Relief from customs duty by virtue of the Regulation on reliefs from customs duty

Relief from customs duty can be based on Council Regulation (EC) No 1186/2009 setting up a Community system of reliefs from customs duty (Regulation on reliefs from customs duty).

The following list is not exhaustive, and the cases are often subject to additional requirements. The expression third country refers to countries and territories excluded from the customs territory of the EU. The expressions approved by Customs and exception granted by Customs mean that relief from customs duty requires an authorisation granted by the Customs Authorisation Centre. The authorisation must be presented when the goods are cleared for release for free circulation.

By virtue of the Regulation, the following enjoy relief from customs duty:

Personal property belonging to natural persons transferring their normal place of residence from a third country to the EU (Articles 3–11)

Relief may be granted to persons whose normal place of residence has been outside the customs territory of the EU for a continuous period of at least 12 months. A condition for relief from customs duty is that the personal property has been in the possession of and used by the person concerned at his or her former normal place of residence outside the customs territory of the EU for a minimum of six months and that it is intended to be used for the same purpose at the new normal place of residence. The person moving must be prepared to prove to the customs authority the possession and use of the goods during the period concerned. In special cases, Customs may grant exceptions to the time limits.

Until 12 months have elapsed from the date on which their entry for free circulation was accepted, goods which have been admitted duty-free may not be lent, given as security, hired out or transferred, whether for a consideration or free of charge, without prior notification to the customs office where they were cleared.

Personal property means e.g. household effects, cycles and motor cycles, private motor vehicles and their trailers, pleasure craft, private aeroplanes, household pets and saddle animals as well as the portable instruments of the applied or liberal arts, required by the person concerned for the pursuit of his or her trade or profession. Personal property must not be such as might indicate, by its nature or quantity, that it is being imported for commercial reasons. No relief shall be granted for alcoholic products, tobacco or tobacco products, commercial means of transport or articles for use in the exercise of a trade or profession, other than portable instruments of the applied or liberal arts.

The import of a taxable vehicle belonging to a private household is provided for in the Finnish Car Tax Act.

Goods imported on the occasion of a marriage (Articles 12–16)

Relief from customs duty is granted for household effects and wedding presents belonging to a person transferring his or her normal place of residence from a third country to the customs territory of the EU. However, no relief shall be granted for to alcoholic products or tobacco products. The value of each present may not, however, exceed 1 000 euros.

Relief may be granted only to persons whose normal place of residence has been outside the customs territory of the EU for a continuous period of at least 12 months. Relief shall be granted only in respect of goods entered for free circulation not earlier than two months before the date fixed for the wedding and not later than four months after the date of the wedding. In special cases, Customs may grant exceptions to the time limits.

Until 12 months have elapsed from the date on which their entry for free circulation was accepted, goods which have been admitted duty-free may not be lent, given as security, hired out or transferred, whether for a consideration or free of charge, without prior notification to the customs office where they were cleared.

Personal property acquired by inheritance (Articles 17–20)

Personal property acquired by inheritance by a natural person having his or her normal place of residence in the customs territory of the EU shall be admitted free of import duties. No relief shall be granted e.g. for alcoholic products or tobacco products, commercial means of transport or some articles for use in the exercise of a trade or profession. Relief shall be granted only for personal property entered for free circulation not later than two years from the date on which the person concerned becomes entitled to the property (final settlement of the inheritance). In special cases, Customs may extend this period.

Outfits, educational materials and household effects intended for the personal use of students during the period of their studies in the EU (Articles 21–22)

Consignments of negligible value (Articles 23–24)

Consignments the value of which does not exceed 150 euros, dispatched direct from a third country to a consignee in the EU shall be admitted free of import duties. No relief shall be granted for alcoholic products, tobacco products or perfumes.

Non-commercial small consignments (Articles 25–27)

Non-commercial consignments of occasional nature which are sent free of payment of any kind from a private individual to another private individual and which contain goods with a value not exceeding 45 euros for the personal use of the consignee or his/her family shall be admitted free of import duties. Alcoholic products, tobacco products and perfumes are also subject to quantitative restrictions.

