Customs clearance in France: what you need to know

Customs clearance in France: what you need to know

Foreign operators who wish to clear their goods reliably and quickly through French Customs should follow a few simple principles and choose their partners.

Foreign companies, not established in the European Union, often encounter difficulties when clearing customs in France. Although the customs rules established by the the EU Customs Code provides a uniform basis for dealing with all goods within the European Union (EU), experience shows that there are subtle variations in national regulations, and even in some local practices, which can lead to blockages or delays. It is however easy to clear customs in France, for those who take the right steps and with the right partners.

Decoding by Hélène Plaquet,customs trainer within MATHEZ FORMATION,in charge of customs compliance at MATHEZ FREIGHT – registeredcustoms representative in France andforwarder approved AEO-Full at the European level.

Import & export: what are the customs formalities in France?

TDU, import, export: definitions

  • France is a member state of the European Union (EU) and as such is part of the EU’s customs territory. While the Principality of Monaco is considered to be part of the TDU, as of February 1, 2020, the United Kingdom has officially left the TDU from a legal point of view.
  • Any physical flow of goods leaving the Customs Territory of the Union (TDU) constitutes an export. The export is materialized by the deposit with the Customs of a customs declaration, called in France the D.A.U. (Single Administrative Document).
  • Any physical flow of goods into the TDU is an import. Importation into France is also materialized by the deposit of a D.A.U. on which the importer must pay the duties and taxes applicable to the nature of the imported goods.
  • Doubtful? Check which countries belong to the EU Customs territory on the EU website.

Customs and export from France

As a general rule, the formalities and requirements for exporting are lighter than for importing, so as not to impede the shipment of goods. Nevertheless, to export from France, the exporter must :

  • Be registered in the EORI (Economic Operator Registration and Identification) database.
  • Check if your goods are under “surveillance”, as the formalities on this type of product can slow down the export of goods.
    Examples : cultural property, protected plant or animal species (CITES), property that can be used for both civilian and military purposes (BDU), war material,….
  • Find a Registered Customs Representative (RDE) to carry out the customs formalities with the French customs administration.

Customs and importation into France

The formalities for importing into France are heavier than for exporting, due to the financial stakes. The requirements mentioned above for exports are applicable, but the importer must also pay special attention:

  • respecting the 3 pillars of customs: species (customs code), origin (economic nationality of goods), and value.
  • compliance with European standards: the importer must ensure that its products comply with European technical regulations. And beware: standards are hiding everywhere.
    Examples : toys and childcare accessories, electrical equipment, bicycles, protective equipment and microwave ovens.
    Your forwarder will alert you to the CE standards according to the customs code of your products, and can direct you to approved laboratories.

Failure to comply with European standards can lead to your goods being blocked at customs clearance. “

3 key points to clear customs in France

  1. Hold or obtain an EORI number

    Companies carrying out import/export operations with France must have an EORI number (Economic Operator Registration and Identification). This unique number, valid throughout the European Union, identifies each operator in his relations with the customs authorities. Companies established outside the EU that do not already have an EORI number in the EU must register with the French Customs Administration. You will save time by having your forwarder assist you!

    Example of EORI number for a Chinese company importing into France: FR + CN + number assigned by the customs department at the time of registration.

    > You can check an EORI number in the European database.

    Please noteIf your EORI number begins with GB, it will no longer be valid on 31 December 2020, following the Brexit. Remember to register a new one.

    Please note: for trade fairs and exhibitions,it is not necessarily compulsory to have an EORI number. A case-by-case study will be necessary, depending on your activities.

    Once you have an EORI number, you can export or import to France in your name.

  2. Mastering the tax systems in France

    On arrival at the TDU, the goods must be declared at their actual value and the importer must pay the applicable duties and taxes . There are several mechanisms in France that allow for the suspension, deferral, or reduction of duties and taxes:

    Take advantage of origin agreements for imports and exports

    The country of manufacture of the products and the European Union may have negotiated a trade agreement allowing for the reduction or suspension of customs duties if the products “originate” in one of the two contracting parties. In this case, it will be necessary to put the corresponding mention on the commercial documents, or to produce a certificate of preferential origin.

    “The exporter of the products covered by this document (Customs Authorization No…) declares that, unless otherwise clearly indicated, these products have the preferential origin… “
    > See thelist of unilateral agreements and preferences of the European Union on the EU website.

    Apply for import tax incentives

    As a third party importer, you can opt for the reverse charge of VAT on importation into France. You will need to obtain a ATVAI authorization, whose conditions in France are quite flexible for third parties: the importer must register for VAT in France, via a tax representative (for example, EASYTAX), and use the services of a registered customs representative who holds the AEO qualification, to carry out its import formalities – this is the case of MATHEZ FREIGHT.

    Use the special regimes according to your activities, import or export

    – You store goods within the EU: the bonded warehouse regime will allow you to defer the payment of duties and taxes when the goods are marketed.
    – You are presenting your goods at a trade fair, an exhibition, or carrying out trials within the EU: the temporary admission procedure will allow you to use your goods on the TDU with total exemption from duties and taxes, before re-exporting them.
    – You have your goods repaired or transformed in the EU: the inward processing procedure without paying duties and taxes, before re-exporting them or releasing them for consumption.

  3. Choose the right partners for your customs clearance in France

    Appoint a Registered Customs Representative (RCR)

    In France, it is almost mandatory for any importer or exporter to go through a registered customs representative. There are many of them, and it is recommended to give preference to holders of an AEO(Authorized Economic Operator) approval, which will offer you guarantees of reliability and confidence in the clearance of your goods. Customs is modernizing, disputes are becoming more and more frequent, the centralization of your flows on a small number of RCR, will allow you to obtain an advice adapted to your import/export activities, while avoiding unpleasant surprises and blockages in customs.

    Appoint a tax representative or a VAT proxy

    If your company is not established in the European Union and carries out operations subject to VAT or reporting obligations in France, it is required to appoint a tax representative.

    – You own a bonded stock in France
    – You are exporting from France in your name
    – You import under reverse charge of VAT in France, in your name (sale under Incoterm DDP)

    In these situations you will need a tax representative for VAT returns, refund claims, etc.

Registered customs representative since 1950, AEO-Full approved forwarder since 2013, the Mathez Transports group has also developed a VAT & customs regulatory assistance center (MATHEZ FORMATION), and a tax representation throughout Europe (EASYTAX). Conduct your import/export operations with confidence: Contact us!

Hélène Plaquet, MATHEZ FREIGHT
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