CJEU: change of declarant is possible

Following a recent judgment from the Court of Justice of the European Union (CJEU) businesses have the possibility – under the former Community Customs Code (CCC) – to amend the stated declarant of a customs declaration post-clearance.

Article 78(3) CCC allows the customs authorities to revise post-clearance customs declarations based on incorrect or incomplete information upon the declarant’s request or upon the customs authority’s own initiative.

CJEU case

In the CJEU case at hand, an entity acting as customs agent submitted a customs declaration for the import of certain goods into the EU upon request of its related client. The customs agent and its client agreed with each other to lodge the customs declaration on behalf of the client under the coverage of a Power of Attorney, valid at the time of lodging the declaration. The customs declaration was incorrectly lodged by the customs agent in its own name and on its own behalf ('no representation' for customs purposes), where it was agreed that it should have been lodged by the customs agent on its own name but on behalf of its client ('indirect representation' for customs purposes). Under these circumstances, the customs agent is to be considered as declarant and customs debtor, whilst the client was supposed to act as declarant, and both the client and the customs agent were supposed to be liable as customs debtor following 'indirect representation'.

The client held an import licence authorizing it to benefit from a reduced rate of customs duty upon import, on the condition it acted as declarant upon import. Considering that the customs agent acted as declarant, the customs authorities took the view – following an audit – that the reduced customs duty was not applicable in view of the import concerned. These circumstances triggered the customs agent’s request to change the declarant into the name of its client. According to the CJEU case at hand, the customs authorities are allowed to grant a request from the customs agent to amend the declarant in the customs declaration concerned.

What does the CJEU judgment mean in practice?

The CJEU judgment triggers the question of whether the customs authorities would also be permitted to grant a request from a customs agent to amend the declarant – in an identical situation as above – under the Union Customs Code (UCC) that is currently applicable.

Article 173(3) UCC is considered as the successor of the old article 78(3) CCC. Article 173(3) of the UCC stipulates that post-clearance customs declaration amendments may be permitted in order for the declarant to comply with its obligations related to the customs procedure concerned (import procedure). Whether the amendment of the declarant could be regarded as 'complying with the obligations relating to the import procedure' (if deemed necessary by the declarant), is an interesting topic for further debate and potentially – depending on the circumstances – of major importance for customs agents and its clients.

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