SEC DataCom A/S
The Danish Ministry of Taxation
Failure to observe deadline stipulated in the Customs Code for remission of duties paid in excess of the amount due.
SEC DataCom A/S is a supplier and importer of IT and computer equipment. During a period from 1997, it had paid duties according to a tariff practice which was set aside by the Court of Justice in its judgments of October 2000 and May 2001. Referring to Article 236 of the Customs Code, according to which a claim for remission of customs duties paid in excess of the amount due may be made within three years from the date on which the amount of those duties was communicated to the debtor, SEC DataCom applied to the tax authorities for remission of duties paid in excess of the amount due in the period from November 1995 up to and including 1999. The tax authorities refused to remit the duties for a certain part of this period, as the claim relating to this part of the customs debt was not found to have been made within three years from the date when the customs debt was communicated to the company. Among other things, the authorities referred to the fact that the company was notified of the customs debt when the goods were released, cf. Article 221 of the Customs Code, and not when the import specifications, which are submitted around the tenth day of each month, were received.
As the High Court, the Supreme Court gave importance to the fact that the customs declarations were made in the form of a single document in which the type, basis, rate and amount of the customs debt were specified. The declarations were continuously recorded in the so-called import system, after which time the goods were released on the following weekday. The duties were thus booked on a continuous basis. The procedure was set up in such a way that the declaration of the customs debt in the single document had to be regarded as indicative only, and that the customs authorities did not submit a separate notice of the customs debt when it was accepted, which meant that notification had to be regarded as having been made when the goods were released, cf. Article 221(2) of the Customs Code. As the declarations were accepted and released more than three years before SEC DataCom made its claim, the company was not entitled to further remission for the duties paid.
The Supreme Court thus affirmed the judgment of High Court.