For more information on gifts sent to Finland, go to the page Gift consignments.

Capital goods and other equipment imported on the transfer of activities from a third country into the EU (Articles 28–34)

The capital goods and other equipment belonging to undertakings which definitively cease their activity in a third country and move to the customs territory of the EU in order to carry on a similar activity there, shall be admitted free of import duties. This requires that the undertaking has used the goods for a minimum of 12 months before the undertaking ceased to operate in the third country and that they are intended to be used for the same purposes after the transfer. In special cases, Customs may grant exceptions to the requirement of 12-month use.

No relief shall be granted to undertakings the transfer of which into the customs territory of the Community is consequent upon or is for the purpose of merging with, or being absorbed by, an undertaking established in the customs territory of the EU, without a new activity being set up. No relief shall be granted for means of transport which are not of the nature of instruments of production or of the service industry; supplies of all kinds intended for human consumption or for animal feed; fuel and stocks of raw materials or finished or semi-finished products; or livestock in the possession of dealers.

Until 12 months have elapsed from the date on which their entry for free circulation was accepted, goods which have been admitted duty-free may not be lent, given as security, hired out or transferred, whether for a consideration or free of charge, without prior notification to the customs office where they were cleared.

Products obtained by EU farmers on properties located in a third country (Articles 35–38)

Agricultural, stock-farming, bee-keeping, horticultural and forestry products from properties located in a third country adjoining the customs territory of the EU, which are operated by agricultural producers having their principal undertaking adjacent to the third country concerned shall be admitted free of import duties. To benefit from duty relief, stock-farming products must be derived from animals which originated in the EU or have entered into free circulation therein.

Relief shall be granted only for products brought into the customs territory of the EU by the agricultural producer or on his behalf, which have not undergone any treatment other than that which normally follows their harvest or production.

Seeds, fertilizers and products for the treatment of soil and crops imported by agricultural producers in third countries for use in properties adjoining those countries (Articles 39–40)

Seeds, fertilizers and products for treatment of soil and crops, intended for use on property located in the customs territory of the EU adjoining a third country and operated by agricultural producers having their principal undertaking within the said third country and adjacent to the customs territory of the EU, shall be admitted free of import duties.

Relief shall be granted only for seeds, fertilizers or other products imported directly into the customs territory of the EU by the agricultural producer or on his behalf, and Member States may make relief conditional upon the granting of reciprocal treatment.

Goods contained in travellers’ personal luggage (Article 41)

According to Article 41 of the Regulation on reliefs from customs duty, goods contained in the personal luggage of travellers coming from a third country shall be admitted free of import duties, provided such imports are exempt from value added tax (VAT) under provisions of national law adopted in accordance with the provisions of Council Directive 2007/74/EC of 20 December 2007 on the exemption from value added tax and excise duty of goods imported by persons travelling from third countries.

Goods imported from third countries into territories excluded from the fiscal territory of the EU, like the Åland Islands, shall be subject to the same provisions on duty relief as goods imported into any other parts of the territory of the Member State concerned.

For more information on this duty relief, go to the page Travellers.

Educational, scientific and cultural materials; scientific instruments and apparatus (Articles 42–52; Commission Implementing Regulation (EU) No 1225/2011)

The goods listed in Annex I and Annex II of the Regulation on reliefs from customs duty, such as books, publications and documents as well as visual and auditory materials of an educational, scientific or cultural character, shall be admitted free of import duties.

Relief from customs duty also applies to any instrument or apparatus which, by reason of its objective technical characteristics and the results which it makes possible to obtain, is mainly or exclusively suited to scientific activities and which is intended to be used for non-profit-making scientific research or educational purposes.

Another condition is that they are intended for public establishments principally engaged in education or scientific research or for private establishments principally engaged in education or scientific research and approved by Customs.

Under certain conditions, Customs can grant an authorisation for spare parts, components or accessories intended for scientific instruments or apparatus as well as for tools to be used for the maintenance, checking, calibration or repair of scientific instruments or apparatus.

