Are Euro-car plates allowed after new decision of Ukraine's Supreme Court?

Author : Olena Holubeva

Source : 112 Ukraine

The new regulation on the cancelation of fines for the owners of the cars with EU license plates does not relieve them from the execution of demands of the customs legislation
17:20, 26 October 2018

The regulation of the Supreme Court of Ukraine on the cancelation of fines for the owners of cars with European registration does not relieve them from the execution of the demands of the customs legislation. Some owners of the cars with European license plates hurried to celebrate the victory. However, in fact, now the customs will just fine Ukrainians under another article

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The service recognized that on October 1, 2018, the Supreme Court decided that the use of the car imported in the 'transit' customs regime and which customs registration is not finished is not an offense and punished with a fine. The court came to this conclusion, having reviewed the lawsuit to cancel the decision, which was found guilty of violating customs rules and fined 500 non-taxable minimum incomes for a total of 300 USD, the court’s press service said.

Related: Ukraine's Supreme Court admits use of EU license plates cars imported in transit regime as legal

The plaintiff was the owner of the car with the registration number of Estonia, which was not removed from the registration system there and imported to Ukraine on the basis of a customs declaration for the purpose of transit. At the court hearing, he confessed that he had imported a vehicle for a long-term use and claimed the 'transit' regime to avoid the need for the customs clearance and payment of appropriate payments.

Related: Decision of Ukraine’s Supreme Court does not legitimize EU license plate cars, - Fiscal Service

As it is known, some residents of Ukraine prefer importing of cars with foreign license plates in the transit mode. This is one of the frequently used schemes for the import of cars with foreign license plates. The scheme allows avoiding customs clearance procedures and, accordingly, paying of all statutory payments.

European license plates are very popular in Ukraine. According to the State Fiscal Service, as of January 31, 2018, there were 425.4 thousand vehicles of such kind across the country, 246.4 thousand of which were illegal. By August, the number of imported cars with European license plates had grown to 682,000 cars, said Oleg Nazarenko, All-Ukrainian Association of Automobile Importers and Dealers CEO. The cars are imported mainly from Poland, Lithuania, Germany, Bulgaria, and the Czech Republic.

Customs may penalize motorists for violation of transit terms. In case of exceeding the established transit period for a period of not more than a day, a penalty in the amount of six U.S. dollars, a fine for more than 24 hours but no more than for 10 days is 120 USD, an excess of more than 10 days provides for 303 USD. These fines are provided for by the 470 Article of the Customs Code, but in addition to it, the 485 Article can also be applied, which means even more serious fines - up to USD 3,500.

Related: Large-scale car accident in Kyiv, 17 cars damaged, one person injured

Taking into account the current decision of the Supreme Court, in case of violation of transit terms, the customs can apply only the sanctions provided for in Article 470 of the Customs Code (non-delivery of goods, commercial vehicles and documents to the customs authority of destination), not Article 469 ('Illegal operations with goods, customs clearance of which is not finished, or with goods that are in temporary storage under customs control,' said Olexandr Chernoya, AutoEuroSyla public organization co-founder. 'If you have overdue the allowed period, you can pay a fine and continue to drive freely,' he added.

This information was also confirmed by the press service of the State Fiscal Service: 'The decision of the court cannot be grounds for exemption from liability for violation of the transit deadlines, provided for by Article 470 of Ukraine’s Customs Code.'

However, the whole point for the owners of the European cars is not that 'lucky' person will not pay the fine now, but that by and large, this verdict does not change anything. Article 470 will be applied, and for special cases, tax officials will be charged with Article 485 of the Customs Code ('Actions aimed at unlawful exemption from customs payments or reduction of their size, as well as other illegal actions aimed at evading customs payments'), providing higher penalties (up to 3,5 thousand USD).

Related: Policeman runs over bicyclist, driving car of chief of regional police

'In the case of establishing the fact of using a car imported in the 'transit' mode, there is every reason to consider it as evidence of an offense provided for in Article 485 of the Customs Code and to draw up a protocol on violation of customs regulations,' the SFS press service said.

Indeed, customs service can apply Article 485 to fine owners of the cars with European license number who have violated the transit time, Denys Fetisov, lawyer, partner of the Berylstone Mentoring Group, confirmed: 'Maximum fine under article 469 is 300 USD, while the 485th article provides for up to 3,5 thousand USD'.

