Taxes & Law

EU customs reform: For a greener, more digital age of customs

Fatih-Kağan Taşkoparan

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One of the oldest cornerstones of the European Union, the customs union founded in 1968, is to be revised: Customs matters are to be simpler, more secure and digital in the EU in future. To this end, the EU Commission has proposed a common platform for customs data and a new EU customs authority.

In the spirit of digital change

There is free movement of goods in the European single market - a major challenge for market surveillance. This is because the European customs system is very inconsistent. Although the customs authorities of all EU countries work together as a single authority in the EU customs union, not all authorities are informed of suspicious consignments of goods or illegal imports at the same time. The reform presented by the EU Commission in mid-May is intended to remedy this and its digitalization is expected to generate additional revenue of one billion euros per year for the EU and its member states.

For a greener, digital age of customs

The Commission proposal provides for a new EU customs authority to oversee a new EU customs data platform, which will act as the engine of the new system. Customs reporting obligations of economic operators are to be simplified, for example by reducing the time needed to complete import procedures, providing a central EU interface and facilitating the reuse of data. In future, companies will also be able to enter all information about their products and supply chains online on the EU customs data platform. They will only have to communicate their customs information via a single portal and transmit the data for several shipments only once.

Member States will have access to real-time data, which will allow them to better analyze trade flows and predict problems. They will also be able to pool all information and react more quickly, uniformly and effectively to threats. Currently, the data platforms of the national customs authorities use different IT systems. These will gradually be replaced by a centralized system that will make it much easier to share data. The use of artificial intelligence for data monitoring and analysis will also help to identify problems before goods have even begun to be shipped to the EU.

Brussels wants to levy additional customs duties on consignments of goods worth less than 150 euros if they come from non-EU countries. Background: In order to avoid customs duties on imports, 65% of goods imported into the EU are declared with a low value.

While in the current customs system the responsibility for customs obligations lies with individual consumers and carriers, the reform will make online platforms key players. They must ensure that customs duties and VAT are paid at the time of purchase. Consumers will no longer be confronted with hidden fees.

The national governments and the European Parliament still have to agree on a common position before the Commission proposal can be adopted.