Import: Special Provisions
Free Trade Zones (FTZs)
Spain has multiple free trade zones (FTZs). They include:
- Free Zone of Barcelona (Zona franca de Barcelona)
- Free Zone of Vigo (Zona franca de Vigo)
- Free Zone of Las Palmas de Gran Canaria (Zona franca de Las Palmas de Gran Canaria)
- Free Zone of Cádiz (Zona franca de Cádiz)
- Free Zone of Sevilla (Zona Franca de Sevilla)
- Free Zone of Santander (Zona Franca de Santander)
- Free Zone of Tenerife (Zona Franca de Tenerife)
FTZs are specially designated areas within the customs territory of the European Union (EU) where goods may be placed free of value-added tax (VAT) and other import duties and taxes. Non-EU goods can be stored in free zones and considered not yet imported to the EU until they are released for free circulation. No import declaration is required as long as the goods remain in storage in the free zones. Relief from other taxes, excises or local duties may also apply, varying from one zone to another.
Spain FTZs are of Control Type I, meaning that they are supervised by customs and have a perimeter fence; goods placed there are automatically under the free zone regime. Spanish Customs legislation further allows for companies to have their own free trade areas.
Non-EU goods can be held in customs warehouses until the owner of the goods chooses to re-export them or pay the applicable duties and taxes. Only goods declared under inward processing or processing under customs control can undergo substantial processing in a customs warehouse. For all other goods, processing is limited to preservation and storage.
Automated Import System (AIS)
The Automated Import System (AIS) is a facility for customs, traders, and traders’ representatives to ensure that import operations starting in one member state can be completed in another member state without resubmission of the same information. This includes the exchange of electronic messages related to the different stages of the operations among the traders.
Temporary Importation Relief
Duties may be suspended when goods owned by a person established outside the EU are imported for a temporary period. Temporary Importation Relief is commonly applied to the following:
- Goods coming in for an exhibition
- Goods coming in for a firm to test (but not for destruction)
- Sample goods to be shown to prospective buyers
- Animals imported for training/breeding/veterinary treatment or competitions
A security/guarantee must be provided in the form of the following:
- A valid ATA Carnet (see below)
- A cash deposit (refundable when goods are re-exported)
- A bond (or, as a temporary measure, a cover note) either from an approved insurance company, or a bank licensed by the central bank to carry out insurance business.
The maximum period of temporary importation is 24 months. However, in cases where an ATA Carnet covers the goods, they must be re-exported within the period of validity of the carnet. The goods must be easily identifiable at re-exportation. Marks or seals must be put on them by the customs office at the time of importation for identification.
ATA Carnet for Temporary Admission
The ATA Carnet is a multipart document facilitating duty-free temporary importation of goods to any number of participating countries over the course of one year. Between two green covers, it contains color-coded vouchers used for domestic and foreign customs and for transit operations.
The acronym ATA is a combination of French and English phrases "Admission Temporaire / Temporary Admission." The EU is a party to the ATA Carnet convention, which allows importers to import goods on a temporary basis without the payment of applicable duties. Items covered by the ATA Carnet convention include:
- Commercial samples and advertising films
- Goods for international exhibitions
- Professional equipment
Items excluded from the ATA Carnet system include:
- Items already sold or offered for sale
- Theatrical makeup
- Alcoholic beverages, tobacco, and fuels
- Goods intended for processing or repair
ATA Carnets are valid for 12 months from the date of issue for commercial samples, exhibition goods, and professional equipment. If the validity period is exceeded, duty and penalty charges will be incurred, even if the goods are proven to have been exported thereafter. Any such charges incurred will be the liability of the ATA Carnet holder.
Goods imported under ATA Carnet must be exported within the period approved for their admission. They are not to be sold or transferred. Failure to observe these requirements would result in the ATA Carnet holder or guarantor becoming liable to the payment of duty and penalty charges.
International Road Transport (Transports Internationaux Routiers) or TIR Convention
Administered by the United Nations Economic Commission for Europe (UNECE), the International Road Transport (Transports Internationaux Routiers) or TIR Convention is a multilateral treaty created on November 14, 1975, to simplify and harmonize the administrative formalities of international road transport. The 1975 convention replaced the TIR Convention of 1959, which itself replaced the 1949 TIR Agreement. With more than 50 countries using the procedure, the TIR system is the international customs transit system with the widest geographical coverage. A handbook on using TIR Carnets is available from the UNECE at www.unece.org/DAM/tir/handbook/english/newtirhand/TIR-6Rev11e.pdf.
