The Union Customs Code (UCC) is part of the modernisation of customs and serves as the new framework regulation on the rules and procedures for customs throughout the EU. Its substantive provisions have entered into force on 1 May 2016.
Simplicity, service and speed are the key drivers of the UCC:
- The UCC builds on existing concepts to streamline the customs processes and procedures across the Customs Union. For instance, it clarifies the rules on release for free circulation and on special procedures.
- The UCC covers most of the customs legislation in one package and provides for precise rules of application.
- It defines data requirements for customs, pre-arrival and pre-departure declarations, notifications, applications and decisions in an integrated way designed to enable its modelling via the nationally extensible EU Customs Data Model and in full compliance with international standards like the WCO data model.
All of this will contribute to a harmonised implementation across the EU.
- The design of the UCC took into account to a large extent the daily needs and existing practices of trade. For instance, it allows the use of electronic transport manifests for customs purposes, moving goods under temporary storage without lodging a transit declaration and it envisages new forms to extinguish a customs debt.
- It introduces modern concepts, such as centralised clearance, and offers more uniformity to business, by providing uniform and harmonised rules on guarantees, for example.
- It also reduces the administrative burden on compliant and trustworthy economic operators (AEOs) by allowing a number of simplifications on customs procedures, on the use of guarantees and self-assessing their customs debts under certain conditions.
- The UCC strives for further automation of all exchange and storage of information through additional IT systems that integrate the new processes and legal requirements, such as common and shared services to customs and harmonised interfaces and EU portals to trade.
- The UCC shortens from 6 to 3 years the period of validity of the decisions on tariff classification and origin, to better adapt to a rapidly changing world.
While the substantive provisions of the UCC enter into force on 1 May 2016 it is necessary to have a transition period before full implementation can be achieved. This is primarily due to the fact that there is a need to develop new IT systems or upgrade existing ones in order to fully implement the legal requirements. Therefore not all of these systems will be in place on 1 May 2016. This transition period lasts until 31 December 2020 at the latest. The detailed rules regarding the transitional period are contained in a Transitional Delegated Act and the UCC Work Programme. Their practical application is addressed in several guidance documents produced in collaboration with Member State and Trade representatives. These rules will ensure a smooth transition from the existing customs legislative regime to the new UCC rules on a gradual basis between 1 May 2016 and 31 December 2020.
The UCC in a nutshell
The UCC is meant as a natural evolution towards a modern customs environment for which the results and benefits will be grasped only when it will be implemented in its full capacity by the end of 2020 with a view to :
- Streamline customs legislation and procedures
- Offer greater legal certainty and uniformity to businesses and Increase clarity for customs officials throughout the EU
- Simplify customs rules and procedures and facilitate more efficient customs transactions in line with modern-day needs
- Complete the shift by Customs to a paperless and fully electronic and interoperable environment
- Reinforce swifter customs procedures for compliant and trustworthy economic operators (AEO)
This will enhance the competitiveness of European businesses and thereby advance the main goals of the EU strategy for growth and jobs. In addition, the changes envisaged by 2020 will protect the flow of goods transiting or moving in and out of the Union and safeguard the financial and economic interests of the Union and of the Member States as well as the safety and security requirements.