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Export Helpdesk Frequently Asked Questions

Combined nomenclature
1. What exactly is the Combined Nomenclature (CN)?

The Combined Nomenclature – laid down in the CN Regulation (2658/87) – is the EU's system for classifying traded goods. It comprises:

2. What is the difference between CN and HS?
  • The global harmonised system (HS) is the common international system for classifying goods – used for international trade negotiations for example, and applied by most trading nations. Run by the World Customs Organisation (WCO), it uses 6-digits and is used worldwide.
  • The EU's combined nomenclature (CN) is based on the HD but uses 8–digit codes for a more detailed categorisation – which helps us to give you clear, detailed information on your product. The My Export page on the Export Helpdesk requires a 10-digit CN code. If need be, just add an extra two zeros to the 8-digit code.
3. How can I find the code (CN) for my product?

If you can't find your product using "Find my product code" on the My Export page, you can contact the European Commission's Directorate-General (DG) for Taxation and Customs Union, at the following e-mail address:

We will do our best to give you an accurate code for your product based on the information you provide, but we cannot guarantee it is correct. Our answer is for guidance only, and is not to be relied on for legal purposes.

For more definite information, ask for binding tariff information (BTI) in the country of importation.

4. How do I get binding tariff information (BTI)?

To find out for sure what EU regulations and tariffs apply to your export product, ask the EU country you want to export to for "binding tariff information" (BTI)

More on binding tariff information

5. What if my question is not answered here?

You can

Requirements & taxes
6. Where do the authorities carry out checks to ensure my goods meet health, safety and labelling requirements?

Inspections can be done at any stage in the trade process. Please consult the requirements section for information on inspections/checks for specific products.

7. Are excise duties applied at EU or at national level?

At national level. We do provide all the details on the EH website. Country specific information will be displayed with your country- and product-specific search.

All EU countries apply excise duties on: alcoholic beverages, manufactured tobacco products and energy products (motor fuels and heating fuels, such as petrol and gasoline, electricity, natural gas, coal and coke).

8. Does food exported to the EU have to come from an EU-authorised establishment?

For food of animal origin – yes, in most cases. See the list of approved establishments.

For food of non-animal origin – not necessarily. In many cases, the exporting business must simply be known to the importer and accepted as a supplier by importers of food into the EU.

For food containing plants or plant products covered by EU plant-health rules – no, but exporters must obtain a phytosanitary certificate issued by the national authorities in their country.

9. How can I get approval to export fish to the EU?
  • First, your country has to be approved to export fishery products to the EU. You can find a list of countries and the procedure on the EH pages.
  • Second, your processing plant or factory vessel needs an approval to export to the EU. See the approved establishments list.
  • Third, there are specific labelling rules for fishery products.

Import tariffs
10. When the tariff refers to weight, is it gross weight or net weight?

Unless stated otherwise, the tariff refers to the net weight – the weight of the goods themselves without packaging or containers of any kind.

11. How can I find the import duty that applies to my product?

Use the My export form.

12. If I want to sell my product in several EU countries, are there import duties to pay each time my product enters a different country?

No. The EU is a customs union, so you only pay duties once, when your product first enters the EU customs territory.

13. Can I get a list of products charged a 0% import duty?

No, on this site you have to search on a specific product.

14. How is VAT charged? Say I want to sell my product in France but when I send it to Europe, it first arrives in the Netherlands. Do I pay French or Dutch VAT?

VAT is paid in the country where the product is sold. Import duties, on the other hand, are paid when your products enter the EU customs territory. So, in the example above, import duties will be paid in the Netherlands, but VAT will be due in France.

Preferential arrangements
15. Where can I find information on the Generalised Scheme of Preferences (GSP)?

The Commission's Directorate-General for Trade provides information on the GSP adopted in October 2012.

16. What if my country is eligible for more than one preferential regime?

You may choose the arrangement most beneficial for you. But check the individual rules of origin carefully to make sure your product qualifies.

17. What if I am unsure about the origin of my product?

First, consult the rules of origin check-list.

If you still have doubts, ask your national customs authority.

If you want to be absolutely certain, apply for a binding origin information decision (BOI) from the relevant authority in an EU country. Once issued, BOIs are binding on the customs authorities in all EU countries. But you will still be required to provide proof of origin.