Import VAT Recovery of a customs debt

The Information Paper (97) 56 sets out the rules which apply for import VAT purposes. The principle of Direct and Indirect Representation also applies. As a consequence a Direct Representative makes a Customs declaration in another's name on the person's behalf. The person on whose behalf the declaration is made is the declarant and the debtor and the only person who will be pursued for import VAT debts. Conversely an Indirect Representative makes a declaration in his own name, but on behalf of a principal (the importer). An Indirect Representative should bear in mind that acting in that capacity may carry commercial risks as he and his principal are jointly and severally liable for any import VAT debt.

For Customs duty purposes the person entitled to repayment is the person who paid the duties as a customs debtor to satisfy the customs debt. For import VAT purposes, however, repayment will only be made in accordance with section 80 of the VAT Act 1994. That section provides that subject to the defence of unjust enrichment repayment is liable to be made to the person who paid an amount to the Commissioners which was not VAT due. In this context an agent would be unjustly enriched if the money being claimed had already been paid to him by an importer, or the importer had promised to pay him, but had not yet done so.

Every payment is by cash or cash equivalent, such as a bank draft, the person who tended the monies or presented the bank draft may claim repayment of the amount overpaid. If payment is made be a FAS, or deferment account, the owner of the account is the person entitled to repayment. More detailed information is available in Paper (97) 56.

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