If you are importing goods - in other words bringing goods into the EU - you will have to file a customs declaration. You can file this declaration yourself or have yourself represented by a customs representative. There are two different forms of customs representation, which they are and how they work will be explained in this blog.
Customs representation in general
So in this blog I will talk about customs representation. Customs representation is a convenient option and very common in practise if you do not want to do your import declarations yourself, but prefer to use a specialized party. In addition to representation in connection with declarations, representation can also be chosen when applying for permits, for example. Here it is obvious that direct representation is chosen. Why this is the case, I will return to later in this blog.
Direct and indirect customs representation
As mentioned earlier, there are two forms of representation. One is direct representation and the other is indirect representation. What these forms of representation entail will be explained below.
Direct representation: the representative acts in the name and on behalf of the represented party. The representative acts here merely as an "extended arm". He binds the represented party and not himself. In principle, therefore, the represented party remains liable for the import duties.
Indirect representation: the representative acts in his own name, but on behalf of the represented party. Both the representative and the represented are responsible for the consequences of the act performed. What is important here is that the representative becomes the declarant, and thus the primary responsibility also falls on him. Thus, with indirect representation, one is accepting more liability than with direct representation. For this reason, indirect representation is significantly less common in practice.
The choice between direct and indirect representation is also subject to an important comment. Direct representation is only possible for principals who are established within the EU. Indirect representation is also possible for both non-EU and EU based clients. So if you want to represent someone from outside the EU, or if you yourself are established outside the EU and would like a representative, then indirect representation is in principle the appropriate form.
In order to act as a customs representative, you must hold an authorization. Therefore, without authorization, you cannot act as a representative. The authorization must consist of a power of attorney and an instruction. As a rule, this authorization is in writing; however, an oral authorization is also possible. Furthermore, an authorization is free of form, but a number of important details must be apparent from the authorization. For example, who is granting the authorization, whether this (legal) person actually exists, whether this (legal) person is established in the EU, etc. If any of these conditions are not met, this can have drastic consequences. For example, the representative may be deemed to have acted without power of representation and thus to have acted in his own name and for his own account - with all the associated liability risks. This is an undesirable situation and should be avoided at all times.
Finally, I would like to mention that every (legal) person who is professionally engaged in activities covered by customs legislation must register as a market operator. This applies both to companies making customs declarations for themselves and to companies making customs declarations for someone else. This registration must take place with the local customs authorities.
This blog has covered a number of topics relating to customs representation. It has been explained when customs representation can be applicable, which forms of customs representation exist and which is the appropriate form. Furthermore, some requirements are also discussed, including authorization and registration as an economic operator.
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