Laboratory animals and biological or chemical substances intended for research (Article 53; Commission Implementing Regulation (EU) No 80/2012 establishing the list of biological or chemical substances provided for in Article 53(1)(b) of Council Regulation (EC) No 1186/2009 setting up a Community system of reliefs from customs duty, as amended by Commission Implementing Regulation (EU) No 197/2013)

Relief from import duties shall be granted in respect of animals specially prepared for laboratory use as well as in respect of biological or chemical substances listed in the annex to the Implementing Regulation, which are imported exclusively for non-commercial purposes. Relief shall be granted only on condition that the goods are intended for public establishments principally engaged in education or scientific research or for private establishments principally engaged in education or scientific research and approved by Customs.

Therapeutic substances of human origin and blood-grouping and tissue-typing reagents (Articles 54–56)

Human blood and its derivatives and reagents, whether of human, animal, plant or other origin used for blood-type grouping and for the detection of blood incompatibilities shall be admitted free of import duties.

They shall be intended for institutions or laboratories approved by Customs, for use exclusively for non-commercial medical or scientific purposes. The goods shall be accompanied by a certificate of conformity issued by a duly authorised body in the third country of departure and they shall be in containers bearing a special label identifying them.

Relief shall include the special packaging essential for the transport of therapeutic substances of human origin or blood-grouping or tissue-typing reagents and also any solvents and accessories needed for their use which may be included in the consignments.

Instruments and apparatus intended for medical research, establishing medical diagnoses or carrying out medical treatment (Articles 57–58; Commission Implementing Regulation (EU) No 1225/2011 for the purposes of Articles 42 to 52, 57 and 58 of Council Regulation (EC) No 1186/2009 setting up a Community system of reliefs from customs duty, as amended by Commission Implementing Regulation (EU) No 504/2013)

Instruments and apparatus which are donated either by a charitable or philanthropic organisation or by a private individual to health authorities, hospital departments or medical research institutions approved by Customs, or which are purchased by such health authorities, hospitals or medical research institutions entirely with funds supplied by a charitable or philanthropic organisation or with voluntary contributions, shall be admitted free of import duties, always provided that it is established that the donation does not conceal any commercial intent on the part of the donor and that the donor is in no way connected with the manufacturer of the instruments or apparatus.

The relief shall also apply to spare parts, components or accessories specifically suitable for the instruments or apparatus referred to above, provided that these spare parts, components or accessories, if the above-mentioned and other conditions concerning their relief are met.

Pharmaceutical products used at international sports events (Article 60)

Pharmaceutical products for human or veterinary medical use by persons or animals coming from third countries to participate in international sports events organised in the customs territory of the EU, shall, within the limits necessary to meet their requirements throughout their stay in that territory, be admitted free of import duties.

Goods for charitable or philanthropic organisations: articles intended for the blind and other handicapped persons (Articles 61–65)

Basic necessities, i.e. those goods required to meet the immediate needs of human beings, for example food, medicine, clothing and bed-clothes, imported by State organisations or other charitable or philanthropic organisations approved by Customs for distribution free of charge to needy persons in the customs territory of the EU, shall be admitted free of import duties. Also, goods sent free of charge to such organisations to be used for fund-raising at occasional charity events for the benefit of needy persons and equipment and office materials sent free of charge to these organisations to be used for the purpose of their operating needs shall be admitted free of import duties.

Articles specially designed for the education, employment or social advancement of blind persons or physically or mentally handicapped persons (Articles 66–73; Commission Implementing Regulation (EU) No 1224/2011 for the purposes of Articles 66 to 73 of Council Regulation (EC) No 1186/2009 setting up a Community system of reliefs from customs duty)

Articles specially designed for the educational, scientific or cultural advancement of blind persons, as specified in Annex III and Annex IV of the Regulation on reliefs from customs duty, shall be admitted free of import duties. Articles specially designed for the education, employment or social advancement of physically or mentally handicapped persons other than blind persons shall also be admitted free of import duties. The relief shall also apply to spare parts, components or accessories specifically for the articles in question, and to the tools to be used for the maintenance, checking, calibration or repair of the said articles, if the above-mentioned and other conditions concerning their relief are met.

