CJEU Judgment on documents proving that goods have been exported

ROMANIA - CJEU Judgment on documents proving that goods have been exported

March 2019

On 8 November 2018 the Court of Justice of the European Union (CJEU) handed down its judgment in Cartrans Spedition Srl (Case C‑495/17), which considered the evidence necessary to prove entitlement to the VAT exemption for transport services directly linked to the export of goods.

Cartrans, a road transport services broker with its headquarters in Romania, supplied services consisting of transporting goods from Romania to several non-EU countries. During an audit, the Romanian fiscal authorities refused Cartrans the VAT exemption on its road transport services on the basis that the documents presented were not enough to attest to the fact that the goods transported had actually been exported from Romania.

According to the fiscal inspection report, the authorities refused the VAT exemption because the company could not present customs export declarations showing the effective export of the goods in question. As proof that the good were exported, Cartrans presented TIR Carnets (documents issued under the Convention on International Transport of Goods Under Cover) and CMR consignment notes (documents issued under the Convention Relative au Contrat de Transport International de Marchandises par la Route) certified by customs officials in the countries of destination.

The fiscal authorities were of the view that the transport services are not VAT exempt services because, though the documents presented by Cartrans prove the supply of services on a route outside EU, they do not prove that the goods have been exported from Romania. To prove export, based upon the fiscal legislation in force, Cartrans would have to present the customs export declarations. 

The Romanian Court disagreed with the fiscal authorities. The Romanian Court was of the view that the Romanian legislation does not specify the type of document needed to prove export of the transported goods. As a result, the case was presented to the CJEU.

The CJEU was asked for a preliminary ruling on the following questions:

  • Is a TIR Carnet certified by the customs authorities in the state of destination sufficient to demonstrate the export of the transported goods for application of the VAT exemption with respect to the transport of exported goods?
  • Does art. 153 of the VAT Directive preclude the fiscal authorities from requiring a taxpayer to prove the export of transported goods solely by providing a customs export declaration? In other words, can the fiscal authorities deny a VAT exemption for transport services in respect of goods exported if the transport company does not provide a customs export declaration, regardless of whether it provides TIR Carnet certified by the customs authorities of the country of destination?

The CJEU ruled as follows:

Application of the VAT Directive precludes a Member State from requiring under its domestic legislation that a taxable person present the customs declaration of export in order to qualify for a VAT exemption on:

  • The supply of transport services directly related to the export of goods, and
  • The supply of services rendered by intermediaries involved in such transport services.

For this purpose, to allow a VAT exemption, the fiscal authorities are obliged to consider whether the available proof is sufficiently trustworthy to deduce that the condition of export has been satisfied. With this in mind, the CJEU was of the view that the taxable person’s presentation of a TIR Carnet certified by the customs authority of the country of destination should be, in principle, sufficient, unless the authorities have specific reason to doubt the authenticity or reliability of the document.  

Dan Bărăscu 
[email protected]

Vlad Mădăras
[email protected]