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Requesting a Binding Tariff Indication (BTI)? Useful but not without risks!

Updated: Dec 23, 2022

As an importer of goods, you (possibly with the help of, for example, a customs lawyer) often find out for yourself which commodity code should be applied. As an importer, to prevent Customs from subsequently determining that an incorrect commodity code has been used, an importer can apply for a so-called "Binding Tariff Classification Decision" (hereinafter "BTI") from Customs. In the Netherlands, the BTI is requested online from Customs Breda, Binding Tariff Information Team. The application is submitted online via the EU Customs Trader Portal. To log in, the applicant must be in possession of e-recognition at reliability level EH3.

If a BTI is issued by Customs it is valid for three years. Three years after the date of issue the BTI automatically becomes invalid.

Conditions for applying for a BTI

An application for a BTI must meet the following conditions in order to be accepted:

  • the applicant holds an EORI number;

  • the application must be related to an intended use of the BTI or an intended use of a customs procedure;

  • the application contains all specific (product) information (brochures, leaflets, samples, physical description of goods, function, composition and properties) necessary to classify the goods in the nomenclatures and to describe them clearly.

Revoking / invalidating a BTI (risks)

Although a BTI can provide an importer of goods with the desired certainty about the classification of the goods, applying for and having a BTI is not without risks.

Initially, the applicant for a BTI must indicate under which commodity code he thinks the goods should be classified. However, Customs is ultimately the one who determines the final commodity code. Thus, an importer runs the risk that Customs may determine a different commodity code with a higher import tariff. Although an importer can object to this decision by Customs within six weeks, filing an objection has no suspensive effect and the importer is obliged to use the BTI pending the objection. And if the objection is not upheld, either court proceedings or acceptance of the commodity code with the higher import tariff remain.

Another risk faced by an importer lies in the fact that a BTI applies only to exactly the same goods as those transcribed in the BTI. Thus, if the goods are (slightly) different, the BTI cannot be invoked when importing the goods. Incidentally, only the holder of the BTI can also successfully invoke a BTI, so other importers cannot.

Furthermore, an importer runs the risk that the BTI will be declared invalid by Customs after it has been issued. For example, a BTI may be declared invalid if it no longer conforms to the applicable customs law (for example, due to a published classification regulation from the Commission or other international measures such as changes to classification item notes).

It may also happen that the Combined Nomenclature is changed or the European Court of Justice issues a ruling that conflicts with the BTI issued. This also applies to a ruling by the National Customs Chamber in the Netherlands. In such cases, Customs will declare the BTI invalid.

And even progressive insight at Customs may mean that Customs decides to revoke the BTI after all. In short, there is no certainty about the validity of the BTI after it has been issued.

Want to know more?

Do you have questions about (applying for) a BTI? Or do you disagree with a BTI issued by Customs? Feel free to contact one of our lawyers.

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