Technical expertise of industrial products controlled by the customs administration









                  CUSTOMS EXPERTISES

       Imported industrial products and equipment



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The tariff classification of imported goods (also known as tariff species) corresponds to the subheading of the customs nomenclature determining the rate of customs duty applicable to them when they are declared at a customs office, as well as the manner in which they will be processed for statistical purposes. In the case of industrial products presenting difficulties in the interpretation of nomenclature, technical expertise is often required to determine their exact nature and function and to obtain a reasoned opinion on their classification.


In France, the customs administration has 11 laboratories spread throughout the national territory challenging about 5000 customs declarations per year, which systematically entails litigation whose risks are the confiscation of the goods, a fine and a reminder of rights three years.


As for the declarant, he can ask a private expert to provide him with a report: either for legal certainty before the declaration, or for his defense in case of litigation.


   European customs nomenclature



At the international level, all commodities are classified in sections, chapters, 4-digit positions and 6-digit subheadings in the World Customs Organization nomenclature known as the Harmonized System of Coding and Description of Goods,which includes explanatory notes. and are subject to classification advice. In the case of the European Union, goods are classified, from this "Harmonized System" , in the Combined Nomenclature using 8-digit headings, and in the Integrated Community Tariff (TARIC) by subheadings to 10 digits.


The Harmonized System (HS)

The nomenclature of the Harmonized Commodity Coding System is given sections, chapters, headings et subheadings . It includes preliminary provisions, additional section or chapter notes and subheading notes. It is supplemented by explanatory notes and classification opinions. The nomenclature of the Harmonized System can be found on the website of the World Customs Organization (WCO):


Combined Nomenclature (CN)

The combined nomenclature of the Common Customs Tariff makes it possible to designate goods and goods in such a way as to satisfy at the same time the statistical requirements of Community external trade and the Common Customs Tariff. It also includes preliminary provisions, additional section or chapter notes and subheading notes. Each subheading of the CN has an eight-digit code, called the CN Code with a label. This nomenclature is supplemented by Explanatory Notes .


The integrated Community tariff (TARIC)

TARIC, the multilingual online tariff database, contains all the measures related to the tariff, trade and agricultural legislation of the Community. By integrating and coding these measures, TARIC ensures their uniform application by all Member States and gives all economic operators a clear vision of the measures to be taken when importing or exporting goods. TARIC also collects statistics on these measures at Community level.



     Control of goods in France



Control of customs declarations

Customs offices have the power to carry out checks on the species, the origin, the value of a commodity as soon as a declaration has been validated, conditioning the delivery of the good to be removed (ex-control). ante), and then for 4 months from the date of declaration (ex-post 1st level checks). The Regional Directorates (Regional Investigation Services) and the National Directorate of Intelligence and Customs Investigations (DNRED) go back in time up to three years (ex-post 2nd level controls). False declaration is an offense considered a contravention by Article 412 of the Customs Code; it constitutes a customs offense punishable under Article 414 of the Customs Code where it has the aim or the effect of evading a prohibition measure.


The expertise of customs laboratories

The customs administration is assisted on the scientific level by a service shared by the two ministries of finance, under the dual supervision of the Directorate General of Customs and Indirect Taxation (DGDDI) and the Directorate-General for Consumer Affairs and Trade. repression of fraud (DGCCRF). This service with national competence, called the common laboratory service (SCL) , performs physico-chemical analyzes of samples of goods; as well as expertise on files for the application of the European regulations, or the application of the customs code or the code of consumption at the request of its two directorates-general of tutelage (DGDDI and DGCCRF), or their external services.


In the event of dispute over the tariff nature of a commodity, either during a check or during a home visit , the customs administration shall take samples for analysis by the common service laboratories or the examination by any other expert of his choice. Where goods, by reason of their weight, size, value, nature or the small quantity of produce, can not, without inconvenience, be sampled in four samples, four copies of plans, drawings, photographs or any other document identifying the controlled goods. The customs administration may further assert its right of communication of all documents relating to transactions carried out in non-prescribed periods in order to examine the goods concerned.


