Digital services by Customs: what’s coming?

This is a special issue about our digital services. And more of these are added each day. Why does Customs invest so heavily in digitisation? And what does this mean for the business community?

This e-zine is almost entirely devoted to the continuous digitisation of Customs’ services. This is an extensive and often complicated process that progresses step by step. A process that also requires the cooperation of the business community. What have we achieved in this area in recent years? What kind of changes are in the pipeline? And how can economic operators prepare for this?

Since the first issue of Customs NL inSight was published at the beginning of 2015, we’ve regularly paid attention to the digitisation of customs processes. An important driver behind this digitisation has been the arrival of the Union Customs Code (UCC). The UCC must ensure harmonisation and standardisation of procedures and data and full electronic handling of customs formalities in all EU Member States. These changes have already been implemented for a number of processes. Examples include the digital application for permits and Binding Tariff Information (BTI), as well as the application for a Registered Exporter (REX) via a European digital portal. Adjustments in customs declaration systems such as DMS are also based on requirements from the UCC.

Yet not all developments in the field of digitisation at Customs are of course the result of European legislation and regulations. There are also all kinds of issues at play at a national level that affect this. For example, the Dutch Digital Government Act will soon arrive. This Act stipulates that citizens and businesses must be able to log in to government services safely and securely. And that they must be able to exchange data with the government, safely and securely. The usefulness and necessity of properly secured digital data are increasing almost by the day. We’re all familiar with stories of phishing, WhatsApp fraud and other forms of misuse of personal and business data. eHerkenning provides the desired secure login for economic operators.

In addition, digitisation is of course also a way of simply making our services more user friendly. And to align it more with the wishes of companies. The webinar is a textbook example of this. This is a tool that we increasingly use to inform economic operators about new developments in an accessible manner, regardless of place and time. An additional advantage: the information remains available to Customs customers at a later time.

For a long time, Customs assumed that all its IT systems would be adjusted and ready for use by the end of 2020. Over time, however, priorities and schedules were adjusted and implementation processes delayed. This is to keep all, often drastic, changes manageable and workable. Both for Customs itself and the business community. Customs is therefore by no means finished with digitisation yet: developments in this area continue to follow each other at a rapid pace. With new technological possibilities and new wishes of users as the main drivers. Once technical possibilities increase, wishes in the field of automation often change automatically. In other words, once a process has been digitised, it usually creates an appetite for more of the same. Certainly so if comparable processes are suitable for digitisation as well.

All this forms the context in which this special issue on our digital services came about. Each article is about a specific development in this area. For example, we’ll be talking about the various European and national customs portals that will be introduced. We will discuss the role that eHerkenning and DigiD play in this. We show how the new Import Control System (ICS 2) ensures more security in the EU. And we discuss how Customs keeps a grip on the growing flows of declarations, documents and data that we exchange with companies both in the Netherlands and abroad. For example, with economic operators who are active in the field of e-commerce.

Digitisation, harmonisation, standardisation… It demands a lot from both Customs and economic operators. Both sides have to adapt their procedures and processes and learn new routines. That is why we want to work with the business community as much as possible and invest in it together.

Finally, this involves complex IT projects, which come with their own dynamics and which are often unpredictable. Our schedules are always under pressure and our ambitions not always realistic. That is why the outlook in this Customs NL Insight is restricted to about two years.

We conclude this Customs NL inSight with a focus on the TV series Customs in action. The second season of the series recently started airing on RTL 5. We are proud that the Netherlands can once again watch us doing exciting and varied work at various logistics locations.

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