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Statute of Limitations for Customs Debts

The time-barring of customs debts is always important when the customs authorities demand subsequent payment after a long period of time.

It is important to note that it can take several years before customs debts become time-barred.

In this article, we look at when the limitation period begins from a financial perspective, and when the limitation period for customs offences begins from the perspective of criminal law.

Time-barring of customs debts in financial terms

From a financial perspective, the time-barring of customs debts determines when the customs authorities can still demand subsequent payment.

As a rule, customs debts become time-barred after three years. In this respect, the customs authorities can still demand payment of a customs debt three years after it was incurred.

Thus, customs may still demand payment of a customs debt three years after the importation of goods.

If the customs authorities suspect willful intent, they can continue to require payment of a customs debt for 10 years.

It is important to note that even if it is not the company — but possibly third parties, such as the supplier — that acted intentionally, the 10-year limitation period for the customs debt applies.

In these cases, it is important to demonstrate to the customs authorities that the 10 year limitation period is not applicable.

Limitation of action for customs offences

The statute of limitations is also decisive in customs criminal law.

If the statute of limitations applies, customs evasion may no longer be prosecuted as a criminal offence. In this respect, no punishment must then be imposed.

For a regular customs evasion the prescription is 5 years.

Often, however, a customs evasion will be classified as a “particularly serious case”. In such cases, the limitation period can be as long as 10 years.

Since a case of tax evasion is often considered particularly serious when a large amount of import duties has not been paid over a long period of time, the limitation period is almost always 10 years. Commercial, gang-related, or forible smuggling is therefore in principle not subject to a limitation period of 10 years. Commercial or gang-related tax fraud is also not time-barred up to 10 years.

A simple tax fraud will become time-barred in 5 years. In the case of an illegal import, the statute of limitations is already 5 years.

Even in the case of a 10 year statute of limitations due to a late discovery by the customs investigators, it should always be endeavoured to obtain a short statute of limitations from the customs authorities and criminal prosecutors, as this may result in exemption from punishment.

Statute of limitations for customs infringements

The statute of limitations for customs infringements is normally shorter than for serious customs offences

As a rule, they become time-barred after 5 years. This applies in any case to frivolous tax evasion and minor tax fraud.

Start of statutory period of limitation

It is often difficult to identify precisely when the period of prescription begins

If the case concerns illegal imports, the limitation period begins at the time when the goods arrive at their destination. In the event of customs smuggling, however, the limitation period begins when the movement of the goods has ended.

If your customs declaration is submitted incorrectly, the limitation period begins at the point when the customs declaration is submitted incorrectly or incompletely and the import duty notification is then issued.

The statute of limitations for a customs offence is interrupted at the point when the accused is informed that criminal tax proceedings have been initiated against him, provided that the offender can already be identified by the customs authorities.

Attorney Dr. Tristan Wegner

Ihr Ansprechpartner

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