Administrative Procedure in Customs Law

The Union Customs Code (UCC) introduces a customs law decision‑making procedure.  As European law, it supersedes existing German regulations in case of conflict. It applies to all decisions relating to the application of customs law.

Significantly, the decision‑making procedure provides for time limits within which the customs authority must act:

Examination deadline: within 30 days of receipt of the application, the customs authority must verify that all the conditions for the acceptance of the application have been met. If this is the case, the customs authority must inform the applicant within the time limit that the application has been accepted. 

Decision deadline:  The customs authority must examine the substance of the application and notify the applicant of its decision within 120 days of the acceptance of the application.

Note:
If the authority is unable to meet the 120‑day deadline, it must notify the applicant of this within that period.  The deadline may be extended by a further 30 days.  If the applicant amends his application, the customs authority may extend the time limit for its decision.

The authority’s administrative decision shall be effective when it is served on the applicant and shall be valid for an unlimited period, unless the law provides for a different regulation in the specific case.

Attention:
If the authority intends to render a decision which is unfavorable to the applicant (e.g., rejection of a request for waiver or reimbursement), it must notify the applicant before adopting this decision.  In the notification, the authority must provide the reasons for the proposed negative decision.  The applicant may submit his position on the proposed decision within 30 days.

The negative (detrimental) decision must include a statement of reasons for the decision and instruction on legal remedies.

Withdrawal of the decision:  The customs authorities may withdraw, amend or revoke the decisions they have taken at any time if they are contrary to customs law.

Suspension of the decision:  However, it is also permissible to reconsider or suspend a decision.

Practice tip:
Effective January 1, 2017, an order to submit to the general tax code is subject to a similar deadline scheme, but  only with regard to the application for an advance ruling, which is to be decided within six months of receipt of the application.  This tax code rule does not apply to an application for an advance ruling in a customs law issue.  This means that the decision-making procedure of the Union Customs Code should always be invoked, as this is more advantageous than under conflicting provisions of German law. 2.  Note:  To the extent that the application is not complete under the customs decision-making procedure, the period for calculating the 120‑day deadline for reaching a decision only begins to run when the application is complete.  This effectively allows the authority to extend the time limit for rendering a decision, since it can always claim that not all the required information has been supplied.  In order to avoid this, it is important to ask the customs authority as early as possible after the application has been submitted whether information or documents are still needed.