Calculation of Customs Duties in the European Union

9 minutos

The import and export of goods is regulated by an endless number of treaties, rules and regulations despite attempts at unification and cohesion.  The Union Customs Code (UCC) has been in force in the European Union (EU) since 2016. It establishes the general guidelines for the entry, exit and transit of goods in the European Union’s customs territory (UCT).

This regulation also governs the application of taxes, of a customs, fiscal or other nature, to the exchange of goods with territories that are not part of the UCT.  In this article we will focus on import and export duties, and specifically on the elements necessary for their determination.

Customs Duties 

In accordance with Art. 56 of the UCC, customs duties are based on the Common Customs Tariff which is levied on goods entering and exiting the UCT. The following aspects must be taken into account when determining the duties applicable:

  • The territory the duties are being applied in
  • The origin of the goods
  • Their tariff classification
  • The customs value of the goods

Territory of Application 

The European Union’s customs territory (UCT) comprises the countries or territories where the European Community (EC) rules and treaties are fully applied.  This means that there are territories that, politically, belong to the EU, where not all EU regulations are applicable, this mainly applies in customs matters.

The territories that are part of the EU and not part of the UCT include: Ceuta and Melilla (Spain), the Faroe Islands and Greenland (Denmark), Heligoland Island and the territory of Büsingen (Germany), the areas of Cyprus under Turkish rule (Cyprus), etc. 

Similarly, there are territories that, although they belong to the UCT, are subject to exceptions in the application of customs policy under the application of international treaties. The territories found in this group include: The Canary Islands (Spain), the Azores Islands and Madeira (Portugal), French Guiana, Martinique, Réunion, Saint Martin (France).

Article 4 of the UCC contains the complete list of countries belonging to the UCT, where the EU tax policy for the exchange of goods fully applies. 

Origin of the Goods 

The origin of the goods refers to the country or territory of production or procurement. If several countries are involved, the rules stipulated by the regulations must be followed to determine the origin for customs purposes.

There are countries with which the EU has signed agreements allowing them to benefit from tariff exemptions for the import of goods from these countries. In order to qualify for this preference, the importer must be able to prove the preferential origin of the goods by means of a certificate of origin, issued by the authorities in the country of origin or, when applicable, by means of the REX system (Registered Exporter system) or the invoice declaration.

Tariff Classification 

The World Customs Organization has, for many years, had a Harmonized Commodity Description and Coding System called the Harmonized System (HS in English and SA in Spanish). This system allows goods to be classified according to their nature; with the objective of determining the tariff, tax, control, etc. measures that are applicable for export or import.  

The Combined Nomenclature (CN) was established in the EU to classify the tariff on goods, it is based on the HS. The CN consists of an 8-digit code, the first 6 digits of which are identical to the HS codes corresponding to the type of goods and the following 2 refer to the Community subdivision.

The CN is supplemented by two more digits in the European Union Integrated Tariff (TARIC), this includes the TARIC subheadings and gives rise to a 10-digit TARIC code.

Customs Value of the Goods

Determining the customs value of the goods makes it possible to establish the taxable base for calculating the corresponding taxes for import into the EU. In accordance with Art. 70 of the UCC, the customs value corresponds to the price actually paid or payable for the goods, including all costs associated with the sale (transport costs, insurance, etc.). For customs purposes, the value of the goods does not include the taxes associated with the import (tariffs, VAT, etc.), nor the additional expenses incurred after its entry into the UCT listed in Art. 72 of the UCC.

The amount of duty to be paid is equal to the tax base for the corresponding rate in accordance with the tariff classification of the goods.

Important links:

  • Rules and Structure of the Combined Nomenclature and Customs Duties by Tariff Code:

Combined nomenclature for 2021

  • To consult the applicable measures by tariff classification and country of origin.

Consult TARIC

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