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Judgment of the Court (First Chamber) of 19 May 1994. - Siemens Nixdorf Informationssysteme AG v Hauptzollamt Augsburg. - Reference for a preliminary ruling: Finanzgericht München - Germany. - Common Customs Tariff - Colour monitor - Specific function. - Case C-11/93.



European Court reports 1994 Page I-01945



Summary

Parties

Grounds

Decision on costs

Operative part

Keywords



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Common Customs Tariff ° Tariff headings ° Colour monitors forming part of a data-processing system and having no specific function ° Classification under heading 8471 of the Combined Nomenclature

Summary



On a proper construction of Chapter 84 of the Combined Nomenclature of the Common Customs Tariff, in the versions contained in the annexes to Regulations Nos 3174/88, 2886/89 and 2472/90, all three of which amend Annex I to Regulation No 2658/87 on the tariff and statistical nomenclature and on the Common Customs Tariff, even before the entry into force of Regulation No 1288/91 concerning the classification of certain goods in the Combined Nomenclature ° considered in the light of Note 5(B) to that Chapter and the Explanatory Notes to the Nomenclature of the Customs Cooperation Council ° colour monitors capable of accepting a signal only from the central processing unit of an automatic data-processing machine and not capable of reproducing a colour image from a composite video signal fall under heading 8471 of the Combined Nomenclature of the Common Customs Tariff.

Parties



In Case C-11/93,

REFERENCE to the Court under Article 177 of the EEC Treaty by the Finanzgericht Muenchen (Federal Republic of Germany) for a preliminary ruling in the proceedings pending before that court between

Siemens Nixdorf Informationssysteme AG

and

Hauptzollamt Augsburg,

on the interpretation of the last paragraph of Note 5(B) to Chapter 84 of the Combined Nomenclature of the Common Customs Tariff in the versions contained in the annexes to Commission Regulations (EEC) No 3174/88 of 21 September 1988 (OJ 1988 L 298, p. 1), No 2886/89 of 2 August 1989 (OJ 1989 L 282, p. 1) and No 2472/90 of 31 July 1990 (OJ 1990 L 247, p. 1), all three of which amend Annex I to Council Regulation (EEC) No 2658/87 of 23 July 1987 on the tariff and statistical nomenclature and on the Common Customs Tariff (OJ 1987 L 256, p. 1),

THE COURT (First Chamber),

composed of: D.A.O. Edward (Rapporteur), President of the Chamber, R. Joliet and G.C. Rodríguez Iglesias, Judges,

Advocate General: F.G. Jacobs,

Registrar: R. Grass,

after considering the written observations submitted on behalf of:

- Siemens Nixdorf Informationssysteme AG, by Irene Glueck-Otte and Volker Rohde, acting with power of attorney to represent Siemens AG,

- the Commission of the European Communities, by Angela Bardenhewer and Francisco Fialho, of its Legal Service, assisted by Hans Juergen Rabe, of the Brussels and Hamburg Bars, acting as Agents,

having regard to the Report of the Judge-Rapporteur,

after hearing the Opinion of the Advocate General at the sitting on 27 January 1994,

gives the following

Judgment

Grounds



1 By order of 9 December 1992, received at the Court on 14 January 1993, the Finanzgericht Muenchen (Finance Court, Munich) referred to the Court for a preliminary ruling under Article 177 of the EEC Treaty a question concerning the interpretation of the last paragraph of Note 5(B) to Chapter 84 of the Combined Nomenclature of the Common Customs Tariff, in the versions contained in the annexes to Commission Regulations (EEC) No 3174/88 of 21 September 1988 (OJ 1988 L 298, p. 1), No 2886/89 of 2 August 1989 (OJ 1989 L 282, p. 1) and No 2472/90 of 31 July 1990 (OJ 1990 L 247, p. 1), all three of which amend Annex I to Council Regulation (EEC) No 2658/87 of 23 July 1987 on the tariff and statistical nomenclature and on the Common Customs Tariff (OJ 1987 L 256, p. 1).

2 That question was raised in the course of proceedings between Siemens Nixdorf Informationssysteme (hereinafter "Siemens") and the Hauptzollamt (Principal Customs Office) Augsburg concerning an application for the repayment of customs duties paid on the importation into the Community of colour monitors. Those imports took place between 1989 and 1991.

3 Duty was charged on the monitors at a rate of 7%, since the Hauptzollamt Augsburg classified them under heading 8543 of the Combined Nomenclature of the Common Customs Tariff, which covers "electrical machines and apparatus, having individual functions, not specified or included elsewhere in ... Chapter (85)".

4 Siemens claimed that the monitors should have been classified under heading 8471, which covers "automatic data-processing machines and units thereof" and that duty should accordingly have been charged at a rate of 4.9%. It therefore applied to the Hauptzollamt Augsburg for repayment of the amount corresponding to the difference between the two rates of duty.

5 It is common ground that, since the entry into force on 7 June 1991 of Commission Regulation (EEC) No 1288/91 of 14 May 1991 concerning the classification of certain goods in the Combined Nomenclature (OJ 1991 L 122, p. 11), duty on colour monitors of the kind in issue in the main case has been charged at a rate of 4.9%. It is undisputed that they come within the group of monitors classified by the annex to that regulation under code No 8471 92 90. In the Combined Nomenclature, heading 8471 92 concerns "automatic data-processing machines and their units ..." and, in particular, "input or output units ...".

