Fine / Penalty in Poland

Penalty / Fine in Poland

Polish Legal System authorizes number of Public Authorities in Poland to impose fines, penalties or financial sanctions for various breaches of infringements of local laws. List of authorities competent to impose fines on domestic and foreign companies is very long, and some examples may be found below. Despite unequal terminology (fine, penalty, financial sanction) – all those forms have one common feature – they all can be questioned / appealed against. 

Appeal / Complaint Against Penalty

Vast majority of fines imposed in Poland are issued based on the Administrative / Tax Procedure and the following verification procedures are available for them:

  1. In first place – Administrative Review of the Penalty
    • via appeal to the authority of higher instance; and
  2. Afterwards – Judicial Review of the Penalty
    • via complaint to the administrative court; and
    • afterwards to the Supreme Administrative Court.

Different procedures are place for penalties of criminal nature (for criminal law infringements). There are also some penalties, that are issued in administrative procedure, but afterwards are reviewed in separate judicial procedure, e.g. penalties issued by Polish Competition Protection Authority.

Fines and Penalties in Administrative / Tax Procedure

The competence to impose fines in Poland has been granted to various authorities, and the grounds and procedure for imposing such fines are spread across a hundreds of legal acts. As a rule, the competence to impose fines is closely related to the right of a given authority to carry out inspection or control within a specified legal area.

Key regulations around the fines are provided by Polish Code of Administrative Procedure of 14 June 1960. Summary of those is presented below.

Definition of Fine / Penalty Fine is an administrative fine is understood to be a financial sanction specified by law, imposed by a public administration body, by way of a decision, as a consequence of a breach of law consisting of a failure to fulfill an obligation or a breach of a prohibition imposed on a natural person, a legal person or an organisational unit without legal personality.
Administrative Fine vs. Criminal Fine Administrative financial penalties differ from criminal liability for offences and misdemeanours in that they are imposed regardless of the culpability of the responsible party or even the existence or threat of damage.
On whom the Fine may be Imposed? Financial penalties can be imposed on individuals, but also on companies, including those with their registered office outside Poland.
Maximum Penalty? As per general regulations – the maximum penalty for one offence often reaches up to PLN 1 000 000. However there are number of legal acts that provide much higher penalties for particular offences.

Appeal against Penalty

As a rule, a decision of the first-instance authority on the imposition of a fine may be appealed to a higher instance authority. E.g. in case of fine imposed by the local tax office, the appeal may be submitted to the higher instance tax office.

What is the time limit for filing an appeal?

As a rule, the time limit for an appeal against a decision imposing a fine is 14 days, counting from the date of delivery of the decision.

What is the fee for an appeal?

As a general rule, the appeal is not subject to a fee.

Does the appeal suspend the obligation to pay the fine?

As a rule – yes. If an appeal is submitted within the deadline, the fine will be considered as “not final” and “not enforceable”. However, there are exceptions where the decision of the first instance authority is immediately payable and enforceable despite the right of appeal.

What is the procedure for submitting an appeal?

As a general rule, the appeal is submitted to the competent appeal authority via the authority that issued the decision.

What type of defenses may be invoked in an appeal?

An analysis should be carried out as to whether the authority of first instance, when imposing the fine, correctly applied the substantive law, procedural rules and whether it correctly established the facts of the case – if not, such infringements may be used as defenses.

How long does it take for the appeal to be considered?

The authority should, in principle, consider the appeal within 2 months. As a rule, however, this time limit is extended by the authority and takes about several months, depending on the workload of the authority concerned.

What types of decisions can be issued as a result of an appeal?

The authority of first instance whose decision has been challenged by way of an appeal may itself accept the appeal. Such a situation rarely occurs in practice.

As a rule, the appeal is examined by an authority of the second instance. If the appeal is accepted by the authority of II instance, as a rule, the authority of II instance issues a decision on revocation of the decision of the authority of I instance and may also, depending on the situation, discontinue the proceedings in the case or otherwise resolve the case on its merits.

The body of II instance may also amend the decision of the body of I instance, as well as revoke the decision of the body of I instance and remit the case to be reconsidered by the body of I instance. In such a case, the decision of the first-instance body issued as a result of the re-examination of the case may be appealed.

In many cases, it is also possible for the II-instance body to issue a decision overturning the decision of the I-instance body and to waive the penalty at the same time.

If the appeal is not upheld as a rule, the authority will issue a decision upholding the first instance authority’s decision.

Is it possible to withdraw an appeal?

Yes, as a rule, a party may withdraw an appeal before a decision is issued by the appeal authority.

Is it possible to increase the fine in the appeal ?

As a general rule, the appeal authority may not increase the fine to the detriment of the appellant, unless the contested decision grossly violates the law or the public interest.

