Experience shows that customs officials can take a very formal attitude. For clients, this means that litigation under customs law is virtually unavoidable. We do not concern ourselves with customs planning, thereby optimising the compliance burden. As tax lawyers, we can assist you when you are confronted with one or more demands for payment (Dutch: UTB, Uitnodiging tot Betaling) of customs duties and fines. A UTB is an ‘assessment’ with the amount to be paid in customs duties. It is possible to dispute the assessment by filing an objection (and if necessary an appeal can be lodged later). In addition, it is important to promptly file a separate request for deferment of payment, or to designate the letter of objection as a request for deferment of payment. When doing this, you must explicitly state the disputed amount and the calculation of this amount. Finally, it is important to comment that you should be heard before a decision is made. If the right to be heard is infringed, this can constitute grounds for disputing the legality of the decision. Do you disagree with a decision of the Customs Service? If so, be sure to contact us promptly, taking into account the period within which objections must be served. The letter/payment demand is dated, and this serves as the date for the assessment of the payment demand. You must file an objection within six weeks of this date if you want to dispute the payment demand.
Criminal proceedings under customs law
We are also happy to assist you in criminal proceedings under customs law. It regularly happens that the Tax Authority/Customs Service hands an audit dossier to the FIOD (Financial Information & Investigation Service) for the purposes of a criminal investigation. Within the framework of the criminal investigation, the FIOD can employ coercive measures against a suspect. During the interviews, you are not obliged to answer questions regarding your involvement in a criminal offence. In this respect. It often happens that a client is prosecuted, whereby legal entities and the de facto managers are suspected of criminal offences resulting in too little duty, or none, being levied on an import. Take, for example, the deliberate release of bonded goods from a customs depot without the required customs declarations being submitted, or other cases such as failure to state the correct country of origin, thereby compromising the correctness and completeness of the customs declarations. The consequences of customs fraud must not be underestimated. You may get a fine, a penalty order issued by a public prosecutor or – in the worst case scenario – a prison sentence. Even if you only get a penalty order issued by public prosecutor, this results in a record in your judicial documentation (‘a criminal record’). It is therefore important to have a specialised lawyer with knowledge of criminal and customs law.