6 By decision of 16 July 1992, the Hauptzollamt Augsburg refused to make the repayment requested, on the ground that the imports in issue took place before the entry into force of Regulation No 1288/91.

7 Siemens subsequently initiated proceedings before the Finanzgericht Muenchen. That court considers that the colour monitors in dispute should have been classified under heading 8471 of the Combined Nomenclature, because they did not have a specific function, which, according to the last paragraph of Note 5(B), mentioned above, is to be considered the determining factor.

8 The last paragraph of Note 5(B) reads as follows:

"Heading 8471 does not cover machines incorporating or working in conjunction with an automatic data-processing machine and performing a specific function. Such machines are to be classified under the heading appropriate to their respective functions or, failing that, under residual headings."

9 In those circumstances, the Finanzgericht Muenchen stayed the proceedings and referred the following question to the Court:

"Was the last paragraph of Note 5(B) to Chapter 84 of the Combined Nomenclature of the Common Customs Tariff to be interpreted before the entry into force of Regulation No 1288/91 as meaning that colour monitors capable of accepting a signal only from the central processing unit of an automatic data-processing machine and not capable of reproducing a colour image from a composite video signal did not perform a 'specific function' ?"

10 By that question, the national court is essentially asking whether on a proper construction of Chapter 84 of the Combined Nomenclature of the Common Customs Tariff - in the versions contained in the annexes to Regulations Nos 3174/88, 2886/89 and 2472/90, all three of which amend Annex I to Regulation No 2658/87 - even before the entry into force of Regulation No 1288/91 colour monitors capable of accepting signals only from the central processing unit of an automatic data-processing machine and not capable of reproducing a colour image from a composite video signal fall under heading 8471 of the Combined Nomenclature of the Common Customs Tariff.

11 As the Court has repeatedly held, the decisive criterion for the customs classification of goods must be sought generally in their objective characteristics and qualities, as defined in the relevant heading of the Common Customs Tariff and in the notes to the sections or chapters (see in particular the judgment in Case 200/84 Daiber [1985] ECR 3363, paragraph 13).

12 Both the notes which head the chapters of the Common Customs Tariff and the Explanatory Notes to the Nomenclature of the Customs Cooperation Council are important means for ensuring the uniform application of the Tariff and as such may be regarded as useful aids to its interpretation (see Daiber, cited above, paragraph 14).

13 In this instance, it is clear first of all from the wording of heading 8471 that it covers automatic data-processing machines and their units. Other units included under subheading 8471 92 are input or output units which are presented with a data-processing machine.

14 Secondly, according to the first paragraph of Note 5(B), any unit which is connectable to the central processing unit of a data-processing system and which is able to accept or deliver data in a form - code or signals - which can be used by the system is to be regarded as being a part of the complete system of an automatic data-processing machine and classified under heading 8471.

15 Finally, according to Part E(ii) of the General Notes on Chapter 84 in the Explanatory Notes of the Customs Cooperation Council, a machine which is presented with an automatic data-processing machine and intended to work in conjunction therewith is not to be regarded as performing a specific function unless it performs a function "other than data-processing".

16 A colour monitor which, according to the national court, is capable of accepting signals only from the central processing unit of an automatic data-processing machine and is not capable of reproducing a colour image from a composite video signal cannot be regarded as performing a "specific function" within the meaning of the aforementioned provisions. This is a fortiori the case when it is not disputed that colour monitors of the kind in issue in the main action were designed for use with an automatic data-processing machine.

17 It follows from the foregoing that, even before the entry into force of Regulation No 1288/91, the colour monitors were covered by heading 8471 of the Common Customs Tariff.

18 Accordingly, the answer to the question submitted by the national court must be that on a proper construction of Chapter 84 of the Combined Nomenclature of the Common Customs Tariff - in the versions contained in the annexes to Regulations Nos 3174/88, 2886/89 and 2472/90, all three of which amend Annex I to Regulation No 2658/87 - even before the entry into force of Regulation No 1288/91 colour monitors capable of accepting a signal only from the central processing unit of an automatic data-processing machine and not capable of reproducing a colour image from a composite video signal fall under heading 8471 of the Combined Nomenclature of the Common Customs Tariff.

Decision on costs



Costs

19 The costs incurred by the Commission of the European Communities, which has submitted observations to the Court, are not recoverable. Since these proceedings are, for the parties to the main proceedings, a step in the action pending before the national court, the decision on costs is a matter for that court.

Operative part



On those grounds,

THE COURT (First Chamber),

in answer to the question referred to it by the Finanzgericht Muenchen by order of 9 December 1992, hereby rules:

On a proper construction of Chapter 84 of the Combined Nomenclature of the Common Customs Tariff - in the versions contained in the annexes to Commission Regulations (EEC) No 3174/88 of 21 September 1988, No 2886/89 of 2 August 1989 and No 2472/90 of 31 July 1990, all three of which amend Annex I to Council Regulation (EEC) No 2658/87 of 23 July 1987 on the tariff and statistical nomenclature and on the Common Customs Tariff - even before the entry into force of Commission Regulation (EEC) No 1288/91 of 14 May 1991 concerning the classification of certain goods in the Combined Nomenclature colour monitors capable of accepting a signal only from the central processing unit of an automatic data-processing machine and not capable of reproducing a colour image from a composite video signal fall under heading 8471 of the Combined Nomenclature of the Common Customs Tariff.