Will the II instance decision be delivered ex officio or at the request?

The authority of the II instance, after issuing the decision as a result of examination of the appeal, will deliver the decision ex officio. There is no need to submit a separate application or pay a delivery fee.

Judicial Review of the Penalty

The decision of the second instance authority shall be considered as “final” and “enforceable”, however it may be still verified in the judicial review process by way of:

  • complaint to the Administrative Court;
  • and afterwards – Cassation Appeal to the Supreme Administrative Court.

You may learn more about this separate judicial process in section: Judicial Review / Administrative Procedure.

Example Authorities Competent to Impose Fines in Poland

Authority competent to impose a penalty Type of Penalties – Legal Basis
President of the Office for the Protection of Personal Data (Polish: Prezes Urzędu Ochrony Danych Osobowych) Penalties for Data Protection Infringements  – Act of 10 May 2018 on the protection of personal data (GDPR)
Head of the Customs – Tax Office (Polish: Naczelnik Urzędu Celno – Skarbowego) Various Penalties Tax and Customs Regulations Infringements –  Act of 9 March 2017 on the monitoring system for the road and rail transport of goods and the circulation of heating fuels (SENT Act); Act of 28 September 1991 on forests
Commander-in-Chief of the Border Guard (Polish: Komendant Główny Straży Granicznej) Various Immigration Penalties as well as Aviation / PNR penalties – Act of 9 May 2018 on the processing of Passenger Name Record (PNR) data.
President of the Civil Aviation Authority (Polish: Prezes Urzędu Lotnictwa Cywilnego) Various Penalties for Aviation law Infringements – Act of 3 July 2002 Aviation Law
Provincial Environmental Inspector (Polish: Wojewódzki Inspektor Ochrony Środowiska) Penalties for Infringements of Environmental Regulations – Act of 27 April 2001 Environmental Protection Law; Act of 14 December 2012 on waste; Act of 28 September 1991 on forests
President of the Office of Competition and Consumer Protection (Polish: Prezes Urzędu Ochrony Konkurencji i Konsumentów) Penalties for Antitrust and Competition Law Infringements – Act of 16 February 2007 on Competition and Consumer Protection
Mayor or town mayor (Polish: Wójt, burmistrz lub prezydent miasta) Various Administrative Penalties – Act of 16 April 2004 on nature protection
Governor (Polish: Wojewoda) Various Administrative Penalties – Act of 12 March 2004 on social assistance
President of the Polish Water (Polish: Prezes Wód Polskich) Penalties related to the Act of 20 July 2017 Water Law
Provincial conservator of monuments (Polish: Wojewódzki konserwator zabytków) Act of 23 July 2003 on the protection and care of historical monuments
State District Sanitary Inspector, State Border Sanitary Inspector (Polish: Państwowy Powiatowy Inspektor Sanitarny, Państwowy Graniczny Inspektor Sanitarny) Penalties for Infringements of the Act of 5 December 2008 on prevention and control of infections and infectious diseases in humans
State Provincial Sanitary Inspector (Polish: Państwowy Wojewódzki Inspektor Sanitarny) Penalties for Infringements of Food Regulations and Sanitary Regulations – Act of 25 August 2006 on food and nutrition safety
Provincial Pharmaceutical Inspector, Chief Pharmaceutical Inspector (Polish: Wojewódzki Inspektor Farmaceutyczny, Główny Inspektor Farmaceutyczny) Penalties for Infringements of the Act of 6 September 2001 pharmaceutical law
President of the Office for Registration of Medicinal Products, Medical Devices and Biocidal Products, Chief Sanitary Inspector, Minister of Health (Polish: Prezes Urzędu Rejestracji Produktów Leczniczych, Wyrobów Medycznych i Produktów Biobójczych, Główny Inspektor Sanitarny, Minister Zdrowia) Penalties for Infringements of the Act of 7 April 2022 on medical devices
General Inspector of Financial Information, President of the National Bank of Poland, Financial Supervisory Commission, Minister of Finance (In Polish: Generalny Inspektor Informacji Finansowej, Prezes Narodowego Banku Polskiego, Komisja Nadzoru Finansowego,  Minister właściwy do spraw finansów) Various Penalties for Infringement of Banking, AML, UBO Regulations – Act of 1 March 2018 on the prevention of money laundering and the financing of terrorism

Statute of Limitations – Penalties in Poland

As a general rule, an administrative financial penalty may not be imposed if five years have lapsed from the date of the breach of the law. Furthermore, an administrative monetary penalty shall not be enforced if five years have lapsed from the date on which the penalty should have been enforced.

The above time limits are generally applicable, to which exceptions have been provided for in number of legal provisions.

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