The UK is facing legal action from the European Commission for avoiding paying £15m in tax on imports of fresh garlic which the UK had previously claimed was frozen. Under EU law frozen garlic is taxed at a lower rate than in the fresh state.
The mistake was revealed after an inspection by the European Anti-Fraud Office in 2006. They revealed the mistake which was committed on imports between 2005 and 2006.
The UK has had several years to make amends, with the European Commission chasing payment since 2008. However, after repeated non-payment of the bill the patience of the Commission has finally snapped, with the launching of legal acti on to recover the monies owed.
In a statement on the matter, the EU Commission said: "In failing to collect the correct amount, the UK authorities did not act with all due care."
"The UK authorities, however, have failed to compensate for the missing amount, by claiming that the customs took all necessary actions justified by the case," they added.
The move has angered some UK Members of the European Parliament (MEPs). Richard Ashworth is a Conservative MEP.
"I'm sorry to say that the aggressive approach of the Commission - over garlic of all things - leaves a bad taste in the mouth," he quipped.
"In such hard times, when all countries, including ours, are looking to save every bit of money they can just to combat the debt crisis, it defies all sense of proportion to be taking Britain to court over what amounts to a demand for garlic tax," he added, ignoring the principle of tax avoidance which has dominated the news in recent days.
Customs duties charged on imports are collected by member states and are then passed to the EU as part of annual contributions.