What are the customs regulations in the European Union?
The European Union (EU) provides a single market, which promotes free trade among the member states. However, this does not undermine the significance of customs regulations, which play a crucial role to facilitate seamless transactions and protection of member countries from illegal trade.
General Customs Rules
The rules on customs procedures in the EU are harmonised, which means that the same procedures are applied in all member countries. These rules are primarily geared toward facilitating international trade, protecting national security, public safety, and the economy.
Goods imported into the EU from outside are subject to the Union's common customs tariff. The rates of duty in the common customs tariff are based on the type of goods and their origin. Once goods have been entered into the customs territory of the Union and customs formalities have been complied with, they shall be deemed to be in free circulation.
All goods crossing the customs border of the EU must be declared. There are certain exemptions, mainly for personal possessions and small consignments sent by mail.
The declaration is based on the legal requirements of the Union's Customs Code and it provides the customs authorities with details about the goods, their origin, destination, and other details required for customs actions. Customs declarations can be made electronically through the EU’s Electronic Customs initiative.
VAT and Excise Duty
Value Added Tax (VAT) and excise duties are also significant elements of the EU Customs regulations. These are indirect taxes that are applied to goods and services as part of the price paid by the final consumer. Different VAT and excise rates apply in different countries.
Excise duties are applied to certain types of goods (mainly alcohol, tobacco, and energy products). Once these goods have been released for consumption in one EU country, they move freely within the EU without further customs formalities.
The Customs authorities in individual EU countries are responsible for the management of the external borders of the EU. Their main activity is customs controls. These controls ensure the correct application of customs and tax rules, and they also provide for the necessary checks to protect security, public safety, health and the environment within the Union.