Customs Examination

Customs authorities are obliged to conduct a customs examination when it is clearly called for. The person declaring the goods is responsible for transporting and producing the documents to customs for examination.

It is presumed that the partial examination is representative of all of the goods presented. The person presenting the goods may request a further examination if he considers that it is not valid as regards the remainder of the goods. A certain amount of random or systematic checking is required by way of verification and policing.

There are practical limitations to the process. If suitable examination facilities are not available, customs may not be in a position to undertake a thorough examination. The costs may be prohibitive of undertaking examinations and samplings that might theoretically be justified. In effect, an examination of the goods apparent condition is undertaken in most cases where there is an examination.

The customs authorities are obliged to take measures to identify the goods. Identification is required in order to ensure compliance with conditions applicable to the particular customs procedure which has been declared. The means of identification affixed to the goods may be removed and destroyed only with the custom’s authority, with their permission or as a result of unforeseeable circumstances. This is to prevent substitution and interference.

Declarations and Simplifications

The various simplifications comprise incomplete declarations, simplified declarations and local clearance procedures. See the separate articles in relation to  simplifications.

In order to simplify completion of formalities procedures as far as possible, the customs authorities may grant permission for declarations to omit certain particulars or some of the documents not to be furnished. The may give permission for a commercial or administrative document to be lodged in place of the declaration.

In the case of goods entered for the procedure by means of an entry in the declarant’s records, the customs authority may waive the requirement that the declaration presents the goods to customs.

The simplified declaration, commercial or administrative document or entry in the records must contain at least the particulars necessary for identification of the goods. Supplementary declarations and simplified declarations are permitted and deemed a single indivisible document.

Release to Free Circulation

The acceptance of a customs declaration to free circulation gives rise to a customs debt. The goods covered by the declaration shall not be released until the customs debt has been secured or paid. This does not affect provisions in relation to temporary customs procedures.

Customs authorities may take the necessary measures to remedy failures on the part of the importer or where the goods are subject to prohibitions or restrictions. This may include confiscation forfeiture and sale. This may arise where it has not been possible to undertake the requisite examination within the requisite period. It may arise where the required documents have not been produced. It may arise with the requisite payment security has not been provided.

It is a basic principle that non-EU goods become community goods upon release for free circulation. They acquire the status of EU/community goods. They are not necessarily of EU community origin for other purposes.

Goods in Free Circulation

It is a basic principle that goods in free circulation may move automatically throughout the EU without further customs controls. The EU treaty provides that goods coming from a third country shall be considered to be in free circulation if the import formalities have been complied with and any customs duty or charges having an equivalent effect which are payable have been levied, and they have not subject to a total or partial drawback of such duties or charges.

Goods released into free circulation may lose their status as community goods where
• the declaration is invalidated after release
• the import duties are repaid or remitted under the inward processing, in respect of defective goods and
• in other situations where refunds are permissible.

Customs Procedures Other than Release

It is a fundamental principle that goods must be declared to a customs procedure. The most obvious and common procedure is release for free circulation. There are several other procedures which are dealt with separately. They involve suspension of duty. In almost all cases and authorisation is required and the importer/ trader must provide security and prove that it is sufficiently trusted for the due performance of its duties and obligations under the procedures.

The relevant procedures include particular

  • customs warehousing
  • inward processing
  • processing under customs control
  • temporary importation
  • outward processing

The grant of the requisite authorisation is conditional upon the applicant guaranteeing proper conduct of operations and customs control not being disproportionate in cost for the authorities. The relevant conditions applicable to the procedure will be set out the authorisation. The authorisation may be withdrawn for failures of compliance.

Physically there is security for the suspensive arrangement.

Continuing Control

Some goods remain under some continuing customs supervision even when released to free circulation. This includes in particular goods which are released free of duty or at a reduced rate due to their end use. Supervision continues until the conditions applied to the end use have been satisfied.

Where the conditions for placing the goods under the procedure have been fulfilled, then provided the goods are not subject to any prohibitive or restrictive measures, the customs authority shall release the goods as soon as the particulars and the declaration have been verified or accepted without verification.

Post Release Review

The customs authority may at its own initiative or at the request of the importer amend a declaration after the release of the goods. They may after releasing the goods in order to satisfy themselves of the accuracy of the particulars inspect the commercial document and data relating to the import or export operations concerned.

This may be carried out of the premises of the person making the declaration or any other person directly or indirectly involved in the operations in a commercial capacity. Where the provisions of post-clearance examinations or the revised declaration indicate that the customs procedure has been applied incorrectly or on the basis of incomplete information, the customs authorities may regularise the position.

There is case law to the effect that the customs discretion is to be exercised in a reasonable manner.

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