Certain goods may benefit from preferential tariff treatment with the aid of a corresponding proof of origin. The advantages of this treatment can also be claimed retrospectively according to applicable law. When an application must be submitted at the latest has not been clearly regulated and has now been decided by the FG Hamburg:
- In principle, proofs of origin must be presented in the importing country within ten months of issue in the exporting country.
- Where exceptional circumstances have prevented this period from being met, the customs authorities shall, exceptionally, be obliged to grant preferential treatment at a later date.
- In the absence of exceptional circumstances, the granting shall be at the discretion of the authorities. This discretionary decision has so far been exercised by the authorities in such a way that applications have only been accepted within two years of the issue of the proof of preference.
The background to this was that third countries are obliged to keep issued preference certificates for three years. The examination procedure must be carried out within ten months. There is therefore a risk that shortly before the end of the three-year period a procedure will be initiated which, because of its duration, threatens to come to nothing.
In the legal dispute on which the FG Hamburg ruling was based, an application was filed shortly after the end of the two years, but still early enough for the proceedings to proceed.
The court confirmed the authority that rejected the application, citing current practice, according to which applications must be filed within two years at the latest.