Dáil debates

Wednesday, 31 March 2021

Post-European Council Meeting: Statements


3:45 pm

Photo of Joe FlahertyJoe Flaherty (Longford-Westmeath, Fianna Fail) | Oireachtas source

The House will be aware there are a large number of small and family-run car dealership businesses in a state of turmoil post Brexit given the interpretation of the Union customs code regarding returned goods relief. There are a number of these businesses in County Longford, and they include the family-run Clonfin Car Sales in Ballinalee. This business has extensively researched the issue and clearly set out a number of anomalies in the current Revenue interpretation of the legislation. That Revenue interpretation states:

Under UCC (Art 203) goods can be exported from the EU to a 3rd country and re-imported into the EU without payment of Customs Duty .... The goods must have been originally exported from the EU, must not have been altered and must be re-imported within three years of export from the EU.

The Revenue Commissioners’ interpretation of the article continues: "When a motor vehicle was originally moved from the EU to the UK before the end of the transition period and is imported to the EU within three years of the original movement to the UK, the vehicle can be imported to the EU under the provisions of returned goods relief." However, a further interpretation from the Revenue states that the original date of the export of the vehicle to the UK is the date it employs to set the clock in motion for the three-year rule. Unfortunately, this erroneously fails to acknowledge or recognise that, prior to 31 December, the UK was, in fact, a member of the EU, and the vehicle in question was exported from an EU country, that is, Germany, to another EU country, as the UK then was, although it subsequently became a non-member state of the EU after 31 December. Therefore, if the clock is to be started, surely it must be started when the conditions of the article are complied with, namely, when the vehicle is exported to a third country.

I know that is all very technical and legalistic but vehicles exported from the EU to the UK prior to 31 December have been exported to a member state and, as such, no third-country status applies. The erroneous application of the article must be addressed. I have passed on details of the case to the Minister's office and I have also corresponded with the Ministers, Deputies Michael McGrath and Donohoe, as well as with the Chairman of the Revenue Commissioners. It would appear Revenue is retrospectively classifying the UK as a third country for the purposes of the Union customs code but it seems there is, in fact, no authority within Article 203 to provide for this retrospective application of the legislation.

I believe it is critical for those businesses I mentioned that this matter is reviewed. The survival of small family-run businesses such as Clonfin Car Sales is in grave danger given the current interpretation of the article, which is weighted in favour of vehicles registered since January 2018, when, ordinarily, the purchase of these vehicles is beyond the financial capacity of many of our citizens.


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