Customs: What you should be aware of


There are several regulations you need to be aware of as well as customs documents that are mandatory to fill out when importing and exporting goods abroad

Customs duties are a tax imposed by governments on goods and services imported from outside the EU. The customs duty is paid to boost the domestic market and domestic production, while this also helps to increase government revenue. Around 75% of the customs value is sent to the EU in Brussels, with the remaining 25% staying in the member state where the goods are cleared. In addition, there are several regulations you need to be aware of as well as customs documents that are mandatory to fill out when importing and exporting goods abroad.

EU customs union - customs within the EU

When you import goods from outside the EU, customs duties are required on the goods. Imports of goods between EU member states, on the other hand, are not subject to customs duties due to the Free Trade Agreement of the EU Customs Union. Within the customs union, common customs rules were developed, which have a major impact on the EU's trade policy. The customs union and trade policy decided to remove customs duties and other tariff restrictions between the EU member states. This aimed to remove trade barriers by avoiding customs duties when trading and importing across member states.

Customs outside the EU

The customs duty is paid when trading with countries outside the EU, such as the US, UK and China - these non-EU countries are also known as third countries. Customs rules vary from country to country and apply to both businesses and individuals.

Customs from England

Brexit had a major impact on the import and export of goods to and from the UK. This led to new rules for customs duties and VAT when EU countries trade with the UK in the future.

There is a trade agreement between the EU an UK which entails rules for registration of companies in the EU and UK respectively. In addition, the UK authorities have tightened the requirements for invoice content meaning that pro forma invoices are no longer acceptable as foundation for customs clearance in the UK.

Many processes must be implemented with shippers and consignees as well as shipping lines, customs authorities, forwarding agents and carriers.

As an EU country trading with the UK, it is possible to obtain a duty reduction, provided that the goods originate in the UK. This requires the exporter to provide a statement of origin, an origin declaration, to the importer. In this regard, there are some requirements for the registration of exporters in the EU and the UK.

Read more about the Brexit rules here

Customs from the US

When you import goods from the US to an EU country, you need to pay customs duties on the goods. To ensure your shipment is delivered on time, it is necessary to comply with US documentation requirements. In this regard, particular rules apply in relation to customs, VAT, import registration, etc.

EU free trade agreement

The European Commission negotiates free trade agreements between the EU and non-EU countries on behalf of EU member states. Bilateral free trade agreements complement the global free trade agreements negotiated in the World Trade Organization, WTO.

The primary purpose of EU’s free trade agreements is to improve European business enterprises’ access to important markets outside EU for the benefit of the export trade. Also, the free trade agreements give European companies access to import cheaper as well as a larger variety of products from countries outside EU.

See which countries the EU has free trade agreements with

Blue Water's local customs expertise

Customs clearance of import and export shipments is part of Blue Water's core services. We want our customers to know that their goods are in safe hands with us. We take care of document handling, which can be complicated as customs rules and regulations can vary from country to country - this can be the case both within the EU and around the world.

Blue Water has the experience, expertise, and in-house competencies to ensure proper customs clearance, whether it is live animals, reefer products, FCL/LCL, large-scale industrial goods or something else entirely. The correct customs clearance procedure is essential as it can save costs and prevent delays in the release process.

Blue Water's selected customs services include the following:

  • Private customs: We can also provide assistance if you need help with private customs handling if for instance you are moving to another country.
  • Local expertise: Our offices worldwide have local customs specialist offering extensive knowledge of local laws and regulations.
  • Bonded warehousing: Several of our locations offer bonded warehousing solutions. Contact your local office to find out how we can help you. 
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