Import Customs Clearance

Customs operations or import clearance has changed considerably over the years. There are three major operation modes in import customs clearance:

  • Direct representation – always requires to give customs full warranty.
  • Indirect representation – always requires warranty and freight forwarder is responsible in the first place for customs debt, but also end customer together with freight forwarder are jointly responsible for the customs debt.
  • Direct representation with the guarantor’s responsibility (limited use in some countries) – requires warranty and freight forwarder is responsible for customs debt, but the end customer is responsible for the post-clearance (this customs form is in use only in Finland)

Freight forwarders enable the above actions for customers and when needed, set own warranty for customer and enable thus customs clearance so customer doesn’t have to nor to agree on any separate issues with customs.

Freight forwarder’s “tools” in import customs clearance are electronic import declarations of the Finnish Customs Information System, so-called ITU-customs, and documents given by client, most important of which are commercial invoice, packing list, necessary EUR- trade certificates or other certificates of origin and licenses.

They change, new tariffs come, others being removed, dumping constraints come and being removed. This requires that forwarders continuously monitor changes in the external trade. Since EU border is an external border, EU authorities decide on matters concerning external trade. Customs itself is done mainly by using electronic customs systems, but customs may require the submission of documents or the goods transported or samples for customs approval.

Export Customs Clearance

Export customs clearance is done in the same way electronically and based on the Customs Tariff, i.e. TARIC. Documents are basically the same. The operation is largely based on documents and electronic customs clearance. A significant issue in exports is EU border crossing point, and it requires a different type of electronic declarations from freight forwarding company to customs and to cargo-handling companies, so customs is made sure that goods left the EU area.
Custom export decision is important because it confirms that exports is physically carried out, and it makes possible, for example, a VAT deduction for freight forwarder’s customer i.e. for exporter.

Customs Transit

Customs transit is under customs control and means a transfer of goods for customs clearance in another country or customs transit to a place from which the goods are exported outside EU without customs clearance (including Norway, Switzerland, Liechtenstein) within EU. In order to transport goods within EU area a warranty must be set to customs. The aim is that when goods arrive to destination, customs transit can be ended electronically so that deciding customs confirms to sending customs that goods arrived to destination for further action. In that case warranty can be released. Freight forwarders make customs transit regularly for customers’ goods either with their own or customer’s customs transit warranty.