More and more foreign-registered cars are being used unlawfully in Finland
Customs look into a couple of hundred unclear cases each year. The monitoring is somewhat random.
The unlawful use of cars registered abroad has increased in traffic on Finnish roads in recent years, especially in the capital area.
According to Southern Customs District vehicle tax chief Markku Partanen, the Customs District handles a couple of hundred cases each year, in which there is suspicion that the car’s usage in Finland is illegal.
A great majority of these case involve cars that have been registered in Estonia.
“We receive several such cases each week. The number has grown steadily since Estonia joined the EU in 2004”, Partanen says.
A private person who lives permanently abroad can temporarily use a foreign-registered car in Finland without having to pay the Finnish car tax.
The time limit for keeping a car continuously in Finland without registering it here for tax purposes is six months.
If the vehicle is taken abroad in between, its use in Finland must not exceed six months in a 12-month period.
When the limit has been reached, one can apply for a permit extension for a year from the Customs.
For business activities, cars registered abroad can be used for the maximum of seven months.
In around half of the cases looked into by the Customs, the authorities arrive eventually at a decision that the owner of the vehicle is liable to pay the Finnish car tax.
According to Partanen, if the car tax is not paid it is more likely down to ignorance rather than wilful non-payment.
”But of course there are those cases as well, where the use has been deliberate and prolonged. In such cases the tax penalties may be quite substantial, or one can even be prosecuted for tax evasion.“
The Customs normally learn about the cases from the police, who supervise the matter in connection with other traffic monitoring duties but also in separate raids.
These raids have been organised in cooperation with the Customs and the Border Guard.
In the last such crackdown in the capital area, 1,811 vehicles registered abroad were inspected.
“Of these, 160 ended up being looked into further by the Customs”, explains Inspector Dennis Pasterstein from the Helsinki Traffic Police.
The Customs and the Police also receive a certain number of tips from the public with regard to foreign-registered cars suspected of being used in Finland for longer than the regulations permit.
Partanen reckons that even with the current monitoring, fewer than half of the cases of illegal use of a foreign-registered car get discovered.
"Efforts have been made to intensify the monitoring, but it is still somewhat haphazard”, Partanen admits.
Previously in HS International Edition:
EU Commission takes Finland to court over car taxes (15.1.2008)
Number of foreign workers on rise in Finland (15.11.2007)
Finnish Customs - Customer Instructions on motor vehicles