ECJ Case C-495/17 (Cartrans Spedition) – Judgment- Proof that goods were exported

Judgment of the European Court of Justice (ECJ) on 8 November 2018 in Case C‑495/17 (Cartrans Spedition Srl) regarding the evidence that is necessary to prove the VAT zero-rate on export supplies.

Simplified facts:

  • Cartrans Spedition SRL (‘Cartrans’), a road transport services broker, the head office of which is located in Romania, supplied services relating to the transport of goods to several non-EU countries.
  • The Romanian tax authorities performed a VAT audit and concluded that Cartrans had failed to demonstrate that the goods transported had in fact been exported, as Cartrans had not produced any of the following documents: a contract of carriage drawn up with the beneficiary of the service, specific documents of carriage and documents showing that the goods transported were exported, in accordance with national rules. Cartrans had merely demonstrated that it had supplied certain transport services abroad to exporters.
  • Cartrans challenged that assessment. In support of its request for exemption from VAT it produced TIR carnets and CMR consignment notes certified by customs officials of the countries to which Cartrans had transported the goods. Cartrans claimed that the TIR carnets contained references to both the goods transported and the certifications by the customs authorities concerning the export of the goods to the respective countries and that the TIR carnet clearly therefore had evidential value, since it was the document certifying customs transit from a customs office of departure to a customs office of destination.
  • The Romanian court considers that an interpretation of the provisions of the VAT Directive concerning exemptions on export and for the supply of services by intermediaries is necessary in order to resolve the main proceedings. It has therefore referred the following questions to the Court for a preliminary ruling:
    • Does a TIR carnet certified by the customs authorities of the country of destination constitute a document which proves that the goods transported were indeed exported?
    • Is an EU Member State allowed to have a tax practice which requires a taxpayer to prove that goods transported were exported exclusively by means of a customs export declaration, with the result that the right to deduct VAT for transport services in respect of goods exported will be refused in the absence of that declaration, even if a TIR carnet certified by the customs authorities of the country of destination exists?


The ECJ ruled as follows:

A Member State is not allowed to have a tax practice under which the exemption from value added tax for transport services directly linked to exports of goods and for services rendered by intermediaries involved in these transport services, is subject to the production by the person liable for the customs declaration of export of the goods concerned.

In this respect, it is for the competent authorities, for the purpose of granting such exemptions, to examine whether the fulfillment of the condition relating to the export of the goods concerned can be deduced with a sufficiently high degree of elements which these authorities are able to dispose of.

In this context, a TIR Carnet endorsed by the customs of the third country of destination of the goods produced by the person liable for payment constitutes an element which in principle falls upon those authorities to take due account, unless the latter have reasons to doubt the authenticity or reliability of this document.

Source: Curia

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