Retroactive collection of customs duties for inspection of the same goods

By judgment of 27 February 2014 (Case C-571/12), the European Court of Justice (ECJ) decided when the results of a customs inspection can be transferred to the same goods and, if necessary, corresponding customs debts can be levied.

Under the Latvian court’s procedure, a company had for years provided false customs tariff numbers when importing goods. After the authority noticed this in the course of a customs inspection, it retroactively levied higher duties and imposed a fine. The company denied that the authority could transfer the results of the customs inspection to identical goods imported earlier.

The ECJ did not join the company. He ruled that although results obtained within the framework of a partial inspection pursuant to Art. 70 (1) of the Customs Code (CC) could in principle only be transferred to the same goods designated in the same declaration. However, the authorities are free to carry out a retrospective examination of a declaration in accordance with Art. 78 (1) CCC and, if necessary, to levy customs duties accordingly. This means that goods that have already been imported can be checked again later. Even if a physical inspection is not possible, business documents and other material in connection with the import and export transactions in question and with subsequent transactions with these goods are checked instead. The customs authority may also take over the results of a partial examination of the goods specified in a declaration for goods declared earlier, provided that the goods are identical. The national court must check whether the goods are identical. This probably means that the ECJ is ambiguous in that the authorities bear the burden of proof.

 

Lawyer Dr. Tristan Wegner

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