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A year ago: Disties hit again by VAT fraud scandal

UK authorities show limp approach to DRAM difficulties

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If you talk to Alan Stanley, MD of the UK wing of French company Dane-Elec, he'll tell you, like many another poor soul in the memory distribution business, that times are tough and getting tougher. But while Stanley and his company compete in an ever more cutthroat business, the British authorities are not making it any easier, he feels. Members of the European Union operate different levels of value added tax (VAT), meaning that if you're a crook, you can shuffle SIMMs around the place and make extra margin points, all the time undercutting the legit distributors of the products. But while the problems been known about for quite some time, the UK authorities, Her Majesty's Custom & Excise, don't seem at all exercised about the problem in the slightest. Last year, the French VAT police, on the other hand, took a remorseless approach to the problem there, nicked a number of companies implicated in the fraud and even shut several of them down. The Register phoned the press office at Customs a couple of weeks before Christmas and asked the department what it was doing about the UK dimension to the problem. "We'll get back to you," came the reply. Another call, a week later, produced the interesting information that it wasn't a Customs problem and the press office had shunted the enquiry off to the National Investigation Service. Well, we weren't even aware that UK Customs had spun a part of itself off but in any event we didn't hear from them either. So while the investigators seem more concerned that cheap beer is flowing into the South of England (the tax on booze and ciggies is far less in France) and destroying our public houses, it seems that legit businesses stand the risk of going under while the huge VAT fraud goes unrecognised. Stanley pointed out to The Register that this type of fraud does not just apply to memories - there's all sorts of other goods on which tax is being evaded. While his customers - the dealers and resellers of this world - can hardly be blamed if they're offered even cheaper DRAM in their bid to make an extra few points, the UK authorities seem to be standing at the sidelines, wringing their hands and losing out on what they should be concentrating on - gathering revenues. ®

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