Four year legislation battle brings little customs change

It has become an expensive prospect for foreigners to move to Slovakia with their personal property since the new Customs Law took effect in July.
The law requires a foreigner to pay a deposit to the bank or the customs office if the value of the personal belongings moved to Slovakia exceeds Sk40,000 ($828).
The new Customs Law has been criticised by the representatives of moving companies in Slovakia, who say the law is not entirely compatible with European Union rules.

It has become an expensive prospect for foreigners to move to Slovakia with their personal property since the new Customs Law took effect in July.

The law requires a foreigner to pay a deposit to the bank or the customs office if the value of the personal belongings moved to Slovakia exceeds Sk40,000 ($828).

The new Customs Law has been criticised by the representatives of moving companies in Slovakia, who say the law is not entirely compatible with European Union rules.

"The four-year effort to bring Slovak customs legislation into line with that of the EU has brought little change, and in some cases even made things worse for us," said Peter Pančík, country manager of the AGS international moving and storage firm.

The previous customs law did not require foreigners to provide a deposit when moving property to Slovakia if they had all necessary documents arranged. However, the new law levies the extra charge even when the documents are in order.

The money may be kept as a deposit on the foreigner's bank account or in the customs office from two to ten years. The value of the deposit may reach up to 50% of the total value of the property, depending on the kind of belongings moved to Slovakia.

Pančík said: "Almost 95% of the personal belongings per client we move to Slovakia from abroad are worth between Sk100,000 and Sk1 million [$2,100 to $21,000] so it's far above the Sk40,000 deposit-free maximum set by the new law."

He added: "Before the law came into force, 50% of our clients had all the necessary documents before they brought their property to Slovakia, so they didn't need to make any bank or customs deposit.

"This rule does not apply even in EU countries, for all that the legislation intended to being the Slovak Customs Law closer to that of the EU."

However, government officials have argued the law was a literal translation of EU laws.

Dagmar Moravčíková, the head of the customs department at the Finance Ministry said: "This is purely an approximation of the Slovak Customs Law with that of the EU."

Silvia Balázsiková, the spokesperson for the Customs Directorate, explained that EU countries did not require a bank or customs deposit if the foreigner was a national from an EU member country.

"But if he was not an EU citizen they would require him to do the same as we do. The reason we have this law is because we are still not an EU member."

Pančík countered: "We have moved Slovak clients to France, and they didn't have to pay any deposits."

Representatives of foreign firms who arrived in Slovakia after the law came into force, and who experienced the extra duty set by the legislation, said they had been surprised.

"At this time, many foreign managers and businessmen are coming to Slovakia to invest here and help the country. They want to bring their property here, but of course don't want to sell or make money on it. These corporate managers said they had never experienced that kind of requirement," said an employee of one of the largest foreign investors in Slovakia, who wished to remain anonymous.

"It made the arrival of our managers in Slovakia a bit complicated because it caught us unprepared," she added.

Many foreign investors already present in Slovakia say the law is full of ambiguities and confusing.

But Balázsiková said: "This law puts customs legislation on a more complex footing, making it possible for Slovakia to enter the EU with this legislation. It's also more practical."

Pančík, recalling an experience he had had with customs officials, said his firm had been troubled by confusion over what deposits had to be paid.

"We came to an officer at the customs directorate and asked for clarification on whether our clients had to pay deposits, and he replied that the law said they might. In fact, they don't have to.

"But when we came to the regional customs office, who do all the declarations, the official there responded to the same question by saying that although the law only said they might have to pay deposits, in fact they had to.

"This is not suitable."

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