Clearance of goods
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Clearance of goods


Clearance of goods at customs – how does it work?

Any goods import or export activity into and out of the European Union is subject to a customs declaration. This “clearance” can take several forms and can take place at the border or at the destination, depending on the nature of the goods, their destination or the type of authorisation given to the company. What is the procedure applied to clearance of goods at customs? How can this regulatory process be facilitated or delayed? Dunkerque Promotion gives you the full lowdown.

What is clearance of goods?

Clearance is the process by which an importer or exporter completes customs and regulatory formalities for goods as they enter or leave the country.

This includes, in general, upon import, the payment of VAT and customs duties, but also certain regulatory checks (for example, health or phytosanitary formalities).

Clearance can be carried out at the customs office of the place of arrival of the goods at the border or at the company’s premises (local clearance procedure) for more flexible handling.

Goods import and export in France: what should I declare?

The trading of goods takes place within the framework of the European Common Market and Union Customs Code (UCC).  The following are subject to a declaration:

  • Imports, that is to say, goods brought into European Union territory from a non-EU country.
  • Exports, that is to say, Community goods sent to a non-EU country (outside the EU).

In any case, the declaration procedure falls to the Member State in which the customs clearance is carried out. It must include certain information at a minimum, such as[1] :

  • The name or business name of the importer/exporter
  • The name of the declarant or the representative (if different to the importer/exporter)
  • The type of declaration (common law, local clearance procedure)
  • The origin
  • The Customs Code (nomenclature)
  • The value

By default, the declarant is not compelled to systematically attach a receipt to their declaration. Nevertheless, they must provide all the invoices and other useful documents to customs in the event of an administrative inspection.

In addition, attaching a receipt remains obligatory if the goods fall under a preferential or exceptional tax regime. This is the case with goods subject to a health control and all regulated products (warlike material, medicines, narcotics, psychotropic drugs, dual-use items, etc.).

How do I make my customs declaration?

Obtain an EORI number

Since 1 July 2019, all companies who wish to declare imports or exports must first have an EORI number (Economic Operators Registration and Identification). It must be requested online using the SOPRANO teleservice. In France, this ID number is based on the company’s SIREN or SIRET number.  

Indicate a place of storage for your goods

Customs clearance at licensed premises or “at home” is now the default form of declaration. It is no longer necessary to have a permit to do so. On export, the only requirement is that the place where the goods are presented is declared to customs. 

On the other hand, on import, the premises must have undergone an approval or authorisation procedure[2]. Two statuses can be considered for the place of storage of the imported goods:

  • Temporary storage facilities (TSF) provide a maximum storage duration of 90 days[3] . During this timeframe, the importer can, however, make transfers between different TSFs without completing a specific declaration, provided they have received prior approval from customs services. Setting up a TSF is also subject to a prior operating licence. The site manager must ensure that a detailed record is kept.
  • An External Temporary Storage Facility (ETSF) is more restrictive in that storage is limited to 3 days only[4] , or 6 days subject to authorisation. Operating an ETSF is subject to the approval of customs. However, there is more flexibility around its management and keeping a detailed record is optional.

Useful information: Clearing your goods through customs in France without a local premises

It is absolutely possible to clear your goods through customs in the EU customs territory even if you don’t have your own local premises. All you need to do is give an indirect customs representation mandate to a local operator of a TSF or an ETSF (freight forwarder, logistics coordinator, etc.) who will take on the role of a customs representative on your behalf.

Initiating the online declaration process

The declaration process is now completely paperless [5]. Now, the declarant fills out the Single Administrative Document (SAD) via the Delta G electronic system service. To be entitled to do so, the declarant must first:

  • Choose the data transmission interface system (DTI for declarations on the douane portal or EDI for third party software)
  • Sign a Delta G electronic service agreement with the territorially competent customs office

The main aim of this new electronic procedure is to separate the physical flows of goods and the documentary formalities nationwide.

In other words, it is possible to import and export your goods by carrying out the formalities at a single office. This benefit applies to goods movement from several sites in France, under different customs offices.

The formalities taken over by this all-in-one interface include:

  • All the customs declarations for your goods
  • Declaration amendment or cancellation
  • Tax and customs duties payment to the accounts service
  • Follow-up on refund claims
  • Submission of substantiating documents for transport out of Community territory (for VAT exemption, in particular).

Useful information: How to get the best advice for the customs declaration procedure?

Do you have any questions on the paperless customs procedure? Or do you have to make a customs declaration for goods clearance for the first time?

We recommend you contact your region’s Customs and Excise Economic Action Centre (PAE) to receive personalised support and all the useful information you need.

Why resort to a customs warehouse?

The customs warehouse system involves storing goods imported from non-EU countries, pending their final destination. It allows us to postpone the final customs clearance for as long as necessary and thus the payment of certain taxes, like:

  • Valued Added Tax (VAT)
  • Customs duties
  • Anti-dumping duties
  • CAP-specific import charges.

This system is very beneficial. If the goods are eventually forwarded outside the European Union, they will be deemed never to have been imported into the EU. Consequently, the taxes mentioned above will not be applicable and the goods can be forwarded without any tax friction.

By avoiding paying VAT and then having it reimbursed, import-export companies benefit from a net gain in cash flow.

A customs warehouse has other practical advantages concerning the management and handling of goods. Without losing the benefit of the system, it is thus possible to:

  • Carry out certain “usual forms of handling” goods, such as storing their packaging or doing a quality control.
  • “Temporarily move” them out of their place of storage, for example, for the types of handling mentioned above.
  • Undertake common storage of goods in a customs warehouse with other goods originating from the EU and not covered by this system.


Clearance is a complex and strictly regulated procedure at EU level. It allows the different national customs authorities to control the flows of goods and to apply tax legislation properly, particularly VAT.

Dunkerque Promotion economic development agency supports all your set-up projects in the region of Maritime Flanders. If required, you can apply for a partnership with the public services via the customs business consulting unit in Dunkirk ( Our team is here to help you navigate your way around the competent authorities and to assist you with a range of administrative paperwork.

Enjoy the advantageous customs warehousing system within the vicinity of the Grand Port Maritime of Dunkirk. Dunkirk International Logistics Area DLI (West Port) is a logistics platform in Loon-Plage Port extending over 140 hectares. There are 130,000 m2 of warehouses nearby[6].

Three key points to remember:

  • Customs clearance involves sorting out all the administrative and tax formalities relating to the import and export of goods in the EU.
  • The modes of customs declaration have recently undergone numerous measures to simplify them and make them digital.
  • The customs warehouse system allows you to delay the customs clearance procedure for goods whose final destination is not yet known.








Clearance of goods

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