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Weaknesses in the setting of excise duties - Document no. 3:4 (2006-2007)

The accounts of enterprises that are liable to excise duties are to only a small extent adapted to the information requirements of the Customs and Excise Authorities. The information on the duties returns does not enable the authorities to check that the accounts agree with these forms. The customs regions are seeking access to previous decisions concerning such duties as well as calling for closer monitoring by the Directorate of Customs and Excise. Inadequate coordination concerning how the regulations should be understood can lead to inefficiency and to unequal treatment of the enterprises concerned.
Published 2/6/2007 4:31 PM

These are some of the main conclusions of The Office of the Auditor General’s investigation of the setting of excise duties, Document no. 3:4 (2006-2007) that was submitted to the Norwegian parliament (the Storting) on 9 January.

One of the main goals of the Customs and Excise Authorities is to ensure that the excise duties, i.e. indirect taxes imposed on certain goods and services, are correctly determined. Such duties include taxes on boat engines, beverages and beverage packaging, the consumer tax on electric power, and the non-recurring tax on motor vehicles. Excise duties contribute more than NOK 70 billion to the Treasury each year.

A large part of the revenues from excise duties is determined by declarations from the enterprises that are liable to such duties. The investigation reveals that a recurring problem is that the accounts of these enterprises are not organised in a manner that allows the scope of dutiable goods to be easily identified and checked. The information given on the returns provides no opportunity to check that the accounts of the enterprises are in accordance with their declaration of excise duties.

The investigation also shows that the Customs and Excise Authorities do not have an adequate overview of how questions concerning excise duties have been resolved in previous cases, and that the monitoring and guidance of the Directorate of Customs and Excise varies depending on the duty involved. For some duties the exercising of regulations is based on discretionary judgement. Settling such general issues on this matter by developing practices in the individual customs regions rather than by clarifying them centrally does not ensure a coordinated administration of the relevant regulations. It also reduces the Customs and Excise Directorate’s opportunity to identify the need for simplifying regulations.

Efficient control is a prerequisite for allowing the setting of excise duties to be based on declarations from the enterprises concerned. The Ministry of Finance will implement relevant measures to improve efficiency in this area of control.

The Ministry of Finance refers to the importance of a uniform understanding of the rules within the Customs and Excise Authorities, and draws attention to the fact that the possibility of simplifying the regulations and of providing even better information and guidance in the excise duties area should be continuously assessed.

The document in Norwegian can be downloaded from this website or ordered from Akademika booksellers, tel. +47 22 18 81 23.

The provision concerning delayed public access to documents that are compiled by or sent to the Office of the Auditor General in connection with Document no. 3:4 (2006-2007), cf. Section 18, paragraph 2 of the Auditor General Act, has been repealed.

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