Taxation and customs union

Free zones

What are free zones?

Free zones are special areas within the customs territory of the Community. Goods placed within these areas are free of import duties, VAT and other import charges.

Free zone treatment applies to both non-Community and Community goods. Non-Community goods stored in the zone are considered as not yet imported to the Customs territory of the Community whereas certain Community goods stored in free zones can be considered as already exported.

On importation, free zones are mainly for storage of non-Community goods until they are released for free circulation. No import declaration has to be lodged as long as the goods are stored in the free zone. Import and export declarations have only to be lodged when the goods leave the free zone. In addition, there may be special reliefs available in free zones from other taxes, excises or local duties. These will differ from one zone to another.

The free zones are mainly a service for traders to facilitate trading procedures by allowing fewer customs formalities.

Types of free zones

Control type I free zones have a perimeter fence so that goods placed there, which is supervised by customs, are automatically under this regime.

The rules for control type II free zones are essentially the same as those governing customs warehouses. This means that, unlike with traditional-style free zones, the goods are subjected to a declaration in order to be able to benefit from the arrangement.

List of free zones (control type I and control type II) in the Member States and the competent customs authorities.