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Taxation and Customs Union

AEO legislation and management instruments

The legal framework

The legal framework for the Authorised Economic Operator Programme is contained in the Union Customs Code (UCC) and its Implementing Provisions.

The AEO Guidelines and its Annexes

In addition to the legal provisions regulating the AEO programme, the AEO Guidelines were drawn up to ensure systematic application of the programme and to guarantee transparency and equal treatment of economic operators
To guarantee and facilitate the correct application of new legal provisions, to react to global developments relevant for the AEO Programme and to share best practices, it is necessary to update these guidelines on a regular basis.

The latest version of the Guidelines was adopted by the Customs Code Committee GEN Subsection AEO on 11 March 2016.

Those Guidelines consist of a main part and four Annexes.
The package is available in 22 languages.

The main part of the AEO guidelines explains the AEO concept based on the adopted legislation, including:

  • General information on what an AEO is, who can become AEO and on the different categories of AEO;
  • A description of the AEO benefits, including a specific section on mutual recognition;
  • A detailed description of the AEO criteria;
  • A detailed explanation of the application and authorisation process including guidance on which is the competent Member State where the AEO application has to be submitted, on the acceptance of the application, and on how to conduct effective and efficient risk analysis and audits;
  • A specific section dedicated to Small and Medium sized Enterprises (SME) with guidance on how to examine the AEO requirements if the applicant is an SME.
  • A section giving information on the factors that help customs authorities speeding up the authorisation process;
  • Guidance for both customs authorities and economic operators on how to facilitate the procedure for parent/subsidiary companies;
  • A specific section on how Member States cooperate in exchanging information;
  • Guidance on how to perform monitoring after an AEO authorisation has been issued;
  • A complete explanation on the concept of "business partners' security", including their identification and possible measures for securing.
  • A part on Mutual Recognition of AEO Programmes

Annex 1 to the AEO Guidelines: The AEO Self-Assessment questionnaire and its explanatory notes

According to Article 26 (1) of the Commission Delegated Regulation (EU) 2015/2446 of 28 July 2015 supplementing Regulation (EU) No 952/2013 of the European Parliament and of the Council with regard to detailed rules of specifying some of the provision of the Union Customs Code (UCC DA) in order to apply for the status of Authorised Economic Operator (AEO) the applicant shall submit a Self-Assessment Questionnaire (SAQ), which the customs authorities shall make available, together with the application.
The self-assessment questionnaire (SAQ), agreed between EU Member States and the European Commission, is harmonised at European level in order to guarantee a uniform approach throughout EU. The explanatory notes provide the applicant with detailed information on how the questionnaire should be filled out.

It should be noted that there may be some instances where specific national provisions may require additional information or adaptation of the model.

Annex 2 to the AEO Guidelines: Threats, Risks and possible solutions document

The Annex on Threats, Risks and Possible Solutions aims at helping both economic operators and customs authorities throughout the AEO procedure, providing them with a list of the most significant risks related to the AEO authorisation and monitoring process, and possible solutions on how to keep these risks under control.

In addition, the AEO COMPACT Model (Compliance Partnership Customs and Trade Compact) Model provides a framework including a methodology for the risk assessment of economic operators.

Annex 3 to the AEO Guidelines: AEO Security declaration Template

To fulfil the condition of the Security and Safety criterion relating to "Security requirements of business partners" (Article 28 (1) (d) UCC IA), the applicant/AEO can ask their business partner for a security declaration reflecting parties’ respective business models, roles and responsibilities.

Annex 4 to the AEO Guidelines: Examples of information to be shared with customs authorities

Article 23 (2) UCC foresees that "the holder of the decision shall inform the customs authorities without any delay of any factor arising after the decision was taken, which may influence its continuation or content".

Annex 4 to the AEO Guidelines aims to help AEOs in identifying some of the situations, which may have both an impact on the content of the AEO authorisation and / or on the criteria they have to fulfil. This annex is not a comprehensive check-list, but an indicative tool to help operators in their relation with customs authorities for the management of their AEO authorisation(s).

AEO Network

EU Member States AEO experts meet four times a year in the so-called AEO Network chaired by the European Commission to

  • exchange information on and to discuss practical questions related to the implementation of the AEO programme across the EU;
  • identify and to agree on appropriate measures to be taken/followed in order to overcome difficulties encountered and ensure harmonised implementation;
  • discuss and to support the development and implementation of any new enhancements and improvements in the programme;
  • prepare any necessary amendments to the EU AEO Guidelines and other operational tools.
  • support, coordinate and provide guidance with regard to the specific project groups in the context of MRA.

AEO Helpdesk

An EU AEO Helpdesk at the EU Commission (DG TAXUD) provides guidance to Member States' customs Administrations related to the practical application of the EU AEO legislation.