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Taxation and Customs Union

Storage comprises both customs warehousing and free zones.

Storage is designed to give businesses the flexibility to buy and import non-Union goods even before they have decided, in line with logistical, commercial or other conditions, what to do with the goods. As long as the non-Union goods are in storage they will not be subject to import duties or other charges.

Customs warehousing

'Customs warehousing' means that non-Union goods may be stored in any premises authorised by the customs authorities ('customs warehouses'). The storage may be for unlimited periods, unless the nature of the goods means that they could pose a threat to health or to the environment if stored for a long term. While in warehouses, the goods will be under customs supervision and will not be subject to import duties or other charges related to the import of goods or to commercial policy measures (such as import licenses).

'Public customs warehouses' are available for use by any person for the customs warehousing of goods, whereas 'private customs warehouses' can only be used by one authorised person.

Before goods under this procedure can be consumed in the EU, the warehousing period must be completed and the products have to be released for free circulation, which means that import duty must be paid and other taxes related to the import of the goods (e.g. VAT or excises) will become due immediately or, in some cases, if the goods are destined for another Member State, in the country of final destination. Alternatively the goods could, following the warehousing period, be placed under a different special procedure (such as inward processing or end-use), subject to the conditions laid down for these procedures.

An authorisation from the customs authority is required for the operation of storage facilities for the customs warehousing of goods. The requirements to obtain such authorisation are:

  1. To be established in the customs territory of the Union;
  2. To provide necessary assurance of the proper conduct of the operations; and
  3. To provide a guarantee where a customs debt or other charges may be incurred.

Free zones

Member States may designate parts of the customs territory of the Union as 'free zones'; these free zones must be communicated to the European Commission. 'Free zones' are enclosed areas within the customs territory of the Union where non-Union goods can be introduced free of import duty, other charges (i.e. taxes) and commercial policy measures. Such goods may, following the period in the free zones, be released for free circulation (subject to payment of import duty and other charges), or be placed under another special procedure (e.g. inward processing, temporary admission or end-use procedures – under the conditions laid down for these procedures) or re-exported.

Union goods may also be entered into or stored, moved, used, processed or consumed in free zones. Such goods may afterwards be exported or brought into other parts of the customs territory of the Union.

List of free zones in the Member States and competent customs authorities.