As with other customs transit procedures, the TIR system enables goods to move under customs control across international borders without the payment of the duties and taxes that would normally be due at importation (or exportation). A condition of the TIR procedure is that the movement of the goods must include transport by road.
Goods move from a customs office of departure in one country to a customs office of destination in another country under cover of an internationally accepted customs transit document, the TIR Carnet, which also provides a financial guarantee for the payment of the suspended duties and taxes. The guarantee system is managed by the International Road Transport Union or IRU (www.iru.org).
Although each EU member state is a contracting party to the TIR Convention, the EU is considered to be a single territory for the purposes of the TIR procedure. This means TIR can only be used in the EU for international movements (where the movement either starts or ends in a third country, or where the goods move between two or more EU member states via the territory of a third country).
The IRU's TIR-EPD (https://tirepd.iru.org) is an electronic application that enables TIR Carnet holders to submit electronic pre-declarations (EPD) to customs authorities in different countries. With TIR-EPD, customs authorities are able to confirm that the pre-declaration was submitted by an authorized TIR Carnet holder and that the TIR Carnet is valid. This exchange of advance information facilitates pre-arrival risk analysis and makes border crossings simpler, safer, and faster. A TIR-EPD user guide is available at www.iru.org/system/files/TIR-EPD%20User%20Guide%20ENG.pdf.
EU Free Circulation Principle
Under the free circulation principle, goods legally imported from a country outside the EU are allowed to circulate freely throughout the EU, as goods originating from a member state are allowed to do. This procedure changes the status of non-EU goods to EU goods and it entails the completion of all import procedures. Goods are entered for this procedure by a customs declaration.
Spain is a signatory to the International Convention to Facilitate the Importation of Commercial Samples and Advertising Material. Samples can be imported into the country free of customs charges if they meet the following criteria:
- They are for solicitation of orders for the goods of the kind represented by the sample
- They are supplied directly from abroad
- They are consumed or destroyed rendering them ineligible for further use after the declared use
- They are mutilated. Mutilated goods must have a large hole cut in a prominent location on the outer side of the article so as to make it usable only as a sample. Cutting a sleeve off a shirt, a hole in the front of the garment, or hole in the sole of a single shoe so as to make it unusable is recommended.
- The shipper's documents, preferably the Commercial Invoice (CI), must state that the articles are mutilated samples and not for resale or other use. A Certificate of Origin is not required for import; only a standard Air Waybill or Bill of Lading and CI are required.
- They are marked. Marked samples are acceptable so long as the article is properly marked on a prominent location on the outer side of the article in indelible ink. The article must be marked with the word "SAMPLE" in contrasting ink and in such a manner that it can be easily seen upon inspection.
- Business people entering with commercial samples must come equipped with a letter from their principals attesting to their status, identifying the samples, and certifying that the samples are not for sale. The nearest Spanish consulate must certify the letter.
- Apparel manufacturers importing samples of apparel for the manufacturing of similar goods in Spain are allowed to bring one sample of each style duty-free into Spain.
Single Authorization is permission to use the customs administration in one EU member state to process the entry of goods for other member states. Application for the single authorization is filed using the application form of the member state where the main accounts of the applicant are held. Single authorization can be used, subject to agreement between member states, in a variety of situations:
Successive Processing Operations
When successive customs processing operations will be carried out in different member states, the declarant may submit a request for single authorization in the member state where the first such operation is carried out. The application must include all particulars of the sequence of operations and the exact places where they will be carried out.
Where processing is to be carried out under a job-processing contract between two persons established in the EU, the application shall be lodged by or on behalf of the principal.
Single Authorization for Processing in Location of Applicant's Accounts
If the applicant's accounts are held in a state other than the one where goods are to be customs cleared, the applicant may request single authorization in the state where the accounts are held to have customs procedures carried out in the state where to goods are to cleared.
Same Customs Procedure in Multiple Member States
Goods from outside the EU that are imported into multiple EU member states for the same customs processing require only one authorization.
Single Authorization for Temporary Import
Application for a single authorization for temporary import can be made by means of a customs declaration, including use of an ATA or Carnet de Passage en Douane (CPD Carnet). If the country of first use differs from the country of entry, the declaration must be submitted to the country of first use, and the ATA or CPD Carnet must be submitted to the country of entry.
Inward processing allows raw materials or semi-manufactured goods to be imported, processed within the EU, and then re-exported. This allows the manufacturer relief from customs duty and VAT on the goods being used. The duty is either suspended (this system requires a bond as security) or paid and later refunded (drawback system).
Processing Under Customs Control
This procedure allows imported goods to be processed into products subject to a lower duty rate. The aim is to facilitate processing activities in the EU.
