Glossar Customs clearance

The term Customs clearance generally refers to the customs and tax treatment of different goods when they are imported into or exported from another customs territory, which is usually a different country. Only after Customs clearance the goods can be released for free trade. Customs clearance usually takes place at the national border, the destination airport or the harbour itself.

In Europe, customs clearance always takes place in connection with exports or imports that cross the external borders of the customs territory of the European Union. The customs territory of the European Union is almost congruent with the EU territory, but not 100 percent, which must be taken into account when transporting goods. In Germany, for example, the exclave of Büsingen and the island of Helgoland are not part of the EU customs territory. At the same time, this means that a special and separate customs clearance rule applies here for the transport of different goods.

The steps involved in a Customs clearance

The Customs clearance is divided into different steps.

The first step is about the Customs declaration. This is a declaration of goods made in accordance with certain specifications for release into an official customs procedure. Within the EU, these are submitted electronically.

After the preliminary check by the respective customs office, the customs declaration is accepted and declared legally valid if the result is positive. The preliminary check is followed by the actual verification of the customs declaration. The details are checked for accuracy and the documents are checked not only for validity but also for authenticity.

Furthermore, the declared goods are checked for the registered quantities, the values and their condition, which can be done by direct visual inspection, the so-called customs inspection, or by taking a sample. The result is documented in the customs report.

Following the inspection, the goods are released to the declarant. They are now in free circulation under customs law, although it should always be noted that the collection of customs duties and the collection of import VAT are two different procedures.