EU Customs Trader Portal expands services
In addition to the EU Trader Portal, which was launched in 2017, the EU Customs Trader Portal was launched at the end of 2019. At first, companies could only use it to apply for AEO permits and binding tariff information. Recently, the REX registration (Registered Exporter) and the Information Form (INF, for inward and outward processing) were added to this. What does this mean for economic operators? In this article we highlight the main changes.
“There are currently no major adjustments in the pipeline for AEO and Binding Tariff Information, or BTIs,” Ronnie de Croon, a customs officer, explains. “This year does see new releases of both systems, but the changes to them are partly functional and partly with a view to user-friendliness. You need to think in terms of search, sorting and filtering options.”
Shielding sensitive information
The main change – still under development – concerns limited access for the representative, if the represented party so wishes. De Croon: “During the Customs-Business Consultation meetings, the question arose for so-called partial delegation of limited access. The idea is that a representative will soon only have access to matters that he has submitted on behalf of his customer, the holder of the permit or BTI. We want to move towards a situation in which a company can indicate to its eHerkenning provider whether the representative should have full or limited access to all matters within the relevant e-service. If he doesn’t, the representative will have full access. Brussels is now ready for this and at the end of May of this year, the BTI portal was also adapted to this. However, the Dutch system for eHerkenning is not yet set up for it. The desired ‘partial delegation of limited access’ is expected to have been arranged by the end of 2021.”
This is not yet planned for the EU portal and CDMS. Representation is not an issue for AEO and REX (Registered Exporter). A company can only have one AEO permit and one REX registration. And if it switches to another representative, it simply revokes the authorisation of the previous representative.
From paper to portal
The application for the REX registration has changed. “In the old situation, the customer submitted the request on paper, by telephone or by e-mail,” Erna Pruym, a customs officer, explains. “The employees of our National Origin Section processed these manually in the REX back-office system. Since 25 January of this year, companies can themselves log into the Customs Trader Portal via eHerkenning and submit a digital REX application in that portal.”
Initially, the intention was for the REX functionality to go live as early as mid-December. Pruym: “This was postponed due to Brexit. Many companies affected by the withdrawal of the United Kingdom suddenly found themselves in need of such REX registration. In the period from December 2020, the National Origin Section was inundated with paper applications. That created a huge influx in work. And still does. Although the switch in January went well, the majority of applications is still received on paper. And by that, we mean in the form of an e-mail attachment.”
To prevent any problems, the target group was informed of the new working method via announcements on the Customs website, among other methods, timely in advance. Pruym: “Not much will change for companies. All they need to do is request eHerkenning, if they haven’t done so already. It may take some getting used to, but the digital REX form is very similar to what the paper version looked like. You can also save your application as a draft, which is useful if you were to decide against it later. And you can now also receive notifications from Customs by e-mail. But perhaps the biggest advantage is that we’re able to process requests submitted via the Trader Portal quicker. And that’s because all communication is now digital.”
Always up to date
The traditional working method with regard to the Information Forms has also changed. Since 5 April of this year, using the digital INF system has been mandatory for inward and outward processing. This ensures a better mutual exchange of information and a faster service to processing companies. Paper INFs are no longer permitted. To apply, companies must log in to the EU Customs Trader Portal via eHerkenning.
What will change in this transition? Erik de Vries, a customs officer: “The INF web app within the Custom Trader Portal can’t be linked directly to your own business administration. So you have to enter the data manually yourself. Furthermore, we’re now working in real time. So if something is not correct in your INF, you will immediately receive an error message. You can rectify that later, as in the old situation. Agreements between customs offices and individual companies, for example, about the bulk submission of all data by the end of the month, no longer apply. The advantage of this is that, as a company, you always have access to up-to-date information. Processing always involves raw materials or (semi-)finished products. Imagine that you, as an exporter, ship batches of flax to China to have it made into linen. Your INF permit is based on a certain amount of flax, say 100 tonnes. If, for example, you have exported 90,000 kilos, the remaining balance is 10,000 kilos. The system keeps track of all that. This means you always have the same, up-to-date information as Customs. And if the agreed amount is exceeded, you will receive an error message.”
“The INF system can be complex,” De Vries continues. “It requires a thorough knowledge of raw materials, semi-finished products and processing traffic within the EU and between the EU and third countries. The same applies to customs officers. The linen I mentioned earlier can be a finished product, permit-wise. But it can also be used to make costumes. A select group of employees within Customs were familiar with the ins and outs and they were mainly at the Business Contact Points. In the old situation, the paper INFs were handed in at the counters and stamped after a check in our systems. Now that we’re working in real time, the activities are shifting to our customer handling and declaration handling processes. The handling and processing run simultaneously with that of the corresponding import or export declaration. This therefore requires additional training for colleagues. We’ve notified the companies in writing from our local offices. In the event of questions, they can still contact their own Business Contact Point.”