per litre of diesel. However, shortly before Autocar went to press, a spokesman for Her Majesty’s Customs and Excise revealed that the practice would break UK tax laws, and that Draxfuel was under investigation.

Company director Martin Chinery told us that Draxfuel’s concept is simple and legal: ‘When drivers fill their cars up abroad, regulations permit them to bring that fuel into Britain as a tax-free allowance. We’re looking to provide a way for people to buy that fuel via the internet without needing to travel; we’d simply make it available for them in the UK.

‘There’s currently no clearly defined maximum on how much fuel you can import like this,’ Chinery went on. ‘Customs won’t give us an exact limit at the moment, but we’re expecting it to be somewhere between 50 and 250 litres at a time.’

However, a spokesman for UK Customs suggested otherwise. ‘What Draxfuel is suggesting would be illegal,’ he said. ‘At present, people have to buy continental fuel themselves, and bring it back in person in order to qualify for the tax exclusion.’

The official statement read: ‘Customs wish to warn motorists that duty-free fuel can only be imported if they have purchased and accompanied the fuel themselves and is for their own use. Any scheme where a third party transports the fuel on behalf of an individual indicates that this is for a commercial purpose and not entitled to relief from duty.’

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