Releasing Goods for Free Circulation

How Do You Bring Goods into Free Circulation?
Birds releasing from chain over sea

When you import goods into the European Union you have to bring them into Free Circulation. Free Circulation means that the goods are cleared by Customs and you can sell them to, or use them in countries in the European Union.

How Do You Bring Goods into Free Circulation?

There is a standard process for bringing goods into Free Circulation in the EU:

1. Goods are shipped to the EU and taken off the vessel or aircraft. They can be stored temporarily until they are cleared by Customs.

2. The importing company/economic operator/declarant consults TARIC* and makes sure the applicable supporting documentation is in order, after making sure there are no restrictions and prohibitions concerning the goods in the shipment. Supporting documentation is, for example, the import license, certificates of origin, commercial invoices. The goods are then presented to the Customs Authority. On request, the supporting documents are presented as well.

3. The Customs Authority then performs a risk assessment and in some cases inspects the goods. If the goods pass the assessment and inspections, the decision on whether the goods can enter free circulation is communicated to the importing company. The Customs Authority will then manage the customs debt. Customs debt entails the determination of customs duties, guarantee management and the administration of the customs debt.

4. The importing company/declarant pays the import duties and any other applicable charges or makes sure the duties are covered by a guarantee. Next to customs duties there is also VAT, excise, and for example anti-dumping duties.

5. The Customs Authority then releases the goods into free circulation

Are There Exceptions to Paying Import Duties?

There are several cases where there is a relief from paying import duties:

  • Returned goods – these are goods that were exported from the EU, and which are now being sent back for whatever reason. There are some restrictions that apply here. For example, the goods have to be returned to the customs territory of the EU within three years and have to be cleared for free circulation again. The goods have to be in the same state in which they were exported. The return shipment can be comprised of only a part of the original number of the goods that were exported.
  • Inward processing of non-Union goods – these are non-Union goods that are imported into the EU to repair or process non-Union goods already in the EU. It can also be used to modify non-Union goods in such a way that they meet EU requirements before bringing them into free circulation. After the goods are processed, they can either be re-exported, or they can be put into free circulation following the regular process. You need an authorization from the Customs Authority to use this inward processing arrangement.
  • Products caught at sea – If a fishing vessel from the EU catches fish/products in territorial waters of a non-EU country, these “products” are exempt from import duties. The same goes for goods produced on board of such a vessel, or factory ship from the EU.

Make Sure You Know Everything

This blog is intended to inform you and describe the process and some of the exceptions. It is not intended as a full and complete overview of getting goods released for free circulation in the EU.

If you have any questions on getting goods released, please contact one of our specialists. They can make sure you have all the relevant information and can assist you with getting your goods released.

Photo by Jeffrey Blum on Unsplash