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1. ECJ to clarify conditions for classification of sets

The Belgian Supreme Court requested the ECJ for a preliminary ruling in order to determine whether a DVD player and loudspeakers, which are presented to Customs in separate packages, should upon importation be regarded as goods put up for retail sale in sets because they are subsequently packed together for sale.

The individual components of a set often benefit from lower import duty rates than a set. Therefore, goods are often declared separately upon importation, although they belong together in order to mitigate the overall duty burden. The question is whether or not these components should be classified and declared as a set, thus triggering higher import duties?  

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2. Possible retroactive tariff duty suspension on certain heavy oils

The European Commission published a proposal to grant a retroactive tariff duty suspension on certain heavy oils falling within the scope of CN code 2707 99 99.

Since April 2013, certain heavy oils whose aromatic constituents weigh more than their non-aromatic constituents must be classified under CN code 2707 99 99, triggering an import duty rate of 1.7%.

On July 1, 2014 a tariff duty suspension was imposed for these particular oils. Under the current proposal, the Commission now wants to extend this suspension with retroactive effect.

If your company imported such oils during the period April 2013 through June 2014, it should be investigated whether you are eligible for a refund of duty.

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3. Temporary importation of means of transport

On February 14, 2015 an implementing regulation was published by the European Commission  regarding the temporary import of means of transport. A working paper of the Commission dated January 12 (TAXUD/A2/SPE/2014/007 REV4-EN) clarifies in more detail the use of the facility, the avoidance of misuse and alignment of interpretation. The new rules will become applicable throughout the EU as of May 1, 2015.

On November 13, 2014 the European Commission published another working paper (TAXUD/A2/SPE/2014/010 ENREV3) providing useful guidance on the difference between commercial and private use of means of transport.

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4. Processing under Customs Control (PCC) allowed for ethanol to be turned into biofuel

The European Commission has ruled in favor of PCC for agricultural undenatured ethyl alcohol (CN code 2207 10 00) to be converted into biofuel (ED95) (CN code 3824 90 97) even though there was strong opposition from European ethanol producers. 

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5. Russia extends membership of the carnet TIR system until June 30, 2015

On February 26, the Russian Federation officially announced the extension of its membership to the carnet TIR system until June 30, 2015. This membership was supposed to expire on February 28, 2015.

As such, transports from the EU into Russia can still take place under the carnet TIR procedure and without the requirement of an additional guarantee for the part of the transport on Russian soil. Furthermore, president Putin also published administrative instructions to ensuring the proper functioning of the TIR system in his country.

However, it cannot be ruled out that practical problems and delays will still occur at the Russian border.

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6. Member States allowed to levy taxes on non-energy products, according to ECJ

The ECJ ruled that the Polish excise treatment of lubricating oils used for purposes other than as motor fuels or as heating fuels is not in violation of EU (excise) legislation.

The main conclusions of this case are:

  • Poland is allowed to levy excise duties on such lubricating oils;
  • Poland is allowed to levy excise duties on such lubricating oils, applying mutatis mutandis the Excise Directive 2003/96 on energy products;
  • Polish excise legislation does not concern prohibited formalities connected with the crossing of frontiers because these formalities are regarded as formalities to ensure the payment of the excise duties and, therefore, do not constitute prohibited formalities;

Polish excise legislation does not discriminate between domestic supplies and intra-Community supplies of such lubricating oils because the deadline for payment of Polish excise duties appears to be the same under the IC or domestic duty-suspension regime.  

It has still to be seen whether this court case will inspire other EU Member States to introduce excise duties (or similar taxes) on non-energy products, such as lubricating oils used for purposes other than as motor fuels or as heating fuels.

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