On 28 September, the European Commission launched a new action plan for the customs union, which sets out a series of measures to make EU customs smarter, more innovative and more efficient.
The action plan proposes measures such as better use of information, better tools and equipment, better compliance, increased cooperation within the EU and with customs authorities in partner countries, and better preparedness for future crises.
Why is the Commission launching a customs action plan?
The EU customs union has become the cornerstone of the single market, generating revenue for the EU budget, keeping the EU’s borders secure and protecting our citizens from illicit and dangerous goods such as arms, drugs and environmentally harmful products. The customs union also facilitates trade with the rest of the world, which is vital for the EU’s prosperity.
EU customs authorities now have a long and growing list of responsibilities at EU borders. The modernized framework for customs legislation has been in place since 2016 in the form of the Union Customs Code. For more information on the latest progress in customs administration, read the 2nd biennial report on customs administration.
However, customs and VAT fraud and the smuggling of illegal or dangerous goods have become major problems. Unequal customs control capacity between Member States can lead to goods being diverted to the weakest points of entry and exit in the EU customs territory to avoid detection. In addition, new business models, such as e-commerce, have increased the implementation challenges faced by EU customs. At the same time, customs authorities need to be better able to respond to changing or emergencies, such as the COVID-19 pandemic.
The Customs Action Plan therefore sets out ways to meet these challenges and take the customs union to a new level.
What does the custom action plan say?
The 17 measures in the Customs Action Plan are grouped under four headings: risk management, e-commerce management, compliance promotion and the operation of customs authorities as a whole. The main initiatives under these four headings are:
- New Analytics Center: The action plan will ensure better availability and use of data and data analysis for customs purposes. Better data analysis helps with risk management, customs clearance, post-clearance and anti-fraud. In the long term, monitoring trends and patterns through data analysis could, for example, help the Commission and customs authorities to identify gaps and vulnerabilities to address them.
- Confirmation of the obligation on payment service providers and online sales platform: In order to combat cross-border tax and customs fraud, the Commission wants to ensure that, from 2024, customs authorities have access to the information that payment service providers such as Paypal and Amazon Payn have to provide to the tax authorities. Member States. The Commission also intends to present plans to introduce new customs reporting requirements for the platforms.
- Single window environment for customs: The forthcoming proposal for a single window environment for customs will make it easier for legitimate businesses to complete their border formalities in one portal. It will allow for more collaborative data processing, sharing and exchange, as well as better risk assessment for customs authorities.
- Aintroduction of modern and reliable customs equipment: The Commission aims to provide Member States with modern customs control equipment to enable them to carry out better and more efficient controls. In addition, the proposed new Customs financing program will support and deepen cooperation between customs authorities and officials in all participating countries, as well as finance the development and operation of electronic customs systems.
- International customs cooperation: The EU aims to reach an agreement between the EU and China on a new strategic framework for customs cooperation 2021-2024 before the end of 2020. It will also launch a comprehensive analysis of the Union’s system of international cooperation and mutual administrative cooperation in customs matters. by the end of 2020 in order to propose possible improvements in 2021.
- Reflection group: A new think tank composed of Member States and business representatives will be set up to prepare for future crises and challenges, such as unexpected global developments and future business models. In addition, a report will be published on the organization of certain functions, such as the management of electronic customs systems, the storage of data analytics and the training of customs officials.
Further information and a full list of 17 actions can be found in the Communication and its Annex.
Are there any other initiatives coming?
The Commission aims to adopt its proposal for a one-stop shop for customs by the end of October.
In 2018, the Commission launched the innovative foresight project “The future of customs in the EU 2040”. The aim is to create a common and strategic understanding of current and future customs challenges and a vision of what EU customs should look like in 2040. A report from the Commission services on this task is expected to be published by the end of October. .