Taxation and Customs Union

What is customs transit?

Customs transit is a customs procedure used to move goods

  • between two points of a customs territory, via another customs territory; or
  • between two or more different customs territories.

Using the Customs Transit procedure allows for the temporary suspension of duties, taxes and commercial policy measures that are applicable at import. As such, it allows customs clearance formalities to take place at the point destination rather than at the point of entry into the customs territory.

Customs transit is particularly relevant where a single customs territory is combined with multiple fiscal territories: it allows the movement of goods under transit from their point of entry into the Union to their point of clearance, where both the customs and national fiscal obligations will then be taken care of.

There are different transit systems which are used in the European Union.

The standard transit systems used in the European Union is

  1. Common and Union transit

However, other procedures can also apply in specific cases

  1. TIR Convention
  2. ATA Convention
  3. Rhine manifest
  4. NATO movements
  5. Post (including parcel post)

Common and Union transit

Common transit

The common transit procedure is used for the movement of goods between the 28 EU Member States, the EFTA countries (Iceland, Norway, Liechtenstein and Switzerland), Turkey (since 1 December 2012), the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia (since 1 July 2015) and Serbia (since 1 February 2016). The procedure is based on the Convention of 20 May 1987 on a common transit procedure.

The Convention was amended on 5 December 2017 by the EU/EFTA Joint Committee  Decision No 1/2016 in order to be aligned with the Union Customs Code. The rules are effectively identical to those of the Union transit.

Union transit

This procedure is used for customs transit operations between the EU Member States (and Andorra and San Marino).

In general, it is applicable to the movement of:

  • Non-Union goods for which customs duties and other charges at import are at stake, and
  • Union goods, which, between their point of departure and point of destination in the EU, have to pass through the territory of a non-EU country.

The Transit Manual

The Transit Manual is the most comprehensive source of information on the common and the Union transit procedure. As such, the manual is a tool to promote a better understanding of how the transit procedure works and the roles of the various participants. It is also a tool to better ensure a harmonised application of the transit provisions and an equal treatment of all operators.

The manual is presented in nine main parts:

  • Part I. General Introduction
  • Part II. Status of Goods
  • Part III. Guarantees
  • Part IV: Standard transit procedure NCTS (new computerised transit system)
  • Part V: Fallback procedure
  • Part VI: Simplifications
  • Part VII: Discharge of the transit operation, the enquiry procedure
  • Part VIII: Debt and Recovery
  • Part IX: The TIR Procedure

Amendments have published in the form of supplements, which will be added to the next consolidated version of the Transit Manual.

The Transit Network Address Book

The Transit Network Address Book contains the addresses of national co-ordinators and approximately 400 regional and local transit liaison officers.

Part of its role is to allow regular dialogue with the operators at the national and local levels, and to facilitate their contacts with the Customs services over all aspects of the operation of the transit regimes.

Legal basis for Common and Union transit

TIR (Transports Internationaux Routiers, International Road Transport)

With over 50 countries using the procedure, the TIR system is the international customs transit system with the widest geographical coverage. A condition of the TIR procedure is that the movement of the goods must include transport by road.

Goods move from a customs office of departure in one country to a customs office of destination in another country under cover of an internationally accepted customs transit document, the TIR carnet, which also provides a financial guarantee for the payment of the suspended duties and taxes. The guarantee system is managed by an international organisation, which is currently the International Road Transport Union (IRU).

Although each EU Member State is a Contracting Party to the TIR Convention, the European Union is considered a single territory for the purposes of the TIR procedure.

This means TIR can only be used in the Union for international movements, i. e. where the movement either starts or ends in a third country, or where the goods move between two or more EU Member States via the territory of a third country.

TIR in the Union

Because the TIR Convention 1975 is directly applicable, there are comparatively few legislative rules set out in the Union Customs Code or its delegated and implementing acts. With regard to the Union's application of the TIR system the main points to note are as follows:

  • TIR may only be used where the movement either starts or ends in a third country, or where an intra-Union movement of goods goes via a third country (Articles 226 and 227 UCC).
  • The customs territory of the Union is considered to be a single territory (Article 228 UCC).
  • The amount of the guarantee per TIR Carnet is 100,000 EURO (Article 163 IA).
  • TIR carnet data for TIR operations within the customs territory of the Union need to be provided to the customs authorities electronically (Article 6 UCC).
  • The electronic transit system of the Union (NCTS) is to be used for the electronic exchange of data between the customs administrations of the EU Member States (Article 273 IA).

Transit Manual - TIR

The Transit Manual’s part IX is devoted to TIR.It also contains an amendments which will be inserted in the next consolidated version of the Transit Manual.

Background information and related links

Recommendation on the use of a code system to report defect remarks in the Certificate of Approval

Notice to TIR Carnet holders: Recommendation on the HS-code

History of the TIR

Customs Transit: ATA - Temporary admission

The ATA carnet also has a function as transit document. With an ATA carnet, goods can be moved within the customs territory of the EU from the point where they enter to the point where they are used under temporary admission and the other way around to the point of exit.

Further information about the use of the ATA carnet:

  1. As transit document can be found in the Transit Manual
  2. as temporary admission declaration can be found on the web page relating to 'specific use'.

Legal basis

The legal provisions regarding the use of the ATA carnet as a transit document within the EU are laid down in Articles 226(3)c and 227(2)c of the Union Customs Code (UCC) and in Articles 283 and 284 of the Commission Implementing Regulation. 

Customs Transit: Rhine waterways

The Rhine manifest procedure was established to facilitate the movement of goods on the Rhine and its associated tributaries across national frontiers.

The legal bases for this procedure are the Mannheim Convention of 17 October 1868 and the Protocol adopted by the Central Rhine Navigation Commission on 22 November 1963.

It concerns the following countries bordering the Rhine

  • the Netherlands
  • Belgium
  • Germany
  • France
  • Switzerland

For the purposes of the Convention, these countries are considered as forming a single territory.

The Union provisions which provide for the Rhine manifest to be used as a Union transit document are Articles 226(3)(d) and 227(2)(d) of the Union Customs Code.

Customs Transit: NATO

The rules concerning the import, export and transit of goods for NATO forces are contained in the Agreement between the Parties to the North Atlantic Treaty Organisation regarding status of their forces, signed in London on 19 June 1951.

The document used for the movement of such goods is NATO Form 302.

The Union provisions which provide for NATO Form 302 to be used as a Union transit document are Articles 226(3)(e) and 227(2)(e) of the Union Customs Code and Articles 285, 286 and 287 of the Commission Implementing Regulation.

Customs Transit: Post including parcel post

The Union provisions for the transit procedure for post are Articles 226(3)(f) and 227(2)(f) of the Union Customs Code and Article 288 of the Commission Implementing Regulation.

Where non-Union goods are carried by post (including parcel post) from one point to another in the customs territory of the Union, the packaging and any enclosed documents shall bear a yellow label as foreseen in annex 72-01 of the Commission Implementing Regulation.

Where Union goods are carried by post (including parcel post) to or from a part of the Union where the Directive 2006/112/EC or Directive 2008/118 EC does not apply, the packaging and any enclosed documents shall bear a yellow label as foreseen in annex 72-02 Commission Implementing Regulation.