New game rules for customs permits

For more than a year now, holders of customs permits must meet the requirements of the Union Customs Code. What does this imply for businesses?

Since 1 May of last year, holders of customs permits must meet the requirements of the Union Customs Code (UCC). Dutch Customs is currently hard at work (re)assessing and replacing these permits. “It is in the best interest of businesses to be proactive in this respect”, advise customs officers Anneke de Bruijn and Renate Adema.

The arrival of the UCC holds major consequences for customs permits. Some customs permits have been withdrawn and replaced on a large scale, like those for electronic declarations. Customs NL must reassess and replace the CCC* permits that have not yet been withdrawn. The agency has until 1 May 2019 to do this. “We badly need this time; we are doing reassessments at roughly 2,700 businesses”, says Anneke de Bruijn, enforcement policy advisor and project manager for UCC permits for the past year and a half. Supervisory coordinator Renate Adema advises businesses to act swiftly. “Take a critical look at your processes and procedures, and check whether you meet the requirements.”

AEO criteria become generic
Whether much will change for a company, compared to the previous situation, will depend significantly on the company and the type of permits that it holds. “What is your starting position? If a company was already AEO-certified, the transition will not be as major”, De Bruijn reckons. “Legislation has become somewhat more stringent: what was previously considered guidance, a guide, in other words, is now legislation. However, the requirements and conditions have not really changed.” “The step will likely be more significant for companies that never had an AEO certificate”, says Adema. “Just how significant, will depend on the type of permits. The business sector still has questions regarding some of the permits. Not everyone knows how to deal with them. It takes some getting used to. I think that, in the end, the entire process will be easier and clearer.”
De Bruijn’s expectations are the same. “Legislation is formulated a little more stringent compared to before, and the requirements that previously only applied for the AEO now apply for many permits. The requirements mainly involve the aspects of compliance, sound trade and transport records, and practical competence. If you have tailored your internal organisation to these requirements, the process becomes simpler and more manageable – also when you apply for new permits. This is the advantage of generic criteria.”

Do not wait
Dutch Customs is currently hard at work with reassessments. De Bruijn: “We are trying to combine these reassessments with other inspections, and use the information already in our possession. This is more efficient. After all, you might not want to have an administrative inspection conducted and have a reassessment done a year later.” During reassessments, the implementing Customs unit will pay special attention to these aspects: “A client in one region may not be treated differently from a client in another region”, says Adema. “For this reason, we consult frequently and discuss case histories.”

For some businesses, the reassessments have already been carried out, but others might only have their turn in January 2019. “In the meantime, however, the new rules are already applicable as of 1 May 2016, and businesses must therefore comply with these rules”, Adema emphasises once more. “These businesses must not assume a waiting position but should ensure that their administrative processes are insightful. Why? Because we want to see what they have been doing since 1 May 2016: did they act in accordance with legislation, and are they in control? Moreover, is their administration making the reassessments easier and less time-consuming? This is in the best interest of our administration and the company itself.”

Unfavourable planning?
The timing for a company’s reassessment depends on several factors; factors like the risks to Customs, the gravity of the permits and the timing of the last inspection. The reassessment might come at a time that is unfavourable for the company, due to major automation adjustments, a merger or a takeover, for example. De Bruijn: “In that case, initiate contact with us. It is inconvenient when we devise a schedule that doesn’t suit your business operations. Share and discuss your concerns with us on time.”

Sometimes businesses apply for a new permit, before having been reassessed. As a rule of thumb, Customs will not only look at the requirements for the specific permit but will incorporate these in the entire reassessment process. “When that happens, we can run into problems with the processing time for the relevant permit”, explains Adema. “Despite this, we try to plan everything as well as possible, because we don’t want to cause each other delays.”

De Bruijn advises businesses to take a good look at their permits. “If you have permits that you don’t use, have them withdrawn. That cleans things up and saves a lot of work. Those permits that you do use: review the requirements. What is entailed in actual practice? Perhaps a procedural change or better documentation. Once you’ve arranged these aspects properly, you’ll be ready for the reassessment.”

* Community Customs Code, forerunner to the Union Customs Code.

More information?
The UCC requirements are listed on, under ‘Re-assessment of the AEO permits’.

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