How does the European Union’s customs system work? What is the role of freight forwarders?


How does the European Union’s customs system work? What is the role of freight forwarders?
In the previous article in the "Kindergarten of Freight Forwarding" framework, we learned about the basic concepts in the report of import and export operations. The purpose of today's article is to present in more detail the customs system of the European Union and the work of freight forwarders in import and export-oriented companies.


EU customs system and freight forwarding

The European Union has unified the foreign trade policy of the Member States and the customs system within the EU itself, which is uniformly implemented throughout the EU. The unified customs system offers import and export-oriented companies facilitation in doing business with third countries. 


Uniform customs rules apply to all Member States of the European Union. The duty-free movement of goods takes place between EU Member States.


Legal sources or legislation governing customs duties based on which freight forwarders are represented in your import and export transactions:

  • Union Customs Code, 
  • Act Implementing the Customs Regulations of the European Community (ZICPES),
  • Customs Service Act (ZCS),
  • Tax Procedure Act (ZDavP),
  • Value Added Tax Act (ZDDV).


In the European Union, import and export-oriented companies enter into agreements with freight forwarding companies as:

  • commission business = freight forwarder performs his work in his own name and on behalf of another or,
  • agency business = the freight forwarder performs his work in a foreign name and on a foreign account.


A freight forwarder can also perform the business on his own work in his own name and on his own account.


As you can see, the representation of forwarding companies in Slovenia takes place indirectly (in their own name and for a foreign account), directly (in a foreign name and for a foreign account), or in their own name for their own account. What kind of cooperation you choose depends on the type of service that the freight forwarder provides for you.


Origin of goods

The Generalized System of Preferences is an instrument of EU foreign trade policy. The Generalized System of Preferences, or GSP, is designed to encourage imports from developing countries. Such a system establishes a total or partial relief from customs duties on imports into the European Community of goods originating in developing countries.


Preferential means priority, favorable. Importers benefit from the amount of customs duties and the lower amount of tax.


Do you know the difference between the preferential and non-preferential origin of goods?

As already mentioned, preferential origin of goods allows customs benefits for imported goods, while non-preferential origin only tells which country the goods are from, but customs benefits do not apply to it.


The rules on the preferential origin of goods are explained in the Community Customs Code. This area is also governed by individual trade agreements between the EU and specific countries. The area of ​​preferential origin of goods is also regulated in autonomous preferential arrangements.


When exporting or importing goods, companies must provide the customs offices with proof of the preferential origin of the goods for which official forms are prescribed.


In the following, we present the forms of origin of goods.

To prove the origin of goods in trade with countries with which the EU has concluded trade agreements or autonomous preferential arrangements - EUR. 1.


Proof of origin in trade with Syria for shipments worth € 850. The exporter issued the certificate himself and is not certified by the customs authorities - EUR.2.

Proof of origin in trade with countries involved in the pan-Euro-Mediterranean cumulation of origin of goods - EUR-MED.

It applies to imports from developing countries under the EU - FORM - A Generalized System of Preferences.

We also use simplified certificates of origin. Such certificates are used in the form of an exporter's invoice declaration up to € 6,000, an approved exporter's invoice declaration over EUR 6,000, an authorized exporter's invoice declaration EUR-MED. In doing so, we must be careful to use precisely prescribed text.


Intrastat - Extrastat

Companies engaged in an import-export activity are required to report on a monthly basis on the receipt and dispatch of goods in the EU internal market. An enterprise is included in the Intrastat statistical survey if it trades in goods with companies or individuals in the other EU Member States and the total value of its shipments of goods to EU Member States or receipts of goods from the EU Member States in the calendar year exceeds the inclusion threshold.


  • Intrastat - is, therefore, statistics on trade in goods between the EU Member States. The inclusion threshold is € 200,000 for shipping goods and € 140,000 for receiving goods. Taxpayers must send the report by every 15th of the month for the previous month. 
  • Extrastat - Statistics on trade in goods with non-EU countries (i.e. Extrastat) use customs declarations as data sources.



Taric is a database that includes all measures relating to the Common Customs Tariff and trade and agricultural legislation. The condition for the functioning of the customs union and the EU common market is the uniform application of foreign trade rules in all Member States. This unity is ensured by the TARIC - Integrated Tariff of the European Community (Tarif Intégré de la Communauté). The TARIC is a systematically organized list of goods containing tariff codes, tariff names, and customs rates. It is a clear overview of all measures to be taken when importing and exporting goods from the EU.


The TARIC uses the Combined Nomenclature. However, the eight-digit code used by the Combined Nomenclature is not enough to describe all the measures implemented in the EU over certain goods. Two more digits (TARIC subheading) are added to the eight-digit code, giving a ten-digit code from the TARIC nomenclature called the TARIC code.



VAT on import is calculated from the tax base, which consists of the customs value of goods determined according to customs regulations and the amount of customs and other duties payable on import. The method of payment of VAT is governed by national law.


One of the conditions is that the goods leave the country of the supplier. Under the new law, taxpayers can prove this by using a presumption based on two non-contradictory evidence. If the liable party is unable to obtain such evidence, he shall use the information specified by the Slovenian legislator in the executive act.


Other conditions:

  • the seller is an identified taxable person in a Member State,
  • the movement of goods is carried out for remuneration,
  • the goods are produced in the territory of Slovenia,
  • the recipient of the goods is an identified taxable person (valid VAT ID number of the buyer),
  • it will issue an invoice to its customer stating that VAT has not been charged,
  • a buyer of goods in another Member State will charge VAT in his own country at the applicable tax rate in that country.


In the case of purchases of goods from another Member State, VAT will be levied and paid (with certain exceptions) under the following conditions:

  • a supplier of goods in another Member State identified for VAT will issue an invoice to the buyer in Slovenia stating that VAT has not been charged under a particular article of the law in force there,
  • the movement of goods is carried out for remuneration,
  • Slovenian buyer - the taxable person will have to charge VAT on the 15th day after the month of the supply in Slovenia.


VIES is used to exchange Value added tax Information Exchange systems between EU members. It enables taxable persons to collect, report, and report data on intra-Community supplies of goods quickly and efficiently. A taxable person identified for VAT purposes is required to register to the tax office on all supplies of goods made to taxable persons identified for VAT purposes in the other Member States. It also contains information on the expiry of the tax number.


For more information, please contact our expert on the EU customs system, Ms. Petra Korošec (

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