Customs debt

When is a customs debt incurred?

Customs debt means the obligation to pay the amount of import duty which applies to goods determined according to EU provisions. Upon import, a customs debt is incurred when customs duties and charges having equivalent effect are levied on import goods.

The most common customs procedure relating to import is release for free circulation and consumption. A customs debt on import is incurred when goods are released for free circulation, usually on the day when Customs accepts (receives) the customs declaration for the goods. So-called third-country duties are levied on goods imported from outside the EU.

In connection with import, it may be possible to place the goods under a special procedure, such as transit, warehousing or processing, specific use or temporary admission.

A customs debt may also be incurred through non-compliance, e.g. with some of the obligations or conditions concerning a specific customs procedure. A customs debt may also be incurred if goods liable to import duty are unlawfully introduced into the territory of the EU or removed from customs supervision.

The taxes and charges to be levied are determined according to the commodity code, origin and customs value of the goods. The goods may be entitled to reduced or zero duty depending on their origin. As a rule, customs duty and value added tax are levied upon import.

Customs duties are generally ad valorem duties, meaning that they are calculated as a percentage of the customs value. For some goods, a specific duty based e.g. on their weight or number can be levied instead of the ad valorem duty. The amount of customs duty is determined on the basis of the commodity code under which the goods are classified. Import duties also include import charges according to the common agricultural policy, import charges relating to certain processed agricultural products and other charges levied on import.