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On January 23, 2018, the Official Gazette of the Spanish State published the decision of the Spanish Tax Agency (AEAT) approving the general guidelines of the 2018 Tax and Customs Control Plan (PCTA 2018). These are the aspects to be highlighted that strictly concern customs:

AEAT determined that the customs one-stop shop will be consolidated in 2018, together with the system of the pre single administrative document (SAD)—customs declarations before goods arrive—, all of which are mechanisms included in the measures “to prevent and control customs fraud.” These customs declaration mechanisms are designed to facilitate and simplify the international goods traffic, promoting operators’ activities, while also being used as fraud prevention and control mechanisms.

With regard to customs area control, in general terms the new PCTA 2018 does not present substantial differences to the guidelines established in previous years: control of the products stored in customs bonded warehouses or warehouses operated by private enterprises; checking and re-assessment of (i) the authorized economic operator (OEA) conditions, (ii) the authorizations, and (iii) simplified procedures; and post-import controls.

However, there is a guideline that stands out in the new PCTA 2018 regarding “special monitoring of conspicuously undervalued customs declarations.” This acquires special importance if we consider the most recent case law of the Court of Justice of the European Union concerning the powers of customs authorities to review particularly undervalued declarations—even if the parties involved are not connected—and the controversial powers to review these customs values if a connection does exist and transfer pricing adjustments are involved.

In relation to the actions that focus on preventing fraud in international trade, especially in the case of a commercial transfer chain being hidden in whole or in part, the guideline continues with specific actions to “control declared customs values” and “investigate distribution activities,” although the import has been carried out in other Member States. In this respect, the new development is that it is expected there will be “an active participation in initiatives that the Commission may promote for a coordinated action between Member States.”

The last guideline to consider, which is much more relevant than it may seem, is in section four: “Prevention and suppression of smuggling, drug trafficking and money laundering,” in which “risk analysis and investigative actions will be boosted relating to […] the illicit trafficking of harmful, banned or restricted products; toxic and hazardous waste; arms; defense and dual-use material, etc.” This appeared previously within the exclusive sphere of customs control, but makes total sense here, and is a declaration of intent by AEAT that these protection measures not only depend on the supervisory body, but also, and in greater measure, on the object of protection.

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