Relief shall be granted only on condition that the goods are imported by blind persons or other handicapped persons or by institutions or organisations. Imports by institutions or organisations or by other than blind persons, relief is subject to an authorisation granted by Customs.

Goods for the benefit of disaster victims (Articles 74–80)

Granting of the relief shall be subject to a decision by the Commission, laing down the scope and the conditions of the relief. No relief shall be granted for materials and equipment intended for rebuilding disaster areas.

Decorations, awards and similar articles (Article 81)

In addition to decorations, relief only applies to cups, medals and similar articles of an essentially symbolic nature which are not imported for commercial reasons.

Presents received in the context of international relations (Articles 82–84)

Relief shall be granted for goods received as gifts on occasion of an official visit to a third country as well as for goods offered as gifts in the EU. Relief shall also be granted for goods sent as gifts by an official body, public authority or group, carrying on an activity in the public interest which is located in a third country, to a similar official body, public authority or group located in the customs territory of the EU and approved by Customs to receive such articles free of duty.

No relief shall be granted for alcoholic products, tobacco or tobacco products.

Goods to be used by monarchs or Heads of State (Article 85)

Relief is subject to authorisation by Customs. Gifts to reigning monarchs and Heads of State as well as goods to be used by them, or by persons officially representing them, during their official stay in the customs territory of the EU shall be admitted free of import duties.

Under the same conditions, relief is also applicable to persons enjoying prerogatives at international level analogous to those enjoyed by reigning monarchs or Heads of State.

Samples of goods of negligible value (Article 86)

Samples of goods which are of negligible value and can be used only to solicit orders for goods of the type they represent with a view to their being imported into the customs territory of the EU shall be admitted free of import duties Only a quantity required for seeking orders can be admitted free of import duties. The customs authorities may also require that the goods be marked or otherwise be rendered permanently unusable for any other purpose than as samples.

Printed matter and advertising material (Articles 87–89)

Printed advertising matter such as catalogues, price lists, directions for use or brochures shall be admitted free of import duties, provided that they relate to goods for sale or hire; or transport, commercial insurance or banking services offered; by a person established outside the customs territory of the EU.

Each consignment must contain no more than one document or a single copy of each document if it is made up of several documents. Consignments comprising several copies of the same document may nevertheless be granted relief, provided their total gross weight does not exceed one kilogram. Printed matter may not be the subject of grouped consignments from the same consignor to the same consignee.

Articles of no intrinsic commercial value, sent free of charge by suppliers to their customers, which, apart from their advertising function, are not capable of being used otherwise, shall also be admitted free of import duties.

Products used or consumed at a trade fair or similar event (Articles 90–94)

Small low-value representative advertising samples of goods manufactured outside the customs territory of the EU intended for a trade fair or similar event and imported free of charge shall be admitted free of import duties. Relief shall be granted only on condition that the samples are distributed free of charge to the public at the exhibition for their own use. Foodstuffs and beverages not packaged in such a way that the quantity of the item involved is lower than the smallest quantity of the same item sold on the market are to be consumed on the spot at the exhibition. In their total value and quantity, the samples are to be appropriate to the nature of the exhibition, the number of visitors and the extent of the exhibitor’s participation.

The following shall also be admitted free of import duties: goods imported solely in order to be demonstrated at abovementioned events or in order to demonstrate machines and apparatus, manufactured outside the customs territory of the EU, when they are consumed or destroyed at the exhibition and are appropriate, in their total value and quantity, to the nature of the exhibition and the number of visitors.

Relief also applies to various materials of little value used in the building of temporary stands occupied by representatives of third countries as well as to printed matter imported free of charge in order to advertise goods manufactured outside the customs territory of the EU and displayed at a trade fair or similar event. Here, exhibitions, fairs and similar events do not mean exhibitions staged for private purposes in commercial stores or premises to sell goods. No relief shall be granted for tobacco products, alcoholic products,or fuels.

