On May 12, 2016 the Plenum of the Russian Federation Supreme Court approved a Resolution in which it clarified customs legislation on determination of customs value, classification of goods, refund of excess customs duties and taxes paid/charged, and also certain issues related to the movement of goods for personal use (Russian Federation Supreme Court Plenum Resolution No. 18 of May 12, 2016 on Certain Issues of the Application of Customs Legislation by the Courts). In general, the Resolution summarizes settled practice, but there are also innovations that experts consider attempts to set up new regulations.
Below are some of the most significant provisions of the Resolution.
On the priority of supranational customs regulation:
- The priority of supranational customs regulation cannot serve as a basis to infringe the rights and freedoms of citizens (organizations), which are guaranteed by the Russian Constitution. In particular, when applying the rules of law of the Eurasian Economic Union, which establish or modify rights and obligations for the payment of customs payments and/or enjoyment of benefits, the principle that it is impermissible to make a new customs regulation retroactive and thereby make the positions of parties in ongoing legal relationships worse should be taken into account.
On customs value:
- The courts should recognize the presumption that information provided by a declarant and/or customs representative about the value of goods is true, and should reject unsubstantiated arguments from the customs authorities that a price is understated.
- The customs authority's discovery of evidence that a declared customs value is not true in and of itself cannot serve as a basis to adjust the customs value of the goods.
- A person who imports a product at a price that differs considerably from comparable prices of identical/homogenous products should take care to gather evidence supporting the lower price in advance.
- When considering disputes over the validity of adjusting a customs value the courts should not accept new evidence/documents from the declarant or customs authority if the parties had the opportunity to disclose them at the stage of additional verification of the customs value but did not take advantage of that opportunity.
On classification of goods:
- When checking the arguments of the parties to a dispute over whether a classification is correct the courts may take into consideration the recommendations and clarifications of the World Customs Organization which Russia has not declared that it will not apply.
- Although the court is not an authority competent to classify goods, nevertheless, given sufficient evidence, findings can be made in judicial acts as to whether the classification made by the declarant is correct.
On payment and refund of excess customs duties and taxes paid/charged:
- Arrears for customs payments cannot be collected from the person who acquired title to the goods after they were released by the customs authority.
- The declarant should initiate amendments to the declaration for the goods at the same time that it files a request for refund of excess customs payments paid/charged. That said, as the law does not set a deadline for customs to render a decision on amending the declaration, the request for refund should be fulfilled within one month of when it was filed.
- If the court declares unlawful a customs authority decision that affects the calculation of customs payments, the judicial act shall obligate the customs authority to refund excess payments paid/charged from the budget, and no separate request for refund from the payer is required.
- The declarant may file a claim with the court for refund of excess customs payments paid/charged within three years regardless of whether the customs authority's refusal to refund was challenged separately.
- Missing the one-year period for requesting a refund of customs payments from the customs authority in cases unrelated to excess payment to the budget (for example, when preferences are reinstated) does not make it impossible to file a claim with the court for refund of those amounts from the budget, if at the same time the general three-year statute of limitations has not expired.
On calculating the appeal period:
- The period for administrative appeal of decisions and actions/inaction of a customs authority, including if the appeal was not considered on the merits, is not included in the time limit for having recourse to the court.
On temporary import of personal vehicles:
- A declarant is not obligated to pay customs payments at the end of the time period for exporting a personal vehicle if the vehicle has been destroyed (irreparably lost) due to an accident or force majeure. When resolving disputes the courts shall proceed on the basis that constructive loss of a vehicle is understood to mean that it cannot be restored through repair, or the cost of repair is equal to or exceeds the vehicle's value. Also, misappropriation or theft of the vehicle cannot become a ground for charging the declarant customs payments.
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