6 Things you should know before importing goods into the EU

Before you start importing goods into the EU there a few questions you should ask: Are the goods you want to import subject to bans or restrictions? What expenses can be expected at customs? Regardless of whether you are using an agency or organizing customs clearance yourself – are you well-informed and prepared? The following points will help give you some orientation:

  1. Who imports the goods?
    The most important person on the application for importing goods into the EU is the applicant. According to European customs law (Art. 170 paragraph 2 UCC), the applicant must be a resident of the EU. It should be decided prior to import who will, and even can, carry out the role as applicant for customs clearance, which includes paying the import duties. The applicant must have access to the EORI numbers (private parties are an exception to this rule), which must be applied for at customs in advance, unless the import is expected to only take place on occasion (<10 shipments per year).
  2. Are the goods subject to any import restrictions or bans?
    One of the responsibilities belonging to customs is to adhere to any and bans and restrictions subject to the rules and regulations of the European Union and Nations that restrict or forbid certain imported goods into the European Territory. The content of these regulations is very expansive and includes everything from literature which could endanger youth to areas concerning product safety to the protection of brands. The protection of industrial rights is one of the most common reasons for customs examinations, especially for textiles, shoes and bags. Importing food items also requires specific application regulations or may be subject to import bans.
  3. Detailed information as to product materials as well as its purpose of use
    In response to the customs application, customs then carries out a risk-based and a goods-based analysis of the data in the application. One way to insure success at customs and not to end up subject to a customs examination is to be sure to describe the goods distinctly, using the specified customs tariff number. Detailed information as to the makeup of the goods is necessary. Should goods be made of more than one material, or have multiple intended uses, these too must be described with exact detail. Photos can be helpful for customs specialists – customs may or may not accept such documents.
  4. Information that can influence the customs value of the goods
    Complex rules play a central role in defining how to correctly calculate the customs value of goods. When importing manufactured goods, the customs value is usually based on the transactional value. This is the actual amount paid or the amount to be paid for the goods, including all costs incurred within the outermost boundaries of the EU. This means that expenses such as sea and air freight costs or insurances are part of the the customs value calculation, varying in accordance to the delivery parameters. In the case of “ex-works” delivery, even the transport expenses up to the ship in the country of departure are taken into consideration.
  5. Taking advantage of possibilities such as customs reductions and exemptions
    Customs law enables possibilities to import goods into the EU exempt of import duties. For example, you can reimport goods into the EU (duty free as return goods), if they were exported out of the EU as Union goods within the last 3 years. Goods fulfilling specific requirements for samples and models, as well as goods intended for testing, are exempt of customs duty. The temporary import of goods used temporarily for safety reasons can also be registered. Due to the numerous preference and free trade treaties between the EU and third-party countries, presenting proof of specific preferences can reduce or even completely eliminate customs duty.
  6. What kind of costs does customs clearance incur and how can I pay these?
    There are various fees to be paid, depending on the kind of goods being imported and to which country the goods are registered to be delivered. In most cases, there will be customs duties and import taxes. The amount of customs duty depends on the customs tariff and possibly preferences (depending on the country of origin). The import tax rate is identical to the VAT rate in each respective country of import. Anti-dumping tariffs, additional agricultural tariffs or excise taxes may be incurred. Payment is possible directly at the customs office or via an advance money transfer. Not every customs office has the option for payment by credit card, PayPal and debit card – and it is important to keep the card’s maximum limit in mind. Payment for frequent imports can be arranged by your customs agent.


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