Customs Offence Matters 

Your key to a successful defence.

Customs duties are import duties within the meaning of the Community Customs Code and therefore taxes under the German Fiscal Code (AbgabenordnungAO). The criminal sanctions and administrative fines are therefore governed in principle by the national provisions of the German Fiscal Code, since the power to enact legislation in these matters has remained with the Member States. However, the provisions in the Fiscal Code governing penalties for infractions of customs law are subject to the relevant provisions of EU customs law. Customs offence law therefore has many specific features not found in "normal" tax law, let alone general criminal law.  

Customs offences are governed in §§ 369 et seq. of the Fiscal Code. These include inter alia the evasion of customs duties (§ 370 of the Fiscal Code), the illegal import, export or transit of goods (§ 372 of the Fiscal Code), the professional, violent or organised smuggling (§ 373 of the Fiscal Code), the counterfeiting of official stamps (§§ 148, 149 of the German Criminal Code (StrafgesetzbuchStGB), § 369 paragraph 1 no. 3 of the Fiscal Code) and aiding and abetting tax crimes (§ 369 paragraph 1 no. 4 of the Fiscal Code).

The administrative offences of particular practical relevance are to be found in §§ 377 et seq. of the Fiscal Code and include, for example, the understatement of tax through gross negligence (§ 378 of the Fiscal Code), general minor tax fraud (§ 379 of the Fiscal Code), the endangerment of excise tax (§ 381 of the Fiscal Code) and the endangerment of import and export duties (§ 382 of the Fiscal Code).

In addition §§ 30, 130 of the German Act on Regulatory Offences (OrdnungswidrigkeitgesetzOWiG) provide for penalties to be applied against the enterprise concerned. The law enforcement authorities generally exploit these options to their fullest extent. Negative assessments resulting from violations of customs provisions and included in the decentralised operator appraisal system (DEBBI) may also be characterised as a penalty, especially as it may lead to more frequent inspections by the customs authorities. In extreme cases an enterprise's AEO status may even be withdrawn.

We represent private persons and corporate clients in customs offence and administrative penalty proceedings before authorities, public prosecutors and courts, with the objective of negotiating the best possible pragmatic solution and helping our clients to avoid infractions in the future.

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