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HMRC internal manual

Customs Civil Penalties Guidance

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HM Revenue & Customs
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Customs Civil Penalties Guidance: further contraventions after the issue of a warning letter or penalty notice

When we issue a warning letter or penalty notice, it contains details of the contravention that has led to the letter or notice.

Further contravention after a Civil Penalty Warning Letter

If a trader commits a broadly similar contravention within 2 years of the issue of a warning letter, we may impose a penalty unless the trader has a reasonable excuse.

A ‘broadly similar contravention’ is one that breaches similar provisions to those covered by the original warning letter. Examples of broadly similar contraventions might be

  • a further error in a declaration irrespective of the reason for the misdeclaration, or
  • any further failures to abide by Customs Freight Simplified Procedure (CFSP) approval conditions whether or not it is the same condition that is being infringed.

While the contravention must be broadly similar, it need not necessarily be of the same category, see CCPG22100. For example, errors on import declarations could fall into either the serious error or poor compliance category and would still be broadly similar.

Further contravention after a Penalty Notice

If a trader commits a broadly similar contravention within 2 years of the issue of a penalty notice, we normally impose a further penalty unless the trader had a reasonable excuse. We usually set that further penalty at a higher level than the original, see CCPG27320.

If we make a visit shortly after the issue of a warning letter or penalty notice, we do not usually take penalty action for the same contravention. We must give the trader a reasonable period of time to improve performance before charging a penalty or further penalty. What constitutes a reasonable time will be a matter of judgement depending on the circumstances.