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Taxation and Customs Union

What is a customs declaration?

A customs declaration is an official document that lists and gives details of goods that are being imported or exported.

In legal terms, a customs declaration is the act whereby a person indicates the wish to place goods under a given customs procedure. This legal procedure is described in the Union Customs Code (UCC) (Articles 5 (12) and 158 to 187).

Who should lodge a customs declaration?

In general it is the owner of the goods or a person acting on his behalf (a representative).

The person having control over the goods may also perform it. These persons may be individuals or companies, as well as in certain cases associations of persons.

As a rule these persons should be established in the European Union.

Where should a customs declaration be lodged?

The declaration should be lodged with the customs office where the goods were or will shortly be presented (Article 159(3) UCC).

Why should a customs declaration be lodged?

In order to comply with the legal obligations and to place goods under a customs procedure, a customs declaration needs to be lodged.

This should happen in two cases:

  • upon importation, when goods are brought into the customs territory, they must be assigned to a customs-approved treatment or use (Article 48 CC)
  • and goods intended for export - must be placed under the export procedure (Article 269 UCC).

How to make a customs declaration

Declarations shall be made using electronic data-processing techniques (Article 6 UCC)

Explanation supported by examples on data requirements are modelled in EUCDM Guidance Document.

Until the dates of the upgrading of the National Import Systems referred to in the Annex to Implementing Decision 2014/255/EU, where means other than electronic processing techniques are used for the customs procedures, the customs declarations shall be lodged using the forms provided for in Annex 9, Appendices B1-D1, as appropriate (Article 15 Transitional Delegated Act).

In specific cases, a customs declaration may be lodged using means other than electronic data-processing techniques:

  • in writing, on a Single Administrative Document (SAD)
  • orally or by means of an act replacing a customs declaration. Travelers are notably entitled to lodge an oral declaration (as far as their personal luggage and means of transport are concerned) as well as private consignees (in respect of certain small consignments).

Certain other acts may constitute a customs declaration (Article 141 UCC DA):

  • going through the green or 'nothing to declare’ channel;
  • going through a customs office which does not operate the two-channel; system without spontaneously making a customs declaration;
  • affixing a 'nothing to declare’ sticker on the vehicle where this possibility is provided for; or
  • entry/exit into/from the customs territory of the Union.

Customs declaration simplifications

The UCC, Title V provides for the following customs simplifications:

  1. Simplified declaration (Article 166 UCC)

Declarants are allowed to place goods under a customs procedure on the basis of a simplified declaration where either some particulars or some documents are missing at the time of lodging the customs declaration. For the non-regular use of the simplified declaration, no authorisation is required.

  1. Centralised clearance (Article 179 UCC)

A customs declaration may be lodged at the customs office in the MS where the authorisation holder is established irrespectively of the fact that the goods are presented to customs in another MS (participating MS (PMS) – presentation customs office). For such purpose an Economic Operator has to be granted the Centralised Clearance authorisation.

  1. Entry in the declarant's records (Article 182 UCC)

The authorisation holder is allowed to lodge a customs declaration in the form of an entry into the declarant’s records provided that the particulars of that declaration are at the disposal of customs at the time of its lodgement. The entry into the declarant’s records could be either with presentation of goods or without presentation. For the later additional conditions have to be fulfilled.

This type of customs declaration is not allowed for all customs procedures (e.g. exclusion of transit).

  1. Drawing-up of customs declarations for goods falling under different tariff subheadings ( Article 177 UCC)

This simplification allows for the drawing-up of a single customs declaration for goods falling under different tariff subheadings.

In such case, the import or export duty must be charged on the basis of the tariff subheading of the goods which are subject to the highest duty rate.

  1. Self-assessment (Article 185 UCC)

This allows Economic Operators to carry out certain customs formalities usually carried out by customs such as calculation of duties, and performing certain controls under customs supervision

Related Links

Customs formalities and Procedures – Main menu
The Union Customs Code
SAD GUIDANCE – During the UCC transitional period