Increasing limitation of the role of non-established companies in customs declarations – Strict implementation by French Customs Authorities

The Union Customs Code (UCC), which entered into force on May 1st, 2016, has undertaken to severely limit the role played by non-established companies in the context of export or import declarations in the EU. This trend is well applied in France.

With regard to exports, a non-established company will no longer be able to act as an exporter from January 1st, 2021. Until this deadline, a non-established company remains entitled to appear as exporter in the customs declaration, provided that it has an EORI number, is registered for VAT in the exporting country, has appointed a tax representative in France, and has appointed a customs representative to proceed to export of goods from the EU, acting under indirect representation.

With regards to imports, in a note to operators dated July 13th, 2019, the Regional Customs Directorate of Le Havre recalled that any customs declaration filed on behalf of non-established companies also had to be done by a representative acting under indirect representation, illustrating a joint interpretation of articles 5§15, 18 and 170§2 UCC.

Under article 5§15 UCC, the representative may lodge a customs declaration in its own name, but also in the name of the person for whom the declaration is lodged. As such, the declaration made in the name and on behalf of others is defined by Article 18 UCC as a direct representation. Conversely, a declaration made in its own name but on behalf of others is defined as an indirect representation.

Article 170§2 UCC provides that, except for the derogations specified in §3 of Article 170 UCC, the customs declarant must necessarily be established in the customs territory of the Union.

Thus, it is impossible for any importer or exporter not established in the territory of the Union to make its own customs declaration. It must appoint a customs representative, acting under indirect representation.

In conclusion, the Regional Customs Directorate of Le Havre implements strictly the provisions of the UCC and limits the role of companies not established in the territory of the Union, while strengthening the system of indirect representation.