In its ruling of 11.05.2017 on the question submitted, the European Court of Justice ruled that the freight forwarders’ surcharges for their efforts are also transport costs which must be added to the customs value according to Art. 32 para. 1 letter e) item i) of the Customs Code (CC). Since the new Union Customs Code regulates the addition of transport costs almost identically, the decision can also be applied to the new legal situation. In order to minimize the risk of sanctions, importers should review their import practices and, if necessary, adapt them to the case law.
All transport costs associated with importation are to be added
The referring Dutch court had doubts as to whether the profit supplement of a forwarding agent was also included in the transport costs to be added, or only necessary costs, i.e. those which the haulier commissioned charged to the forwarding agent for the actual transport. The ECJ found that the EU legal concept of transport costs had to be interpreted broadly in the CC. For the classification as transport costs, a connection of the transport costs with the import into the EU is sufficient, irrespective of whether these are necessary or are inherent in the actual transport of the goods.
Importers must review notification practice
As a result, all costs invoiced to the importer by the freight forwarder, including their profit surcharge, had to be added to the customs value. This is probably also applicable to the new legal situation under the application of the ICC, since Article 71(1)(e)(i) ICC contains a corresponding provision with almost identical wording. Companies should always keep abreast of current developments in customs valuation law in order to avoid infringements which can have considerable consequences.
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