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The Union Customs Code (UCC) defines the legal framework for customs rules and procedures in the EU customs territory, adapted to modern trade models and communication tools.
The UCC entered into force on 1 May 2016 and has simplicity, service and speed as its key objectives.
Its aim is to:
- Offer greater legal certainty and uniformity to businesses and increase clarity for customs officials throughout the EU
- Complete the shift to a paperless and fully electronic customs environment
- Reinforce swifter customs procedures for compliant and trustworthy economic operators (AEO)
- Enhance the competitiveness of European businesses and thereby advance the main goals of the EU strategy for growth and jobs.
- Protect the flow of goods transiting or moving in and out of the EU
- Safeguard the financial and economic interests of the EU and of the Member States, as well as the safety and security of EU citizens.
It aims to:
Streamline and simplify customs legislation and procedures, building on existing concepts
- It clarifies rules, such as those on release of goods for free circulation and on special procedures.
- It contains most of the EU customs legislation in one package and provides precise rules of application.
- It defines data requirements for customs, pre-arrival and pre-departure declarations, notifications, applications and decisions in an integrated way. The EU Customs Data Model has been designed, in line with international standards like the World Customs Organisation (WCO) data model, to assist national customs authorities in adapting the data requirements to their systems.
- All of this is designed to contribute to a harmonised implementation of customs rules and procedures across the EU.
- The design of the UCC has taken into account to a large extent the daily needs and existing practices of trade. For instance, it allows the use of electronic transport manifests for customs purposes and the moving of goods under temporary storage without lodging a transit declaration and it envisages new forms to extinguish a customs debt.
- It introduces modern concepts, such as centralised clearance, and offers more uniformity to business, by providing uniform and harmonised rules on guarantees, for example.
- It also reduces the administrative burden on compliant and trustworthy economic operators (AEOs) by allowing a number of simplifications of customs procedures, and of the use of guarantees, and by allowing self-assessment of customs debts under certain conditions.
- The UCC strives for further automation of all exchange and storage of information through additional IT systems that integrate the new processes and legal requirements, such as common and shared services to customs and harmonised interfaces and EU portals for trade.
Transition to fully electronic customs
While the substantive provisions of the UCC entered into force on 1 May 2016 a transition period is necessary before full implementation can be achieved.
This is primarily due to the fact that there is a need to develop new IT systems or upgrade existing ones in order to fully implement the legal requirements.
This transition period currently lasts until 31 December 2020 at the latest, but the Commission has recently proposed that the transitional period be extended to 2025 for a small number of customs formalities managed by electronic systems that may not be fully completed until 2025.
The detailed rules regarding the transitional period are contained in a Transitional Delegated Act and in the UCC Work Programme.
Their practical application is addressed in several guidance documents produced in collaboration with Member State and Trade representatives. These rules will ensure a smooth transition from the existing customs legislative regime to the new UCC rules on a gradual basis between 1 May 2016 and 31 December 2025.