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Customs clamp down on luxury cars

IN THE first six months of the year, the Direcção-Geral das Alfândegas e dos Impostos Especiais sobre o Consumo (DGAIEC), Portugal’s Customs and Excise Authority, impounded 461 cars that had been brought into the country without their owners paying the necessary customs duties. The vast majority of the cars impounded were luxury models.

The difference in price between luxury and sports cars sold in Portugal and those sold in other European Union countries is so great that it is tempting customers to buy their dream cars abroad. For example, if a buyer goes to Germany and purchases a high cylinder capacity vehicle, he or she could, in some cases, make a saving of 35,000 euros. The problem is that once the car is driven back to Portugal, it is subject to the government’s Imposto Automóvel (IA), car tax, which can be thousands of euros, making the saving of the initial purchase obsolete.

The DGAIEC says that the number of people caught doing this, and therefore having their car impounded, is increasing year by year. In 2004, 726 vehicle owners purchased their new car abroad and drove into Portugal avoiding taxation. Last year, that figure rose to 1,034 and, in the first six months of this year, 461 were caught.

“In the vast majority of cases, owners pay up and retrieve their vehicles from the pound, but a few do slip through the net and the state loses out,” claimed a source at the Ministry of Finances. “You need to be very careful about what model of vehicle you buy abroad, especially in the large second-hand car sales auctions in Stuttgart, where scrap cars with serious defects are sold as new, top-of-the-range vehicles.”

Any vehicle purchased abroad can only be legally driven in Portugal for four working days. After this, the owner must go to the customs office in the area where he or she lives and ask for the vehicle to be made legal.

The owner must present the following documents:

• Declaração aduaneira de veículo, vehicle custom’s declaration.

• Compra da factura original, purchase receipt.

• Número de contribuinte, owner’s fiscal card.

• Livrete, car log book.

• Título de registo de propriedade, owner registration document.

• Certificado de inspecção técnica, inspection certificate.

• Documento comprovativo da mediação efectiva de emissões de CO2, document proving the car’s CO2 emissions are within the legal limits.

After having requested the legalisation of the vehicle, the owner then has 45 days in which to pay the corresponding tax, which is calculated on the model, age, cylinder capacity and emissions of the vehicle.

This article makes legal reference solely to cars purchased in EU countries and driven directly into Portugal. Different legal rules apply to pre-owned EU cars driven into Portugal.

• For more information, ring the DGAIEC on 218 813 818.