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UK clearance of European shipments in jeopardy

Jun 16, 2015
A recent notice issued by HMRC (Her Majesty’s Revenue and Customs) in the UK appears to suggest that moving companies may no longer be able to customs clear household goods through the UK, for delivery elsewhere in Europe.



Instead the items will need to be shipped direct to their country of final destination or imported and moved under bond.  The situation is unclear at the time of writing however, should this become the case it will be a serious retrograde step and have a significant detrimental effect on those companies in the UK that act as a destination hub for European traffic.

The notice calls for the immediate and strict implementation of Article 123 of EC Regulation 1186/2009.  This article states:

“Where relief from import duties is granted conditional upon goods being put to a particular use by the recipient, only the competent authorities of the Member State in whose territory the said goods are to be put to such a use may grant this relief.”

So, for example, if goods were sent to the UK in a household goods groupage container for oncarriage to Spain, the Spanish consignment could not clear customs in the UK but would need to be transported, under customs transit procedure, to Spain and cleared there.  Presumably this would also have implications for operators who take groupage traffic to Europe and perform multiple deliveries.

The notice, however, goes on to say that the future implementation of Article 123 will be supported by additional Customs Information Papers covering certain aspects, one of which is: ‘Transfer of Residence (ToR) and related personal property Reliefs’. Some members of the international moving community have been invited to participate in consultation regarding this additional CIP.

The ability to clear goods through the UK on a C3 for onward carriage to Europe was established in the early 1990s after Michael Gerson and Ted Philp met with the then HM Customs and Excise to clarify such points on behalf of the entire international moving industry in the UK.  Since then it has worked well, providing business for the UK companies and allowing speedy, frequent, cost effective services for customers throughout Europe.  If the European Commission is adamant that Article 123 will alter the original procedure it will increase costs for customers, cause delays and remove a revenue stream from the UK specialist companies. 

This issue has been discussed before, however the UK industry and FEDEMAC lobbied very hard to ensure that rather than take the risk of undermining the option for clearance via the first country of arrival in the EU, Member States other than the UK should be encouraged to allow similar procedures. This was done by combining lobbying via FEDEMAC at a central European level and its national Member Associations in each country.  The European Commission confirmed that “any customs office should grant the release on presentation of similar documentary evidence as required for a person taking residence in the Member State of the Customs Office. The then European Commissioner for DG Taxation and Customs Union clarified the situation by advising that any refusal or request to use community transit procedures solely on the grounds that a person takes residence in another Member State would be incompatible with the current (at the time) European law! Armed with this information Tony Richman informed The Mover that the removers’ lobbying campaign eventually helped to persuade at least 10 EU Member States to confirm their agreement to this ‘more liberal interpretation’  of the rules.

A FEDEMAC position paper called on the Commission to advocate for further harmonisation in the customs clearance system across the European Union by creating a harmonised customs clearance form as well as harmonised procedures and rules of duty relief for household goods. It said:

“Households goods being cleared by customs by the Member State of final destination would be a step back for the EC as well as for the internal market. The unnecessary bureaucracy of this system hinders on companies’ competitiveness as well as on jobs creation within the European Union. It is imperative to create a customs clearance system that is in line with the European Union’s rules on the single market as well as free movement of goods. Imports of household goods, coming from countries outside the EU, destined to a primary residence within the EU should be cleared at the first customs point of entry into the E.U. for onward delivery to any other EU Member State without further customs clearance. This is a relatively straightforward procedure using the standard Customs Import formalities as per the Member State of first entry. This would decrease bureaucracy and create a far more efficient system.”

Gabriella Dimitrova, Head of European Affairs for FEDEMAC said: “FEDEMAC has been in constant communication as well as having several meetings with DG Taxud on the subject. FEDEMAC has been advocating for greater harmonisation of the EU clearance system, as well as towards a more liberalised system. It is of great importance for us that all Member States apply the same rules in order to avoid unfair competition. FEDEMAC will continue to work closely with DG Taxud on the issue and to advocate for harmonisation as well as liberalisation of the current system and will inform its Members of any new developments. Lastly, all our position papers on various issues are available on FEDEMAC.eu and accessible to all.”

The Mover will continue to monitor the situation and report accordingly. 


Photo: The ability to clear goods through the UK on a C3 for onward carriage to Europe was established in the early 1990s.



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