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10 March 2016

Union Customs Code – What Importers/Exporters Need to Know

Posted By: AIB Business

The Union Customs Code (UCC) will take legal effect across all EU Member States from 1st May 2016. What are the changes and how will they impact Irish exporters and importers? Mark O’Mahoney from Chambers Ireland highlights the key things you need to know.

The Community Customs Code (CCC) and its Implementing Provisions (which set out the rules and procedures to ensure the implementation of tariff and other measures in connection with trade between the European Union and non-Member States) have had legal effect since 1 January 1994.

The CCC was written at a time when procedures were largely paper-based.  The volume and speed of trade have increased significantly in the intervening years and electronic transactions are now the norm.  Therefore, the decision was taken that the CCC needs to be modernised and updated so it will be replaced by the Union Customs Code (UCC), which was adopted on 9th October 2013. The UCC will take legal effect across all EU Member States from 1st May 2016.


The Changes

Due to the volume of legislative and procedural changes that will be introduced with effect from midnight on 30th April 2016, the transition to the new UCC regime will require careful management so as to ensure minimal disruption to trade. 

The UCC will introduce a number of new concepts and will modernise many existing procedures.  Some of these changes will require the development of new IT systems and enhancements to existing systems, which will be introduced on a phased basis between now and 31st December 2020. A greater emphasis will also be placed on Authorised Economic Operator (AEO) certification, as those companies that have achieved, or do achieve, this status are set to benefit in several areas. AEO certification will also be used to ensure trader compliance and that only those traders that can demonstrate a history of customs compliance will be approved for AEO status.

Exporters are likely aware of the changes to customs valuation, given the extensive discussions on the use of the so-called “first sale for export” rule. The primary basis for determining the customs value of goods is the transaction value i.e. the price actually paid or payable for the goods when sold for export to the customs territory of the Union – adjusted where necessary. Under the current legislation, it is possible to use a sale earlier in the chain, if it can be determined that the earlier sale took place for export to the EU. In the UCC it is currently included that “the value of the goods shall be determined at the time of acceptance of the customs declaration on the basis of the transaction occurring immediately before the goods are declared for free circulation.” While it is unclear at the moment exactly how this rule is to be interpreted, it is being argued by many experts that the first sale for export can no longer be used.

Additionally, current customs legislation refers to public and private warehouses, which can be divided into five further different types of customs warehouses, all with their own specifics. In the UCC and the current draft of regulation, references are only made to public and private warehouses, without further specifying the types of warehouses.

What will the UCC Achieve?

  • Modernise Customs Code and Procedures
  • Provide greater legal certainty and uniformity to business
  • Increase clarity for customs officials throughout the EU
  • Simplify customs rules and procedures
  • Complete the progression to a paperless and electronic customs environment
  • Reinforce swifter customs procedures for compliant and trustworthy economic partners


Key Dates

30th Oct 2013:                     UCC Entry into Force

30th April 2016:                   Repeal of the Community Customs Code

1st May 2016:                      Application of the Union Customs Code

1st Jan 2021:                        All IT systems fully operational


More Information

Many Chambers of Commerce will be holding briefings for their members on the changes as part of the Union Customs Code. If you would like to learn more about the UCC and how it affects you, please contact Chambers Ireland directly via Alternatively, visit the Revenue website, which includes detailed information on the changes, how they impact business and the steps companies need to take during the transition process.


Written by: Mark O'Mahoney, Director of Policy and Communications, Chambers Ireland

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