The recent decision of the Supreme Court could not be called a victory for the owners of the cars with European license number, Fetisov assures: 'It was even more profitable for them to pay a fine of 300 USD under the Art. 469 than to be subjected to the more expensive sanction provided for by the Art. 485.'

The only problem is that the authorities do not have the strong political will to massively start fining the car owners of the European license plates and breaking the scheme for importing cars on transit. 'To date, there is no political will to resolve the issue. The police are obliged to stop the cars with European license plates for violating traffic rules. Article 29 of which stipulates that the car with the foreign registration, even if it is imported by a foreigner, after 60 days being imported into Ukraine, must be registered with the service center of the Ministry of Internal Affairs. This does not happen, but the police do not stop cars and do not check whether a violation has been committed,' Oleg Nazarenko, head of the All-Ukrainian Association of Automobile Importers and Dealers, claims.

Related: Protests of EU license plates car owners: Police detain one activist

He notes that, formally, customs officers do not have the right to write protocols on violations outside the customs posts zone. 'All the recent cases of detentions of 'European car plates' took place either the police detain the car as a result of the incident and transmit the data to the customs, or there were many cases when the customs officers took a cab, and it was 'European car plates,' the All-Ukrainian Association of Automobile Importers and Dealers CEO said. He clarified that for this purpose, the Chernihiv customs service has organized one of the posts directly on the highway.

The bills, which should have streamlined the situation with the 'European car plates' remain mired in stagnation in the Verkhovna Rada, Nazarenko says. As is known, a bill has been registered in parliament providing for a reduction in the size of excise taxes on imported cars. The excise tax for a new car with an engine capacity of 1600 cubic meters is 427 euros, a car not older than five years - 2,629 euros, over five years - 3,906 euros. They are proposed to be reduced to 150, 300, and 750 euros. The document also provides for the lifting of the ban on customs clearance of cars that do not meet the Euro-5 eco-standard and strengthening control over the movement and use of vehicles registered in other states.

Another bill registered in Verkhovna Rada describes the mechanism of interaction between customs officers, police officers, and border guards, the creation of an automated information exchange system. According to it, the National Police will receive the right to check the car with European license plate, as well as the opportunity to issue high fines to those who drive a car that has not been cleared. In addition to the current fine of 300 USD for violation of a period of more than 10 days, it is proposed to introduce a penalty for violation of a term from 20 to 30 days - USD 3,000, more than 30 days - USD 6,000 or confiscation of the car by the court decision. It is proposed to establish the penalty for violation of the vehicle's temporary stay in the temporary admission mode at the level of 600 USD in case of 10-20 days expiry,USD 3,000 – for 30 days, USD 6,000 or confiscation for more than a month.

Related: The law on Euro-plates: The rules of the game

As soon as a bill of MP Nina Yuzhanina was adopted in the first reading (it provides for a reduction the excise taxes on imported cars), 154 amendments were made. Oleg Nazarenko noted: 'Most of the edits were made by MPs from the faction that did not vote for it.' The only purpose of making these amendments is to block the bill, the All-Ukrainian Association of Automobile Importers and Dealers CEO stressed: 'All amendments should be considered in the session hall, where they are represented by their authors. It’s clear that before leaving for the New Year holidays, MPs will not have time to vote for the bill in second reading.'

Adoption of bills would destroy something more than a large-scale business. 'Services for the importation of a car with European license plates cost from 900 to 1,500 Euros. This service involves de-registration the car from the previous EU owner, registering with an Estonian, Lithuanian or Polish company, importing into Ukraine using 'temporary import' mode. Let us multiply 1 million imported cars by 1.5 thousand euros - no less than 1.5 billion euros, which go to the pockets of those who make business on the European car plates. This business is covered by corrupt customs officers, law enforcers,' Nazarenko assures.

All-Ukrainian Association of Automobile Importers and Dealers CEO said that 'the media hype around the Supreme Court’s decision was ordered to deceive the Ukrainians. People who do not understand that this does not provide any excuse from liability, and some even have already carried their money to firms, specializing in importing cars with the European license plates, hoping that 'everything will be fine, after all, allegedly, the Supreme Court has allowed it.'

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