Customs procedure

What is a customs regime?


The customs regime determines the legal status of merchandise before its entry into a given territory. It outlines the necessary formalities to be filled with regards to administration and customs authorities of a country in order to obtain free circulation of goods on a national scale. This legal obligation involves the concurrence of several sectors with differing interests from an economical point of view. 


The use of regimes aims to achieve many objectives. They can optimize the management of inflow in order to facilitate the distribution of imported goods. What’s more, the companies concerned pay duties and taxes for rapid and economical transit and distribution of their goods.

regimes are characterized by their great flexibility in response to evolving needs. They are also able to respond in line with the specific constraints of the various activity sectors.


Specificities of customs regimes


We can distinguish 3 main families of international regulations. They group together several regimes:

  • Basic regimes or common procedures: they concern all identified imports and exports in a territory. They help determine the value of goods and national taxes such as VAT. The is called “Release for free circulation (and consumption)”;
  • Suspensive or Community transit procedure: Community transit procedures such as and , as well as the International Road Transit system (TIR) belong to this category. This type of regime helps avoid congestion at frontiers and airports. The lighter measures in terms of administrative formalities also aim to facilitate access to a country;
  • Economic regimes: these include active and passive upgrades, procedures, temporary admissions and processing under . The disparity and complexity of these regulations can be justified by the need to respond to economical and competitor stakes in international trade.


Distinction between entry into tax-free zones and bonded warehousing under customs

Imports under the bonded procedure benefit from tax exemptions during a period of two years. Once this period is over, proceeds to taxation or the importer may request an extension of status.

For entry into free zones, authorities take charge of the market values of goods for an unlimited duration.


Examples and practical applications


Requirements for registry to a customs regime

The decision to grant a regime depends on the application put forward. The application must be precise and highly rigorous regarding administrative formalities. They include:

  • A request for authorization common to all regimes;
  • A which allows the importer to obtain temporary or permanent authorization.


It is important to note that authorization is accorded permanently in form only. It can evolve in accordance with the needs of the applicant or change in line with the latest regulations. Any modifications unknown to authorities must be declared.


Customs regime procedures in practice


When goods are to be handled by authorities, application of the regime operates in five main steps:

  • The request to integrate a specific regime and its acceptance by the competent authorities;
  • The representative or holder must have a specific guarantee concerning exemptions of taxes and duties;
  • Goods are then placed under the chosen regime;
  • The validity of the regime is of temporary duration while waiting for permanent authorization;
  • confirms the status of the goods and its warehouse destination.


Regulatory basis


Regulation 53/PR/of 4 May 2004  

Directive n°80 – 097/PR/FI of 30 July 1980

Community Code