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ECJ on the incorrect indication of a subheading in a customs declaration

The ECJ had to decide in a preliminary ruling of 08.09.2016 (C-409/14) on the question of the effect of the incorrect indication of a Combined Nomenclature subheading in a customs declaration.

Facts of the case

In the underlying case, a product was imported into the territory of the Union and placed under a suspensive procedure. In the summary declaration for temporary storage, the Common Customs Tariff chapter was correct, but the specific subheading was incorrect. All other information in the accompanying documents was correct.

As part of an inspection, the competent authority discovered the incorrect information in the customs declaration and set import duties including excise duties. She justified her decision by stating that the goods had been released from the customs suspension procedure because of the incorrect customs declaration and that an excise duty liability had therefore arisen.

Ruling

The ECJ now rejected this reasoning. If the summary declaration contained all the information necessary to record the goods, there was no irregular movement under Article 202 CC. The goods had been registered in the underlying case under an appropriate name, only the tariff subheading was incorrect, while the nature of the goods, their quantity and their presentation were duly indicated. The goods had thus been duly placed under a suspensive procedure under customs law, so that neither an import customs debt pursuant to Art. 202 CC nor an excise duty debt had arisen.

An import customs debt may also arise under Art. 204 para. 1 a CC in the event of misconduct, unless it can be shown that such misconduct has not really affected the proper execution of the customs procedure in question. A breach of the applicant’s obligation to provide correct information, including the correct subheading, may constitute such a breach but may be remedied under certain conditions.

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