Now, the Court of Justice has given a fairly restrictive interpretation of "own use" in its judgment in Case C-5/05 Joustra.
What happened was this. 70 Dutchmen (and women too) formed a group appropriately called the ‘Cercle des Amis du Vin’. Each year, on behalf of the circle, Mr Joustra orders wine in France for his own use and that of the other members of the group. On his instructions, that wine is then collected by a Dutch transportation company which transports it to the Netherlands and delivers it to Mr Joustra’s home. The wine is stored there for a few days before being delivered to the other members of the circle. Mr Joustra pays for the wine and the transport and each member of the group then reimburses him for the cost of the quantity of wine delivered to that member and a share of the transport costs calculated in proportion to that quantity. Mr Joustra does not engage in that activity on a commercial basis or with a view to making a profit. But he has a lot of friends. The wine ordered by Mr Joustra was released for consumption in France and excise duty was paid there. The quantity of wine delivered to each member of the group did not exceed the maximum quantities laid down by the Directive as a guideline for determining whether the products are intended for commercial purposes, namely 90 litres of wine, of which no more than 60 litres may be sparkling wine.
The Dutch tax authorities spoiled the fun and levied excise duty of EUR 906.20 on that wine. Mr Joustra disputed liability for that excise duty. In his opinion, the words ‘transported by them’ in the Directive do not prevent it from being interpreted as meaning that the charging of excise duty in the Member State of destination is precluded where a private individual himself purchases, in another member State, products subject to excise duty and arranges for those products to be transported, under his instructions and on his account, to the member State of destination by a third party, the Dutch transporter.
The Court was having none of that. It held that the Directive requires that those products be intended for the personal use of the private individual who has acquired them and that it therefore excludes products acquired by a private individual for the use of other private individuals. Furthermore, the products in question must be transported personally by the private individual who purchased them. Were this not so, the effect, for the competent authorities of the member States, would be an increased risk of fraud as the transport of products covered by the exemption requires no documentation.
So, carry your own booze next time, right ?