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Customs in former days and now
Broadly outlined, in the past decennia three main important developments have taken place. Removing the European internal borders, the computerisation and the shifting of the customs controls.
1992, Removal of the European internal borders
Till 31 December 1992 customs declarations had to be made for transactions between the European member states. This was necessary to settle the VAT between the countries, and to collect statistical information. These customs declarations were not important for the import duties, as between the European member states import duties were no longer due anymore. At all internal borders of the European Union you could find customs offices. Customs agents were established there. They made customs declarations for all goods that passed the border. These written declarations were then directly controlled by Customs. They assessed whether all formalities had been fulfilled and gave permission to pass the border. All over Europe millions of declarations were made each year. Already in 1985 the resolution was adopted to cancel these bureaucratic procedures on 31 December 1992. And it happened this way. But instead of all these formalities at the border, companies had now to apply new VAT-rules in their administration. The (VAT) barriers were therefore not removed, but shifted to the accounts of in- and exporting companies. However, in the end it meant a very large improvement for the trade in Europe. It was only unfortunate for all these officials and customs agents who lost their jobs. Because, as a result of this, lots of customs offices have disappeared. They are only to be found sporadically at the European internal borders.
The customs declarations always had to be made in writing. For each kind of declaration a special form was provided. And even though Customs were regulated on the basis of the European legislation, each country had its own forms. In the course of the eighties the first harmonisation started with the ‘Unique Document'. With this form that by the way consisted of 8 different specimens, in principle all declarations in all countries could be made. Some time later all different codes that were used on the forms, were harmonised. Thanks to the developments in computerisation customs agents no longer filled out the documents on the typewriter but on the computer. But the declaration had still to be made in writing. At the end of the eighties beginning of the nineties, in different countries computerisation systems were developed in which the data of the declaration were automatically processed and assessed. In the Netherlands this customs package was called ‘Sagitta', in Germany ‘Atlas', in Belgium ‘Sadbel'. In other words each country created its own software system. The systems could not communicate with each other. That is still the case. But a European communications system has been created called ‘New Computerised Transit System' or in short NCTS or Transit. This system works the same in all member states, but is only used for the transport of customs goods through the EU. Meanwhile the use of computers has been developed even further. In the new European Customs Code the electronic declaration shall be made obligatory. Nowadays the computerisation of Customs is very sophisticated.
Shifting of the customs controls
This last development has been present in the Netherlands since 2002. In the past the obligation existed that the goods to declare at a customs office had to be present at the time of the declaration. This was easy for Customs. For if they wanted to control the goods physically, they only had to leave the office and there were the goods. The disadvantage of this system was that all transports always had to pass by a customs office. Even though many customs offices were located at international through traffic routes, in the end this declaring procedure always caused delay and unnecessary costs. The rules were so strict that if the goods were not present for any reason, the declarant received a fine. The situation is now completely reversed. The goods can directly be transported to the place of destination. That place of destination can be the company that purchased the goods or the transporter where the goods are transferred. On the import declaration this location must be indicated. However, the goods must be found at the indicated location at the time of declaration. Usually Customs release the goods unseen. If they want to control the goods physically, mobile teams come to the indicated place to control the goods there. This means that there is no interruption of the logistic process as the goods are at the place where they are to be unpacked or repacked. For the customs agents that take care of the customs declarations, these developments imply that they no longer need to be established along an international route or near a customs office. Moreover, being computerized, they can take care of declarations for all companies in the Netherlands by means of data communication. For clients such as importers and exporters this means that the logistics costs go down and that they can choose the customs agents they want to take care of their declarations. They can also choose to make their declarations themselves with their own software.
Read about the many possibilities that Fiscal Representation can offer to simplify international VAT obligations.
European excise regulations are very specific and require special expertise.
Maco is independent
Maco is an independent customs agent. This guarantees the confidentiallity of all the information that has to be provided for a customs declaration.