European Brand Trading Ltd v HM Revenue and Customs: CA 16 Feb 2016

‘Where excise duty should have been paid on imported goods, but has not been, those goods are liable to forfeiture under the Customs and Excise Management Act 1979 (‘the 1979 Act’). Where goods are liable to forfeiture HMRC has power to seize or detain them. Once goods have been seized or detained, the owner of the goods has one month to challenge the seizure on the ground that the goods seized are not liable to forfeiture. If no challenge is made then at the end of the month the goods are deemed to have been duly condemned as forfeited. If a challenge is made in time, then HMRC must take proceedings for condemnation in the magistrates’ court or the High Court. If the court finds that the goods were liable to forfeiture it must condemn them to be forfeited. Running alongside these provisions HMRC has a discretionary power to restore to the owner anything ‘forfeited or seized’ under the provisions of the 1979 Act. Where HMRC have decided not to restore the owner of the goods can ask for a review of the decision under the Finance Act 1994 (‘the 1994 Act’) and, if dissatisfied with the review appeal to the First Tier Tribunal (‘the FTT’).
The question on this appeal is whether after goods (a) are deemed to have been duly condemned or (b) have been condemned by the magistrates, an officer of HMRC exercising that discretionary power can or should investigate a claim that the goods were not liable to forfeiture after all. ‘

Sir Terence Etherton Ch, Lewison, Ryder LJJ
[2016] EWCA Civ 90
England and Wales

Customs and Excise

Updated: 10 January 2022; Ref: scu.559986