In practice, the laboratories of the SCL are entered at the initiative of customs officers as part of their duties by sending samples or documents constitute "analysis requests", mainly for verification of price of a commodity, or for the identification of narcotics and other illicit They are very rarely invited to rule in counterfeit cases because the expertise of the disputed objects belongs primarily to the holder of the mark, the model or the patent. On the other hand, they are systematically consulted when the trade in counterfeits constitutes a significant loss of income for the State in the field of indirect taxation, as for example in the case of falsifications of cigarettes, vine products (chaptalisation, fake origins ...), petroleum products (additions of vegetable oil in diesel fuel, discoloration of fuel oil ...).


The action of the SCL is presented in detail in the documents called 2015 Activity Report and 2016 Activity Summary Report . According to this official information, the rates of non-compliance on goods picked up by Customs (excluding prohibited products) were: 24.5% in 2012; 27.7% in 2013; 31.8% in 2014; 29.1% in 2015; 32.5 in 2016. Each year, this represents approximately 5000 declarations recognized as non-compliant by the SCL laboratories, mainly false claims of tariff species, giving rise to litigation.


SCL's laboratories are part of the Customs Laboratories European Network (CLEN), a European network of customs laboratories (formerly the European Customs Laboratories Group created in 199). CLEN is the structure that coordinates at European level the 80 customs laboratories consulted by the customs administrations of the 23 Member States of the European Union. This European body has programmed six coordination actions: database of methods, validation of methods, quality, documentation and strategy, scientific expertise, inventory of products. The working group " Action 2 - Inter-comparisons and method validations" is led by French laboratories (SCL). Action 5 relating to scientific expertise, created in 2009, aims essentially to develop the competence of European customs laboratories in the identification of tobacco and animal and plant species by biological means (DNA analysis in particular).


Remedies against a customs dispute

Recourse to the Conciliation and Customs Expertise Commission (CCED) in the event of a dispute over the tariff type, origin and value, was deleted by Article 88 of the Law of 29 December 2016.

If the declarant considers that he is right at the moment of the immediate control (or "ex-post" control by the investigative services), he may refuse the statement of offense, or send a statement in defense to the regional directorate concerned in response to his registered mail stating that he intends to give a contentious result to the offense and giving him a period of 30 days to present his defense.


Lastly, he has three years to appeal to the courts if the customs authorities send him a notice of assessment (AMR) of the duties and taxes payable for the three years prior to the statement of offense.


 Albert Castel's service offer



The declarant concerned may be assisted by a private expert, who is able both to explain the nature and use of the goods by scientific and technical considerations and to interpret the rules of the combined nomenclature, especially as the recourse to the Conciliation and Customs Expert Commission has been abolished. This is particularly necessary when a customs laboratory (SCL) has been seized to give an opinion on the tariff classification of the disputed goods; because, according to the French case law, this expertise of the SCL does not constitute a means of proof because of its unilateral (non contradictory) character,


This business support service is offered by Albert Castel, former SCL laboratory director and independent consultant for eight years, not only in the case of imports of goods in France, but also in all countries of the European Union. they have the same nomenclature (Combined Nomenclature of the Common Customs Tariff).


This service is also offered to all companies in other countries as the tariff classification rules are common to all countries adhering to the Harmonized System Convention. In this case, Albert Castel's expert report justifies and indicates, not only the sub-heading of the harmonized system (6-digit code), but also the national sub-heading of the country concerned (8-digit code or above), which he finds in the European Commission's Market Access Database. This expert is thus able to indicate the tariff classification specific to each country (Canada, India, Japan, etc.) for a commodity whose nature and use he has endeavored to describe.


Page updated in April 2018 



© Albert Castel April 2010 - All rights reserved