EU seeks to simplify customs system, tighten up on e-commerce

By Philip Blenkinsop

BRUSSELS (Reuters) – The European Commission proposed on Wednesday a reform of customs rules for the surge of incoming packages ordered online and to cope with increased environmental and labour standards and sanctions on imported goods.


Under the proposal, the European Union will have a new customs authority and a single online data system. At present, importers need to deal with 27 national customs authorities and more than 111 separate interfaces and IT systems.

The reform, which still needs backing from the European Parliament and EU governments, would enable traders to provide information on imports via the EU Customs Data Hub, giving an overview of individual supply chains.

The streamlined system, including “Trust and Check” traders from 2032, will reduce paperwork and could save businesses 2.7 billion euros ($2.97 billion) a year in compliance costs, while allowing customs authorities to focus less on processing each consignment and more on problematic imports and supply chains.

EU countries should save up to 2 billion euros per year in IT development and maintenance costs as the EU hub takes over.

The customs hub will apply for e-commerce from 2028 and be open to other traders from 2032, becoming mandatory from 2038.

For e-commerce, an exemption from customs duty on goods valued at less than 150 euros would be abolished. The Commission said an estimated 65% of parcels entering the EU were deliberately undervalued or split up to avoid paying duty.

Platforms selling goods from non-EU countries would also in future be responsible for ensuring customs duties and VAT are paid at purchase, with customs duties to be simplified into four categories. At the moment, consumers can be hit by hidden charges and paperwork before a parcel can be delivered. ($1 = 0.9084 euros)

(Reporting by Philip Blenkinsop; Editing by Bernadette Baum)