Key terms:

Alcohol brought by private individuals from other EU Member States to Finland – Carrying goods personally; acceptable practices when arriving in Finland by ship

Validity
In force until further notice

1. Tax exemption of goods brought to Finland by private individuals

According to Article 32 paragraph 1 of Council Directive 2008/118/EC concerning the general arrangements for excise duty, excise duty on excise goods acquired by a private individual for his own use, and transported from one Member State to another by him, shall be charged only in the Member State in which the excise goods are acquired. According to section 72 subsection 1 of the Finnish Act on Excise Duty (182/2010), excise duty is not collected for products which are released for consumption in another Member State and which private individuals obtain for personal use and personally bring to Finland.

2. Bringing goods in personally

Goods being brought to Finland must be in the possession of the passenger in the territory of the other Member State or during the ship’s return voyage prior to its arrival in the territorial waters of Finland. It does not matter how the goods being brought have been acquired (e.g. through pre-order, in an onboard shop or in another Member State, etc.).

Foot passengers must personally carry or transfer their goods to land when they leave the ship.

If the goods being brought by a passenger have been packed inside a vehicle (passenger car, van, bus, etc.) in the territory of the other Member State or during the return voyage before the ship arrives in Finland’s territorial waters, the passenger must be inside the vehicle as it leaves the ship for land.

If the goods have been packed inside a vehicle that exits the ship, but the passenger leaves the ship in some other way than inside the vehicle, the passenger will be regarded as a foot passenger as concerns the goods he/she brings, which means that the passenger is not regarded as personally bringing the goods to land.

3. Distance sale and acquisitions by private individuals

According to Article 36 paragraph 1 of the Council Directive on general arrangements for excise duties, excise goods already released for consumption in one Member State, which are purchased by a person, other than an authorised warehousekeeper or a registered consignee, established in another Member State who does not carry out an independent economic activity, and which are dispatched or transported to another Member State directly or indirectly by the vendor or on his behalf shall be subject to excise duty in the Member State of destination. According to paragraph 3 of the said Article, the person liable to pay the excise duty in the Member State of destination shall be the vendor. According to section 79 of the Finnish Act on Excise Duty, excise duty is levied in Finland for distance sale products, and the vendor is liable to pay the duty.

If a private individual arriving in Finland has purchased excise goods in another Member State which are to be handed over to the private individual in question in Finland or on board a ship during its return voyage in Finland’s territorial waters, the private individual is not regarded as having carried the goods personally from the other Member State to Finland. An example of such a situation is when a shipping company releases goods ordered and paid for in advance, i.e. pre-order goods, to the passenger in the territory of Finland after the return voyage, for example in a harbour.

If a private individual acquires excise products in another Member State for personal use, but does not personally carry them to Finland and the transport is seen to by another private individual or a professional entrepreneur, these circumstances involve an acquisition by a private individual as provided for in section 74 of the Finnish Act on Excise Duty. The parties liable to pay taxes for such acquisitions are the private individual who acquired the products, the person who possesses the products in Finland and the transporter of the products. An example of such a situation is when a bus company or another holder of a vehicle transports products ordered by a passenger from another Member State to Finland, and hands them over to the passenger in the territory of Finland so that the passenger is not inside the vehicle when it exits the ship for land. Furthermore, the passenger is to comply with the formalities provided for in section 74 subsection 3 of the Finnish Act on Excise Duty (advance declaration, guarantee).

4. Detention of goods

According to section 103 of the Finnish Act on Excise Duty, customs authorities have the right to detain excise products if there is any ambiguity about, for example, the liability to pay taxes, taxability, application of excise regulations or the purpose of import, or if there is some other substantiated reason for detaining the goods.

5. Safekeeping of imports and passenger goods of private individuals during voyages

If a passenger is bringing goods acquired in another Member State on board a ship, or is given goods meant to be brought to Finland prior to the arrival of the ship on the territorial waters of Finland, the shipping company can arrange, for the duration of the return voyage, a space on board the ship where the passenger can temporarily store the goods without physically possessing them for the entire duration of the return voyage.

Even if the passenger has handed over goods acquired in another Member State, or acquired on board a ship during its return voyage and prior to its arrival in the territorial waters of Finland, to the shipping company or some other professional entrepreneur for transport as passenger goods to Finland, the products in question can be considered as being brought to Finland by a private individual as they are brought from the ship to land, provided that the products are meant for the personal use of the passenger, and that the passenger personally brings the products from the ship to land as provided for in chapters 2 and 6. Otherwise, the matter involves either long-distance sale or acquisitions by a private individual for which excise duties are to be paid in Finland.

6. Assistance in carrying or moving goods

Foot passengers can accept assistance for carrying or moving the goods they bring, and for carrying or moving luggage when they are to be taken from the ship to land. Assistance in carrying or moving goods can be given by a person employed by the shipping company or harbour or, in individual cases, by some other person, for example another passenger. In order for the assistance in carrying or moving goods from a ship to be acceptable, the goods are to be brought from the ship to land along the same route as used by the passenger, and at the same time when the passenger leaves the ship for land. Assistance in carrying or moving goods can be provided in return for compensation.