Customs: Import controls

Companies and consumers must satisfy a number of regulations before they may import goods. Import taxes may have to be paid, for example, and goods that are not safe may be banned. Customs checks goods that are brought into the Netherlands by companies and private individuals.

Importation of goods

All goods that are imported from a third country first acquire the status of 'goods in temporary storage'. The importer must declare how they will be treated or used and can then use one of the customs procedures.

A well-known procedure is 'release for free circulation'. The goods then acquire the status of 'Community goods' and may circulate freely within the EU single market. The importer pays customs duties to acquire this status. Importers usually rely on the expertise and credit facilities of customs agents to deal with the formalities of importing goods.

Goods placed under customs supervision

The ultimate treatment or use is not always known when goods are imported. If the goods are immediately re-exported, they are not released into free circulation in the EU and the importer need not pay customs duties. Customs-approved treatments or uses have therefore been introduced in which the goods are placed under customs supervision and duties are not payable.

This procedure is used if, for example, goods must first pass health, safety and environmental checks before they can be released into free circulation. An importer needs a licence to place goods under customs supervision.

Other examples of customs-approved treatment or use are external transit, customs warehousing, temporary importation and inward processing. More information is available on (in Dutch).

Customs procedures

Customs does its best to admit goods quickly and simply but still carry out appropriate checks. To this end, it uses the opportunities provided by the European customs procedures. Where possible, Customs seeks simpler solutions. Examples of this approach include:

  • Use of simplified procedures

    Simplified procedures are often available to help businesses complete customs formalities. If a company keeps approved accounts, for example, Customs is willing to accept them for its checks. This prevents the duplication of work. If necessary, checks of the accounts are combined with a physical inspection of the goods.
  • Combinations of simplified procedures

    Businesses that keep their accounts electronically can use a combination of simplified procedures. These include: accounts-based checks of goods in storage in combination with simplified procedures to transport the goods to and from the warehouse.

Health, safety, economic and environmental checks

Customs supervises the import (Import Control System), export (Export Control System) and transit (NCTS) of goods. It determines whether the goods comply with health, safety and environmental standards. With regard to health and the environment, it checks, amongst other things, the quality of medicines and tobacco products and inspects the transportation of live animals. With regard to economic requirements, it checks licences for firearms and ammunition and for counterfeit products.

More information on health, safety, economic and environmental checks is available on (in Dutch).