Customs & Excise

The State Laboratory advises the Office of the Revenue Commissioners on the classification of goods and on the application of appropriate excise duties on hydrocarbon oil products and alcoholic beverages and provides an analytical and advisory service in relation to mineral oils, alcoholic beverages and non-potable alcohol-containing products.


Customs - Tariff Classification

All goods imported into or exported from the EU must be classified for Customs purposes and the Common Customs Tariff determines the duty payable. Chemical analysis can assist in the classification of a diverse range of traded goods ranging from pure chemicals and medicaments to plastics or processed products including food. Staff of the State Laboratory have a high level of expertise in this area which enables them to advise the Revenue Commissioners on the chemical aspects of tariff classification.

An important aspect of the work is attendance at meetings of Technical Committees of both the European Union and the World Customs Organisation where issues relating to the interpretation of tariff headings are discussed and decisions made on the classification of products.


Excise Duties

The State Laboratory advises the Revenue Commissioners on the correct classification of goods under the Customs and Excise Tariff of Ireland and the application of the appropriate excise duties applicable to hydrocarbon oil products and alcoholic beverages.

Excise duties and rebate of duties are laid down under the Finance Acts and samples of mineral oils, alcoholic beverages and non-potable alcohol-containing products are tested to accurately determine the appropriate duties applicable, to prevent illegal use of rebated products and to support fraud prosecutions where attempts are made to evade such duties.


Excise - Mineral Oil Testing

Rebated (lower-taxed) fuel for off-road use (agriculture/home heating) is marked with dyes or chemical markers so that its use for any other purpose or illegal sale can be identified. The main illicit activity in relation to mineral oil is the laundering of marked fuel to remove these markers. This has been a persistent problem for many years but it became more acute in 2011 when environmental regulations meant that the limit for the sulphur content in marked fuel became the same as that for road fuel. This made fuel laundering more viable and laundering and distribution activities increased dramatically.

Fuel laundering poses a serious threat to the Exchequer, to legitimate trade and, because of the processes used in laundering, to the environment. The revenue loss from diesel laundering is in excess of €100m per annum and in recent years Revenue has adopted a comprehensive strategy to tackle the problem. This has resulted in oil laundries being detected and dismantled and filling stations being closed down.

The State Laboratory supports this work by analysing samples of the fuel seized from road vehicles and laundries for the presence/absence of prescribed oil markers and by providing analytical evidence and expert advice to facilitate the prosecution of those involved in this fraudulent activity.


Excise - Alcohol Testing

For excise purposes, alcoholic beverages are classified as beers, wines, ciders or spirits and duty is based on the alcohol content. Counterfeit spirits are illegally produced alcoholic drinks which are often sold to consumers as legitimate product.

The State Laboratory assists the Office of the Revenue Commissioners and the National Consumer Agency to combat excise duty fraud and the production and distribution of counterfeit spirits, which can contain methanol and other alcohols dangerous to human health when consumed. Most samples are tested for alcohol content and where required, congener profiling and testing for authenticity indicators is carried out. A small number of samples containing non-potable alcohol are tested for denaturants.