Get ready for phase 2 of Import Control System 2

Import Control System 2 (ICS2) is the EU safety and security initiative that screens shipments prior to their arrival in Europe. It’s designed to help protect people from security and safety threats by helping customs authorities identify high-risk consignments and intervene where necessary.  

ICS2 is split into three phases or “releases”:

  1. Phase 1 began in March 2021, and concerned mail and express shipments. 
  2. Phase 2 will take effect March 1, 2023. From this date, all carriers, couriers, and postal services transporting goods through the EU by air will need to comply with new requirements, including submitting safety and security information to the EU prior to a shipment’s arrival. Without this data, goods will be stopped at customs. Affected operators will need to verify their ability to send this new shipment data to the EU.
  3. Phase 3 — the final phase — will begin March 1, 2024. It imposes similar rules concerning the movement of goods by maritime and inland waterways, road, and rail.

Although carriers, couriers, and postal services are responsible for complying with ICS2 requirements, retailers can still take steps to ensure their goods move through EU customs as smoothly as possible to avoid additional costs and disappointed customers. 

Getting Harmonized System (HS) codes right is perhaps most important. HS codes are six-digit identifiers assigned to every product sold across international borders. They enable customs authorities to apply the correct duties and taxes to every product. If retailers fail to provide HS codes, or provide incorrect codes, carriers and couriers will assign them instead. Because those carriers and couriers tend to know a lot less about retailers’ shipments or business than the retailers themselves, the wrong codes could be assigned, thereby causing significant delays. Having a quick and accurate way to classify products and assign the correct codes is therefore essential for retailers. 

These changes also affect online sellers in the U.S. who ship to Europe using the United States Postal Service. As of March 1, 2023, U.S. retailers will need to be more specific with their item descriptions when filling out customs forms. Vague item descriptions such as “clothing” or “electronics” will no longer be acceptable, and must be replaced with specific entries that appear on the EU’s list of acceptable terms found on the website. Paying closer attention to item descriptions will help sellers avoid fines and customs delays, while reducing safety and security risks.

Avalara can help you calculate and assign the correct HS codes to your products and flag prohibited goods, so you can keep selling across borders while managing changing requirements. 

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