New Computerized Transit System (NCTS)
The New Computerized Transit System (NCTS) is a computerized transit system based on an exchange of electronic messages. The first fully computerized customs system, the NCTS is available to all EU and European Free Trade Association (EFTA) countries as well as the UK, Turkey, and North Macedonia. It replaces the various paper documents and certain formalities now required by customs offices, and will apply to both internal (EU) transit and external transit, regardless of the mode of transit (with the exception of simplified transit procedures where a commercial document serves as the transit declaration).
The NCTS tracks goods at certain points along their route:
- Customs office of departure
- Customs office of destination
- Customs office of transit (the customs office at the point of entry or exit to or from the customs territory of the EU)
It is also noted when a change in the customs office of transit or destination is made.
Authorized Economic Operator (AEO)
Authorized Economic Operator (AEO) programs, implemented by an increasing number of customs administrations throughout the world, are based on the customs-to-business partnership introduced by the World Customs Organization or WCO (www.wcoomd.org). The voluntary AEO scheme creates customs-to-business partnerships aimed at securing the supply chain and facilitating legitimate low-risk trade. AEO are examined at the border significantly less than regular cross-border traders.
AEO status can be granted by participating countries to any established economic operator that meets criteria in the following categories: customs compliance, appropriate record-keeping, financial solvency, and where relevant, security and safety standards. AEO status granted by one EU member state is recognized by other members. AEO are allowed to make use of simplified customs procedures when importing goods to the member state granting AEO status. While the same benefits may not be available when importing to other member states, those states generally allow economic operators with AEO status to use some simplified procedures.
The application for AEO status is submitted through participating customs agencies. Economic operators can apply for AEO status to have easier access to customs simplifications and make it easier to comply with new security requirements.
Additional information on the EU's AEO program is available on the European Commission website. For details on the implementation of AEO programs worldwide, consult the WCO's AEO compendium at www.wcoomd.org/-/media/wco/public/global/pdf/topics/facilitation/instruments- and-tools / tools / safe-package / aeo-compendium.pdf.
Mutual Recognition of AEO
Mutual recognition of AEO is a key element of the WCO's Standards to Secure and Facilitate Global Trade (SAFE Framework). The 2021 version of the SAFE Framework strengthens cooperation between customs and other government agencies; promotes smart security devices to optimize customs control and effectively monitor the movement of goods in a real-time basis; and includes baseline provisions on the development of AEO programs and implementation of mutual recognition.
By mutual recognition of AEO, two customs administrations agree to:
- Recognize the AEO authorization issued under the other program
- Provide reciprocal benefits to AEO of the other program
The EU has mutual recognition of AEO programs with Norway, Switzerland, Japan, Andorra, the United States, and China. In addition, the EU and WCO are helping prepare a number of other countries to implement AEO programs.
Intrastat and Eurostat
In the Intrastat system, each member state maintains a register of intra-European Union operators (consignors and consignees). Operators with an annual trade volume of a certain value provide the required trade data; all other operators are exempt from reporting requirements. Member states are required to report this statistical information to Eurostat monthly.
Information the operator must report includes:
- Identification number allocated to the party responsible for providing information
- Reference period
- Flow (arrival, dispatch)
- Commodity, identified by the eight-digit code of the Combined Nomenclature (CN)
- Partner member state
- Value of the goods in the national currency
- Quantity of the goods in net mass (weight excluding packaging) and the supplementary unit (liter, m², number of items, etc.), if relevant
- Nature of the transaction
Excise Movement and Control System (EMCS)
The Excise Movement and Control System (EMCS) is a computerized system for monitoring movements of excise goods under suspension of excise duty within the EU. It simplifies procedures and provides for paperless administration and tracking of the shipment, while ensuring notification of the goods' arrival at their destination is received promptly.
The EMCS allows importers the following benefits:
- Simplification of procedures
- Paperless administration
- Secure movement of goods (traders' data is checked before the goods are dispatched)
- Quicker release of the guarantee for traders (evidence that the goods arrived at their destination comes faster in a safer way)
- Effective monitoring with real-time information and checks during movements
The EMCS particularly benefits those who trade in alcoholic beverages, tobacco, and energy products.
Note: The above information is subject to change. Importers are advised to obtain the most current information from a customs broker, freight forwarder, or the local customs authorities.
Sources: European Commission (www.ec.europa.eu); US Department of State (www.state.gov); United Nations Treaty Collection (https://treaties.un.org); Spanish Tax Agency (Agencia Tributaria) (https://sede.agenciatributaria.gob.es)
Article written for World Trade Press by Brielle Burt, Jennifer Goheen, and Nina Bellucci.
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