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Export declarations

Export declarations are of growing importance.

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Export declarations are of growing importance to customs for two reasons:

  • Export transactions are exempt from VAT, which provides an opportunity to commit fraud. The European VAT system is elaborate and complicated, and thus invites fraud. To combat this, exporters have to prove that they have really exported the goods to a destination outside the European Union. If they cannot, tax authorities consider the goods to have been sold inside the EU and thus VAT is to be paid.
  • For security reasons, governments want to know what kind of goods are being exported to what destination and what buyer. The EU does not want to export certain sensitive goods or, for example, certain objects of art. Some goods may be legally exported but only to certain countries or certain recipients.

Export declaration information is also an important source for gathering data for statistics. Therefore, exports also are controlled strictly by the customs authorities in the European Union.

In general, an export declaration has to be filed in the country and at the place where the goods are being loaded in the outgoing means of transportation. This can be, for example, a container, or a truck that will take the goods to a harbor or airport at the EU’s external border. The goods have to be declared digitally by means of an export declaration. In most situations, this will be at the location where the goods are loaded, but if permission is not granted, the goods have to be transported to a customs office and declared there.

When the goods are declared, the customs computer or officer may decide that they have to be checked physically to obtain more information. A sample may also have to be taken. In general, the goods may not leave before the outcome of this further investigation is clear, because once the goods have left the EU, they cannot be brought back since the jurisdiction of the EU customs law is limited to the territory of the 28 EU member states.

The Export Control System (ECS) is used to check that the goods actually leave the EU, as stated in the declaration. The customs office where the goods will leave the EU territory has to be stated in the export declaration. ECS sends a message to this customs office informing it that the goods will be brought there. When the goods arrive, a “Trader at Exit” files a notification of arrival in the ECS. In most cases this is the container terminal at a port or a forwarder at an airport. Customs then has the possibility to execute a conformity check to see that the goods are in accordance with the export declaration, and have not been changed or (partly) removed. When the goods have finally left the EU territory, a “Confirmation of Exit” message is sent to the customs broker who filed the export declaration. This message confirms that the transaction and transport have been carried out correctly.

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