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.