Poland. He helped Ukraine. The state fined him severely

, 13:23, 18.02.2024
Estimated reading time: 6 minutes

He donated clothes and protective helmets to Ukrainian firefighters. The customs officer who cleared the car with the gifts found that the transport was not humane and imposed sanctions on his company

Poland. He helped Ukraine. The state fined him severely

"I didn't do anything wrong. I just wanted to help, and I was punished for it. I feel great disgust"

For 20 years, Mr. Krzysztof has been running a company in western Poland with his partners that supplies fire brigades across the country with fire-fighting and rescue equipment. When the Russians attacked Ukraine in February 2022, he rushed to help his neighbors without hesitation.

"We transported various humanitarian shipments to Ukraine. These included medical and dressing supplies for the army, bulletproof vests, helmets"
our interlocutor enumerates.

In June 2022, another shipment left his company for the East. This time it was equipment for the local fire brigade: special clothes and protective helmets.

"The Russians burned entire towns and villages in Ukraine. We wanted to help, not make money from it", says our interlocutor.

The customs officer had a different opinion

Mr. Krzysztof explains that he could not go on the tour personally at that time. A paramedic, a friend of his company, sat behind the wheel of the bus. "He took this firefighting equipment to the border selflessly, as a volunteer", notes the entrepreneur.

However, at the border crossing with Ukraine, to which the bus with gifts was directed, the Polish customs officer - after what our interlocutor reports as a cursory review of the documents - concluded that it was not a humanitarian transport but a commercial one, and the driver was doing it for a fee. Although, as Mr. Krzysztof emphasizes, it was not true.

"The customs officer demanded that the paramedic show a special Community license for international travel. We are not a transport company, we do not provide commercial transport, so we did not have such a license," explains our interlocutor.

Ultimately, the bus was allowed to reach the Ukrainian side, where Ukrainians picked up and reloaded the equipment near the border crossing.

"I know that those people from Ukraine who received our gifts later had big problems with customs documents and had to explain a lot in offices. My company received a fine of PLN 12,000 from the customs office. The driver, however, brought with him a fine from customs officers in the amount of PLN 500", says Mr. Krzysztof.

A long battle in offices and courts

The entrepreneur did not agree with the decision of the customs office and appealed against it. The case has been dragging on for over a year. It is currently at the stage of the Supreme Administrative Court.

"I didn't do anything wrong. I just wanted to help, and I was punished for it. I feel great disgust"
he says.

Attorney Bolesław Szyłkajtis, partner at LTCA Legal Szyłkajtis, whom we asked to comment on this matter, also has similar feelings.

"Regardless of the dubious legal basis for the customs office to impose sanctions on the entrepreneur, such action is simply completely wrong from a purely human point of view," says the lawyer.

As he says, the facts presented by Mr. Krzysztof show that he does not run a transport business, and the customs officer, when demanding a Community transport license from the bus driver, made too "shallow" an analysis of the facts and an inaccurate interpretation of the regulations.

"He assumed in advance that this entrepreneur should have a license for community transport, regardless of what type of transport he was currently performing," explains the lawyer.

International agreement took precedence

Meanwhile, as Bolesław Szyłkajtis emphasizes, a Community license is required when conducting international road transport as part of a business activity.

The lawyer emphasizes that the Road Transport Act, on the basis of which the customs office imposed a sanction on the entrepreneur, does not apply to road transport performed by vehicles with a permissible total weight not exceeding 3.5 tons.

It is worth mentioning here that the bus that transported firefighters' equipment to Ukraine had a total permissible weight of up to 3.5 tons.

The Ombudsman for Small and Medium-sized Entrepreneurs, to whom Mr. Krzysztof asked for legal assistance, emphasizes that a Community license is required, but only in the case of transit through the territory of another EU Member State.

The bus with gifts for Ukraine traveled from Poland to Ukraine, but there was no transit.

As the SME Ombudsman emphasizes, in the case of such journeys, the application is not the law but the agreement concluded between Poland and Ukraine on international road transport of 1992.

It exempts an entrepreneur from holding a Community license if the permissible total weight of the vehicle does not exceed 3.5 tons.

Our interlocutors point out another dimension of this matter.

"The automaticity of the tax administration's behavior and its categorical persistence in its decisions significantly undermine citizens' trust in state authorities," says Bolesław Szyłkajtis. He adds that this is another example of the actions of Polish authorities - after the famous case of the tax authorities punishing bakers for giving bread to the poor for free - which "significantly discourage people from providing help, even in the face of an absolute humanitarian tragedy, which is the ongoing war in Ukraine".

We asked the Ministry of Finance to comment on the matter. In response to our questions, the ministry emphasizes that the information contained in the files regarding customs and fiscal control is subject to fiscal secrecy, so "providing information in an individual case is not possible."

However, the Ministry of Finance confirms that, according to the law, "if the permissible total weight of a vehicle crossing the border is greater than 2.5 tons, such a journey is road transport, which requires a Community license to perform international road transport of goods."

Pursuant to Art. 92a section 1 UTD, an entity performing road transport or other activities related to this transport in violation of the obligations or conditions of road transport is subject to a fine ranging from PLN 50 to PLN 12,000 for each violation, indicates the ministry.

It also reminds that a party to the proceedings may appeal against the decision of the Head of the Customs and Tax Office to the Director of the Tax Administration Chamber.

#Poland#Ukraine#Humanitarian aid

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