Goods imported for examination, analysis or test purposes (Articles 95–101)

Goods which are to undergo examination, analysis or tests to determine their composition, quality or other technical characteristics for purposes of information or industrial or commercial research shall be admitted free of import duties. Relief shall be granted only on condition that the goods are the object of above mentioned activities, and that they are not e.g. auxiliary substances or auxiliary means, as well as that the goods are used up or destroyed in the course of the activities.

Goods which are not completely used up or destroyed, goods not used as well as products resulting from the imported goods must be destroyed, surrendered to the State or, in duly justified circumstances, exported outside the customs territory of the EU. In other cases, products remaining shall be subject to the relevant import duties at the rate applying on the date in question, on the basis of the type of goods and the customs value ascertained or accepted on that date by the customs authority.

Goods sent to the bodies competent to deal with the protection of copyrights or the protection of industrial or commercial patent rights (Article 102)

Trademarks, patterns, designs, applications for patents for invention or the like, to be submitted to the bodies competent to deal with the protection of copyrights or the protection of industrial or commercial patent rights, shall be admitted free of import duties.

Tourist information literature (Article 103)

The following goods promoting tourism shall be admitted free of import duties: printed matter, hotel lists, yearbooks and timetables intended to be distributed free of charge and contains not more than 25 % of private commercial advertising, excluding all private commercial advertising for EU firms. The relief shall also apply to information literature supplied to accredited representatives or correspondents appointed by official national tourist agencies and not intended for distribution.

Miscellaneous documents and articles (Article 104)

The relief applies mainly to documents and recorded media sent to authorities, communities and organisations. The article contains a detailed list of these goods.

Ancillary materials for the stowage and protection of goods during their transport (Article 105)

The various materials such as rope, straw, cloth, paper and cardboard, wood and plastics which are used for the stowage and protection – including heat protection – of goods during their transport from a third country to the customs territory of the EU, not normally reusable, shall be admitted free of import duties.

Litter, fodder and feedingstuffs for animals during their transport (Article 106)

Litter, fodder and feedingstuffs put on board the means of transport used to convey animals from a third country to the customs territory of the EU for the purpose of distribution to the said animals during the journey shall be admitted free of import duties.

Fuel and lubricants present in land motor vehicles and special containers (Articles 107–111)

Fuel contained in the standard tanks of private and commercial motor vehicles and motor cycles and special containers entering the customs territory of the EU as well as fuel contained in portable tanks carried by private motor vehicles and motor cycles, with a maximum of 10 litres per vehicle shall be admitted free of import duties. The relief shall also apply to the lubricants present in the motor vehicles and required for their normal operation during the journey in question.

(By virtue of Article 109 of the Regulation on reliefs from customs duty, there is a restriction in Section 48 of the Finnish Customs Act: The fuel contained in the fuel tank of a commercial vehicle arriving by road from outside the European Economic Area to the customs territory of Finland shall, however, be duty-free only up to 400 litres, and the fuel contained by the fuel tank of a special container up to 200 litres per journey.)

Materials for the construction, upkeep or ornamentation of memorials to, or cemeteries for, war victims (Article 112)

Goods imported by organisations authorised for this purpose by Customs, to be used for the construction, upkeep or ornamentation of cemeteries and tombs of, and memorials to, war victims of third countries who are buried in the customs territory of the EU, shall be admitted free of import duties.

Coffins, funerary urns and ornamental funerary articles (Article 113)

Coffins containing bodies and urns containing the ashes of deceased persons, as well as the flowers, funeral wreaths and other ornamental objects accompanying them shall be admitted free of import duties. Flowers, wreaths and other ornamental objects brought by persons resident in third countries attending a funeral or coming to decorate graves in the customs territory of the EU shall also be admitted free of import duties.

Relief pursuant to international conventions (Article 128)

Nothing in the Regulation on reliefs from customs duty shall prevent the Member States from granting relief in the cases referred to in Article 128. In other cases, granting relief is subject to the Commission’s approval.

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