European Commission publishes guidance on customs issues amid the COVID-19 outbreak

3 minute read
03 April 2020

Amid the coronavirus (COVID-19) outbreak, the European Commission ("Commission") has offered guidance on practical solutions to certain customs issues, which are provided for by the current legal framework. During this time of global uncertainty, the guidance seeks to ensure a uniform application of the Union Customs Code across the EU Customs Union.

As the global situation develops rapidly, the guidance should be treated as a "living" document, which the Commission will update if required.

We summarise some key noteworthy procedural developments stemming from the guidance below.

  • New applications for customs authorisations. Companies are strongly encouraged to only apply for essential and urgent customs authorisations, which are required to ensure supply chain continuity and the free flow of essential goods in the EU Member States. In the UK, the government has confirmed that applications for customs authorisations to import supplies of food, medical and pharmaceutical products will be given priority at this time. As such, companies can expect some delays on the processing of any non-essential applications at this time.
  • Existing applications for customs authorisations. Companies may request an extension to the 120-day general time limit for taking customs decisions, if they require more time to comply with the relevant conditions attached to a customs authorisation. An extension may be useful, e.g. where customs authorities are not able to enter and inspect premises due to the government imposed restrictions of movement and quarantine measures.
  • Note on UK customs authorisations: if a company has already obtained a customs authorisation and it is no longer able to comply with a condition of it due to COVID-19, it must get permission from its supervising office in HM Revenue and Customs or Border Force to temporarily vary the conditions of its authorisation.
  • Temporary admission procedure. The Commission confirms that the COVID-19 outbreak should be considered as a "disaster", as intended under the current legal framework. This means that a total relief from import duties may be granted for goods, where they are used to counter the effects of COVID-19. Goods that may be eligible to be declared for temporary admission with total relief could include ambulances and other essential medical equipment.

This guidance is particularly useful for any companies with pressing concerns on the wider customs decision making process, customs procedures and customs formalities during these unprecedented times.

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