HMRC has introduced new penalties for illegally selling cigarettes, alcohol and fuel which come into effect this month.

The new 'wrongdoing penalties' will impose a fine as well as reclaiming lost duty, and will apply in addition to existing sanctions which include confiscation of goods and vehicles, criminal prosecution and revoking a company's tax registration.

The measures target retailers who are tempted to purchase cut-price goods from illegitimate wholesalers or 'white van' salesmen who have imported cigarettes and alcohol from abroad, depriving the Exchequer of tax and duty.

They apply to anyone who handles goods on which excise duty has neither been paid nor deferred; uses a product in a way that means more excise duty should have been paid; or supplies a product at a lower rate of excise duty knowing that it will be used in a way that means a higher rate should be paid.

The new penalty will be a percentage of the potential lost revenue to the Exchequer. Owners of stores can be penalised if an employee commits a wrongdoing.