EU customs and import VAT representative

Non-EU resident businesses must have in place an EU-resident representative for the purposes of customs clearance and import VAT. This is requirement of the EU’s Union Custom Code (UCC) where the importer cannot present an EORI number associated with EU residency. The indirect representative will be jointly and severally liable for any customs duties (tariffs) and import VAT due as they act as an indirect representative (see below).

A single EU representative may represent their customer in any EU member state for the purposes of customs imports. This is a separate requirement from VAT fiscal representation.

There are two forms of customs representation. In either case, the rep must be officially registered with their local tax office:

1 Direct Representation

The customs representative acts in the name of and on behalf of another party resident in the EU. The party being represented is the declarant and is obliged to meet all the obligations arising from the declaration. The declarant will be responsible for maintaining the records and also providing an audit trail. The agent is only responsible in the case of professional negligence.

2 Indirect Representation – for non-EU importers

The customs indirect representative acts acts in their own name as the import declarant. They do not file the customs declaration themselves. But the customs representative must maintain a full audit trail of the customs declaration. The Indirect representative shall be jointly and severally liable for all customs liabilities arising from the customs related transactions.

In the case of missdeclared or unpaid import VAT or customs duties, Customs are most likely to pursue the indirect representative because there is no other EU based party to take action against. The customs agent should ensure that they have contractual arrangements in place to protect them from any non-compliance by their customer.