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Customs litigation in Italy

Appeal against assessment of duties, seizure of goods, fines

How to recover undue duties and taxes paid to customs authority in Italy

The customs litigation in Italy concerns duties and taxes and all mandatory services performed by the customs authorities as per the Testo Unico delle Leggi Doganali, so called TULD (the code of customs laws in Italy).


The features ruled by this law are: import export of goods, transit of goods, counterfeiting, labeling, geographical indications of goods.  


The customs litigation usually starts following:

  • inspections made by the customs authority in order to ascertain the due duties or following the appeal against that inspection

  • infringement of customs and tax laws which originate criminal and administrative penalties

  • infringement of consumers rights.


The competent court for customs litigation could be:

  • tax courts

  • criminal courts

  • civil courts

  • administrative courts

it depends on the kind of infringed law.

The customs litigation starts after the issuance of an verbal’s infringement drafted by a customs officer who made a customs inspection; the inspected subject could submit his defensive claim within 60 days after notice of it; if the claim is rejected could start the assessment phase which includes the request of payment of a fine; this assessment can be claimed before the competent provincial tax court within 60 days since the notice. When the final decision is issued, there is a term of 10 days to pay the fine, otherwise it will be enrolled at enforced payment procedure.


As an alternative, the inspected subject, within 30 days since the notice of the warning of inspection, could submit a claim as per art. 66 of the TULD.


As per art. 22 D.lgs. 374/90 when the customs assessment is final it will be possible to appeal it before trax or administrative courts within 60 days.


Penalty with immediate effect


In some exceptional cases the customs office could issue a penalty with immediate effect if there has been an infringement of payment of duties; in these cases it could be possible to pay a quarter of the amount stated in the assessment if the payment will be made within 60 days instead of starting the claim.


The customs authority could suspend the assessment and will ask to the debtor to give a guarantee; the suspension of the assessment could be requested also to the tax court as per art. 47, D.lgs. 546/92.


The substantial customs claim


The substantial customs claim in Italy occurs when the customs authority has any doubts on the contents of the customs declaration, i.e.: quality of declared goods, quantity, origin of the goods, price.


As per articles 8-9 of TULD when the customs office controls the customs declaration and the relevant documents I checks: value, origin, quality and quantity and all other features fit for stating the due duty; the customs office print the declaration, sign and date it, confirm or modify the amount of duty declared by the registrant.


The taxpayer has to pay the interests for late payments of assessed duties as per art. 86 of TULD; the duty assessment is stated in import manifest is subject  to prescription.


Claims during assessment phase


The owner of the goods assessed by Italian customs authority could claim the objections of the customs concerning the origin, quality and quantity of the goods as per art. 65 of TULD and following articles, so that the owner can ask:


  • for another inspection of the goods (so called “visita di controllo”)

  • two surveyors to issue a report on goods which is not binding for customs authority.


The final decision issued by the customs officer can be claimed within 10 days since the notice of the assessment.


As an alternative, the owner of goods could ask to the customs authority to take any sample of goods and send them to the laboratory of chemical analysis, this can be done when it is not possible to determine the characteristics of the goods; so that, if the result of the analysis:

  • is not accepted by the owner of the goods, he can appeal it within 30 days since the notice of it

  • is not appealed, the result is considered as accepted, so that the only possibility will be to claim the customs declaration before the tax court.


Minutes of proceedings


The minutes of the dispute is the formal beginning of the customs litigation; the claimant can submit claim to the competent Regional Director of Customs Authority within 30 days; the decision will be taken within 40 days; this decision could be appealed only for defects concerning the reasoning or any lack during inspection.


Reviewing the assessment


The inspection, once final, can be subject to review within three years, either at the request of the claimant or of the customs authority. This can take place either in the case goods are available to the operator or in the case they have been cleared.


During the proceedings are acquired: data and information, all documents relating to the importation and exportation of the goods, costs of insurance, transportation, storage and everything composing the value of the goods for customs operations (such as: VAT, export, import, storage, transit).



The money penalties varies from a minimum of € 5.000 to a maximum of € 10.000 in the case of non-compliance to the requirements of the said information and/or documents; other penalties concern suspension or revocation of licenses and rights granted to different operators.


Decision of the customs authority

If the data provided during the proceedings were inaccurate or incomplete it will be stated the payment of a sum corresponding to the new amount actually due.

If conditions such as quantity, quality, origin and value of the goods are put in doubt, will be issued a supplementary notice of assessment and rectification.

Against this decision could be submitted an appeal before the tax commission, but also before the General Director of Customs Authority. 

Seizure of goods at customs warehouse

Court prosecutor doing criminal investigations and or Customs Authority (Agenzia Dogane) could decide to seizure the goods imported and stored at customs premises or, at least, order the destruction of these goods: we give assistance for submit appeal aginst these decisions in front of the competent authority.

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