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EU import procedures

EU customs code

EU customs code is the set of all the rules covering customs matters in trade with non-EU countries. These rules ensure that customs practices in all EU countries are uniform and transparent.

Legislation

Registering as an economic operator (EORI number)

The Economic Operator Registration and Identification (EORI) number is a unique identifier, assigned by a customs authority in an EU country to all economic operators (both companies and individuals) persons engaging in activities covered by EU customs legislation.

Importers established outside the EU will be assigned an EORI the first time they lodge:

  • a customs declaration
  • an entry summary declaration (ENS)
  • an exit summary declaration (EXS)

Operators use this number in all communications with any EU customs authorities where an EU-based identifier is required, for example in customs declarations.

See also the EORI Guidelines

Entry Summary Declaration (ENS)

The entry summary declaration contains advance cargo information about consignments entering the EU. It must be lodged at the first customs office of entry to the EU by the carrier of the goods (by the carrier of the goods, although in some cases it can be done by the importer-consignee, or a representative of the carrier or importer) - even if the goods are not going to be imported to the EU.

The deadline for lodging the ENS depends on the mode of transport carrying the goods:

  • Container maritime cargo: at least 24 hours before loading commences in the foreign port
  • Bulk maritime cargo: at least 4 hours before arrival
  • Short sea shipping: at least 2 hours before arrival
  • Short haul flights (less than 4 hours): at least by the actual time of take off of the aircraft
  • Long haul flights (4 hours or more): at least 4 hours before arrival at the first airport in the customs territory of the EU
  • Road traffic: at least 1 hour before arrival.

Note:The ENS requires information contained in documents originating with the exporter (bill of lading, commercial invoices, etc). Make sure these documents reach the party responsible for lodging the declaration in time!

More information about the entry summary declaration

See also: Transit movements electronic map

Customs approved treatments

When goods arrive at the customs office of entry to the EU, they are placed into temporary storage under customs supervision (for a maximum of 90 days) until they are assigned one of the following customs approved treatments or uses:

1. Release for free circulation

Goods are "released for free circulation"" when the conditions relating to their importation into the EU have been duly fulfilled, i.e. payment of customs duties and other charges and the completion of all other import formalities. Release for free circulation confers on non-Union goods the customs status of "Union goods".

Once the mentioned duties as well as the value added tax (VAT) and any applicable excise duties have been paid the goods have satisfied the conditions for consumption in the Member State of destination and hence they are "released for consumption".

2. Special procedures

Transit, which comprises external and internal transit:

  • External transit: non-Union goods may be moved from one point to another within the customs territory of the Union without being subject to import duties, other charges related to the import of the goods (i.e. internal taxes) and commercial policy measures, thereby transferring customs clearance formalities to the customs office of destination.
  • Internal transit: Union goods may be moved from one point to another within the customs territory of the Union, passing through a country or territory outside that customs territory, without any change in their customs status.

Storage, which comprises customs warehousing and free zones:

  • Customs warehousing: non-Union goods may be stored in premises or any other location authorised by the customs authorities and under customs supervision ('customs warehouses') without being subject to import duties, other charges related to the import of the goods and commercial policy measures.
  • Free zones: Member States may designate parts of the customs territory of the Union as free zones. They are special areas within the customs territory of the Union where goods can be introduced free of import duties, other charges (i.e. internal taxes) and commercial policy measures, until they are either assigned another approved customs procedure or re-exported. Goods may also undergo simple operations such as processing and re-packing.

Specific use, which comprises temporary and end-use

  • Temporary admission: non-Union goods intended for re-export may be subject to specific use in the customs territory of the Union, with total or partial relief from import duty, and without being subject to other charges like internal taxes and commercial policy measures. This procedure may only be used provided that the goods are not intended to undergo any change. The maximum period during which goods may remain under this procedure is 2 years.
  • End-use: goods may be released for free circulation under a duty exemption or at a reduced rate of duty on account of their specific use.

Processing, which comprises inward and outward processing

  • Inward processing: goods are imported into the Union in order to be used in the customs territory of the Union in one or more processing operations, without being subject to import duties, taxes and commercial policy measures. The customs authorities shall specify the period within which the inward processing procedure is to be discharged. Where finished products are not finally exported, these shall be subject to the appropriate duties and measures.
  • Outward processing: Union goods may be temporarily exported from the customs territory of the Union in order to undergo processing operations. The processed products resulting from those goods may be released for free circulation with total or partial relief from import duties.

European Commission, Taxation and Customs Union, UCC Guidance documents.

Customs declaration – SAD (Single Administrative Document)

Goods are placed under a customs approved treatment or use using the Single Administrative Document (SAD). The SAD can be presented to the customs authorities by the importer or a representative, either electronically (each EU country has its own system) or by delivery directly to the premises of the customs office.

The SAD covers the placement of any goods under any customs procedure (Export, import, transit where the new computerised transit system (NCTS) is not yet used, warehouses, temporary import, inward and outward processing, etc.) whatever the mode of transport used. The SAD aims at ensuring openness in national administrative requirements, rationalize and reduce administrative documentation, reduce the amount of requested information and standardize and harmonize data.

See also:

Value for Customs purposes

Most customs duties and VAT are expressed as a percentage of the value of the goods being imported. Customs authorities define the value of merchandise for customs purposes based on its commercial value at the point of entry into the EU: purchase price plus delivery costs up to the point where the goods enter the customs territory. This value does not always to the price stated on the sales contract and may be subject to specific adjustments.

More information on customs valuation