Customs Audit in Germany

You have received a customs inspection announced in the company? The lawyers of O&W will accompany and advise you in the customs inspection . Customs audits can lead to unpleasant demands or additional payments and in the worst case also to penalties. Setting the right course and good advice in advance usually pays off.

We uncover risks and weak points before the customs inspection, plan a strategy for the inspection and, if desired, are also happy to be present at the customs inspection appointment ourselves.

Feel free to contact us at any time. We are under 040 / 369615-0 of Mo – Fr. by telephone for you accessible and provide with our lawyer consultation for a smooth examination.

What is checked during customs inspections?

Based on our experience as a customs attorney in accompanying customs inspections, there are some areas that are particularly prone to error and are therefore often discovered and sanctioned by the customs authorities. Particularly often checked and also with mistakes are complained

  • the claiming of tariff preferences
  • the application of free trade agreements (e.g. with South Korea)
  • the correct classification of goods in the customs tariff
  • declaration of customs values
  • Utilization of customs privileges
  • Application of anti-dumping duty or countervailing duty
  • Bypassing Practices (so-called Transhipments)

What exactly is tested depends on what type of test is available. There are several types of customs checks. A customs audit is intended to ensure that your company has complied with all customs regulations in the past. There are also external audits for exporting companies to ensure that no export restrictions have been violated. There are also preferential audits to verify the accuracy of issued declarations of origin (e.g. for trade with Switzerland). A distinction is therefore made between

  • General audits by customs for import
  • Export control Audits
  • Preferential duty checks

Customs inspection procedure

You have received a examination order? Then customs will soon want to check all transactions at your company. The procedures should be standardized for such cases in the enterprise. In any case, you should also familiarize yourself with the examination order. Which periods should be checked? Is it an import or export inspection or should the origin of the goods declared by you be checked in preferential trade?

“Before a customs inspection, you should evaluate yourself where the weak points lie. This is how you can still act proactively.”

Before a preparation can take place, it must be ensured what the customs wants to check. It should also be determined whether the periods to be checked do not overlap with those of previous checks. The next step was to carefully check whether there had been any infringements or doubts about the regularity of certain transactions in the past. As long as the auditor is not yet in-house, there may still be opportunities for proactive action. Therefore some procedures should be evaluated at least randomly.

The customs inspection itself runs off in such a way that the inspector appears with you, identifies himself and introduces briefly. There is then usually an introductory discussion, in which the procedure of the examination is discussed. The customs inspector will then want to see some procedures in your company on a random basis. If he finds any errors, he may want to see further documents from you. In the case of complex matters, it is also conceivable that the auditor will come several days in a row to inspect all the documents.

At the end of the audit, the auditor will offer you a final meeting. It is advisable to perceive this. Often misunderstandings can be cleared up or valuable tips for further cooperation with customs can be obtained.

Penalties after the customs inspection

If errors are found during the customs audit, penalties are often imposed. For example, Penal proceedings can be initiated for (attempted) tax evasion or administrative offence proceedings.

“Violations of customs law or foreign trade law can lead to significant customs penalties.”

If, for example, import duties are paid too little, this may constitute criminal tax evasion (§ 370 AO). Failure to comply with export bans or anti-terror lists will result in a prison sentence of at least 3 months. Each export violation can result in fines of up to EUR 500,000 or EUR 2 million. In such cases, a self-reporting exemption from punishment is usually no longer possible, but there are still some tactical possibilities to counteract an escalation and possibly severe punishment. In any case, the matter should be clarified in good time. Otherwise, there is a danger that you will burden yourself during the examination.

In addition, customs will also issue a post-clearance assessment in the event of underpayment of duties. The underpaid duties must then be paid within a short period of time. If the customs authorities have a different legal opinion than you, it may also be advisable to appeal against the customs notice.