“Proper agreements can reduce the burden”

The introduction of the Union Customs Code does not seem to be an improvement for Dutch postal services and courier companies. Customs does its best to ease the pain.

“For the Dutch business sector, the Union Customs Code takes some getting used to”, Customs officer Jan van Ginkel (middle in the photograph) says. Eric van Nijf from FedEx (left in the photograph) can only confirm this. He argues that the UCC is no improvement for his field of work. However: “We are looking for practical solutions together. Dutch Customs has always been good at finding practical solutions, and this will not change.”

Van Nijf – who, as Global Trade Services manager, has been responsible for all import, export and transit activities of FedEx in the Netherlands for almost 30 years – does not beat about the bush. “The UCC is no improvement for us. The only advantage I can come up with is that we can work towards a global European clearance system in the long term. This is favourable for large international companies such as FedEx. These companies do not want to have dealings with 28 different governments, so that would be a step forward.” He adds: “But we still have a long way to go. I will be retired by the time we get there.”

Couriers Committee

“For other Member States, the UCC is an improvement, but Dutch Customs has always been very progressive”, Van Nijf continues. “The fact that the Netherlands is an important transition country is not only due to the Port of Rotterdam or Schiphol Airport. For if the Netherlands would have a poorly functioning customs service, we would go to other ports and airports. I have worked in many other countries, but even in countries you think everything has been arranged properly, they lag ten years behind the Netherlands. The cooperation between the business sector and Customs is unique here.”
“We place great score by a good relationship with the trade and logistics sectors”, Van Ginkel confirms. As policy officer at the Customs National Office, Van Ginkel is concerned with translating legislation into implementation. The postal and courier sector is one of his focus areas.

Van Nijf participates in the Customs Business Consultation and is chairman of the Couriers Committee. Every quarter, this committee meets with Customs representatives to discuss matters of importance to all courier companies. No individual matters, but topics arising from agreements with the service and from legislation. The UCC also affects the entire sector. Van Nijf: “It more or less has the same impact on everyone. We all have the same interests and networks and therefore form a joint lobby group in Brussels.”

Extra burden

Van Nijf is glad that the sector does not yet have to make an additional declaration in AGS for goods with a value below € 22. Van Ginkel: “This is not required under the current rules, but will be required under the UCC. The transitional provisions allow us to organise things such that we can continue in the same way for the time being.” “Otherwise we would be dealing with an enormous burden”, Van Nijf says. “We are talking about 30 percent of our volume. This will require us to hire expensive administrative staff for tariffing purposes.”

The lobby to maintain accounting thresholds of € 10 for customs duties was, however, unsuccessful. “This change has serious consequences”, Van Nijf says. “It places the burden on the business sector. For example, we have to send an invoice for amounts of € 3, while preparing an invoice alone costs more than € 3.”

Another extra burden is that many customs authorisations will soon require an AEO certificate (Authorised Economic Operator). Van Nijf: “For a company such as FedEx, this will be extremely time-consuming. Moreover, the AEO requirements have been made more stringent, which increases the administrative burden. We already meet the IATA security requirements set by the aviation sector. This will be an additional burden.”

Moreover, automation systems need to be adjusted – those of the customs organisations in the Member States as well as those of the business sector. Van Nijf: “This will require large investments. Moreover, resources have to be made available in order to make the adjustments.”

Smooth transition

Van Ginkel understands Van Nijf’s critical comments. He says: “Throughout the years, the Netherlands has allowed many simplified procedures. The national interpretation of Community legislation offered many facilities to the business sector. If procedures are then brought into line more at a European level, this will easily constitute an increase in the burden on the Dutch business sector.”

The Transitional Regulation does give a bit of air, Van Ginkel argues. “That makes a difference. For now, it allows us to continue receiving the declarations in practice just like before.” Customs is working on an interpretation of the provisions of the Transitional Regulation to make the transition from the current working method to the new situation as smooth as possible. Van Nijf is optimistic about this: “If we make proper agreements, we will perhaps not suffer too much nuisance.”

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