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HMRC internal manual

Holding and Movements Assurance Guidance

HM Revenue & Customs
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Excise Movement and Control System: overview of EMCS and fallback procedures: fallback procedures

In exceptional circumstances EMCS may not be available. During these periods, special arrangements known as ‘fallback procedures’ can be followed to allow goods to move under duty suspension arrangements.

Fallback procedures can be used when EMCS is not available. A system problem may affect:

  • all users - for example, a fault with the entire system or
  • individual traders - for example a fault with hardware, software, internet connection etc.

Fallback procedures can be used to:

  • dispatch a movement
  • change the destination of a movement
  • split a movement of energy products
  • receive goods.

The Service Issues on the HMRC website will display advisory messages when a problem concerning access or message submission affects all users of EMCS.

It is for the trader to decide if they need to use fallback procedures, subject to meeting the conditions in Notice 197. However, we recommend, whenever possible, that when EMCS is not available the trader waits for it to become available and then submits their messages in the normal way. If a trader uses third party software to access EMCS but this is not available and will not become available in time to submit the message, we recommend that the trader uses the HMRC EMCS Portal whenever it is practical to do so. When EMCS is not available (or third party software is not available and it is not practical to use the HMRC EMCS Portal), and the trader cannot wait, it is then that the fallback procedures should be applied.

Where third party software remains unavailable for a significant length of time officers should consider recommending that the business uses Portal rather than continuing the use of fallback. This is because there is significantly more risk inherent in fallback movements, for example consignee excise IDs are not automatically validated as they are on EMCS (see risks at HMAG60500).

In addition, most third party software users are medium to large companies. This invariably means that they carry out large numbers of movements which generates a large quantity of fallback documents. This not only creates a resource issue within the NSD, as they need to capture and process each individual form, but also potentially creates a build-up of work for the business, as they are legally required to enter each movement onto EMCS as soon as it becomes available to them again. In effect they are duplicating effort by producing the required fallback document and then submitting that same information on EMCS, unless their third-party software automatically does this for them.

When considering recommending use of the Portal, you should take into consideration the facts of the case, for example how long the business has been operating in fallback, how many fallback documents they are generating in a day, and when their system is going to be back up and running. You could also recommend a partial use of Portal such as using it for Reports of Receipt, so that movements consigned to them can be closed on EMCS in a timely fashion.

There have been some instances where businesses have gone into fallback due to their third party software being down where the fallback documentation has not been submitted before the goods are dispatched or the information contained in the document is incorrect or incomplete. In these instances they are not operating fallback correctly and the goods are technically being illegally removed from the warehouse. Immediate action is required to alert the business to their mistakes and ensure that the business follows the fallback procedures correctly. If the business fails to correct the errors quickly, and their third party software remains unavailable, then use of the Portal should be recommended in order to avoid penalties, assessments and / or seizures.

Traders must not use fallback procedures solely because EMCS states that the information submitted is invalid. However, if it is recognised by HMRC that the data failing validation on EMCS is valid but a system problem is preventing this recognition, for example a problem with the SEED database, then fallback procedures may be applied. In such cases the trader should be able to show that they have verified the information is valid, for example by providing evidence of correspondence with the NVC regarding the data.

When EMCS becomes available again the consignor must submit their message or messages (for example, a draft eAD, CoD, split of a movement etc) on EMCS as soon as possible. This submission is still required even if EMCS becomes available after the consignment has arrived at its destination. When submitting a draft eAD retrospectively the consignor must remember to tick the ‘deferred movement’ indicator, to identify that the draft eAD relates to a fallback movement.

UK consignors will still be able to use EMCS to dispatch goods to a consignee in another MS when EMCS is available in the UK but not in the MS of destination. However, there may be a delay in receiving the RoR message from the consignee in these circumstances.

The legal provisions for the manual fallback procedures are contained in Council Directive 2008/118/EC and HMDP. Commission Regulation 684/2009 specifies the form and content of each Fallback document.

Under a fallback movement, CoD or split of energy products information is only available from the National Service Desk (NSD) and in most cases is not readily available in real time to assurance teams. Officers can exceptionally request ‘real time’ information about fallback movements as they are notified to the NSD, but due to limited resources this information is only available during normal office hours and is only available for essential requests.

Full details of how to use fallback procedures can be found in Notice 197.