EU customs code

EU customs code is the set of 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 in 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 Entry Summary Declaration requires information included 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. The Union Customs Code has introduced more details on risk analysis to this declaration which are expected to be defined in the coming months.See also: Transit movements electronic map

Customs procedures

When goods arrive at the customs office of entry to the EU, they are placed into temporary storage under customs supervision (no longer than 90 days) until they are assigned one of the following customs procedures (or re-exported):

1. Release for free circulation

Goods are released for consumption once all the import requirements have been met:
  • all applicable tariff duties, VAT and excise duties have been paid
  • all applicable authorisations and certificates (e.g. health requirements) have been presented

2. Special procedures

Goods may be placed under any of the following treatments:
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 EU without being subject to import duties, other charges related to the import of the goods (i.e. internal taxes) and commercial policy measures. Moving goods to another EU Member State means the customs clearance procedures are transferred to the customs office of destination.
  • Internal transit: Union goods may be moved from one point to another within the customs territory of the EU without any change to their customs status. This includes transporting goods through another territory that is outside the EU customs territory.
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 admission and end-use:
  • Temporary admission: Non-Union goods can enter the EU without the payment of import duties, provided they are intended for re-export without being changed. The maximum period for temporary import is two 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 can be imported into the EU, without being subject to duties, taxes and formalities, to be processed under customs control and then re-exported. If the finished products are ultimately not exported, they become subject to the applicable duties and formalities.
  • Outward processing: Union goods may be temporarily exported from the customs territory of the Union for processing purposes. The processed goods may be released for free circulation with total or partial relief from import duties.
See also:

Customs declaration - Single Administrative Document (SAD)

Goods are placed under customs-approved treatment or use using the Single Administrative Document (SAD). The use of SAD has several aims:
  • ensuring openness in national administrative requirements
  • rationalize and reduce administrative documentation
  • reduce the amount of requested information
  • standardize and harmonize data
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 whatever the mode of transport used and under any customs procedure, including:
  • export
  • import
  • transit where the new computerised transit system (NCTS) is not yet used
  • warehouses
  • temporary import
  • inward and outward processing

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.
This is defined as the purchase price plus delivery costs up to the point where the goods enter the customs territory. This value does not always equal the price stated on the sales contract and may be subject to specific adjustments.