Legal protection against duty rulings in customs matters

Legal protection against duty rulings in customs matters

Customs assessments are tax assessments within the meaning of Section 155 (1) in conjunction with Section 3 (3) of the German Fiscal Code (AO). § Section 3 (3) of the German Fiscal Code (AO). According to the respective type of duty, the following tax assessments can be considered:

  • Import duty notices (customs duties, anti-dumping duties, countervailing duties, import turnover tax, special excise duties),
  • export tax notices,
  • excise duty notices (e.g. mineral oil tax, tobacco tax, beer tax, etc.), provided that these special excise duties are not import duties within the meaning of Section 1 (1) of the Customs Administration Act (ZollVG).

1. legal protection against tax assessment notices on import and export duties

The Union Customs Code itself only provides a framework for the admissible appeal procedure in its Articles 43 to 45 Union Customs Code (Articles 243 to 246 Customs Code). The more detailed provisions are determined by the individual Member States, i.e. by national law, in accordance with Article 44 of the Union Customs Code. Accordingly, in the Federal Republic of Germany, the appeal procedure against tax assessments is governed by Sections 347 et seq. of the German Fiscal Code (Abgabenordnung). Consequently, the objection is the legal remedy against tax assessments on import and export duties.

The appeal must be lodged in the Member State in which the decision was taken or requested (Article 44(3) of the Union Customs Code [Article 243(1) of the Customs Code]). The customs authority designated by the Member States decides on the appeal; in Germany, this is the Hauptzollamt (main customs office). This is deemed to be the tax office within the meaning of the German Fiscal Code (Sections 6 (2) No. 5, 367 AO).

The appellant must assert that he is adversely affected by an administrative act or its omission. The complaint is defined by Article 44 (1) of the Union Customs Code (Article 243 (1) of the Customs Code) as "direct and personal concern".

In most cases, however, no special justification is required if the addressee of the tax assessment files an objection himself and thus already indicates that he himself feels adversely affected and requests a review of the tax assessment (BFH, judgment of 27.11.1985 - II R 90/83). The complaint must relate to the legal consequences of the tax assessment, i.e. the amount of the tax. A merely incorrect reasoning for the - legally correctly determined amount of the tax - does not entitle to file an objection.

Pursuant to Sec. 355 (1) in conjunction with Sec. 108 of the Fiscal Code and Secs. 187 to 193 of the Civil Code (BGB), the time limit for filing an objection (not the statement of grounds) is one calendar month. This also applies to tax assessments issued orally. There is no statutory time limit for the statement of grounds for the objection, since a statement of grounds is not necessary, but should only be made (Section 357 (3) AO). However, the main customs office may set a time limit for the objector

  • to state facts which he feels adversely affected by being taken into account or not taken into account,
  • to explain certain points that require clarification,
  • to designate evidence or to submit documents, insofar as he is obliged to do so (Section 364b (1) AO).

Declarations and evidence that are not submitted until after the expiry of the deadline set by the main customs office are no longer to be taken into account within the objection proceedings in favor of the objector.

The objection must be submitted in writing to the main customs office or declared in writing, Section 357 (1) and (2) AO. In principle, the written form requires a handwritten signature. However, it is also permissible to file the objection by telegram, telex and fax.

In contrast to the possible subsequent legal action, it is possible to amend the objection by increasing the tax, Section 367, Paragraph 2, Sentence 2 AO, which can be done either in a separate notice of subsequent demand or in the decision on the objection itself.

After an objection has been wholly or partially unsuccessful, the objector may proceed to the legal action. In this case, the plaintiff's claim is for the tax assessment notice to be rescinded or amended, which is why an action for avoidance within the meaning of Section 40 (1) of the German Fiscal Court Code (FGO) is filed. In the action, the plaintiff must also assert that his rights have been violated by the tax assessment, Section 40 (2) FGO, which corresponds to the complaint in the opposition proceedings. Pursuant to Sec. 47 (1) FGO, the time limit for filing the action for avoidance (not for the statement of grounds) is one month. This period is a cut-off period and cannot be extended. There is no statutory time limit for the statement of grounds. This can be determined at the discretion of the court. As in the opposition proceedings, the action must be filed in writing with the competent tax court, Section 64 (1) FGO. An appeal by telegram, telex or fax is also admissible.

2. legal protection against tax assessments on excise duties that are not import duties

The same rules apply to appeals and actions against formal tax assessments in the case of special excise duties as apply to tax assessments on import and export duties.

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