EU Import Duties

Written by calla hummel
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EU Import Duties
The E.U. is a customs union. (eu image by Angelika Bentin from

The European Union (E.U.) is a group of European countries that, among other things, permit the unrestricted movement of goods across their common borders. This is also known as a "customs union." However, E.U. rules for foreign importers can be tricky.

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Customs Union

As a customs union, the E.U. has removed as many barriers to the free exchange of goods across borders as possible. No tariffs are charged when moving goods from one E.U. country to another, meaning that goods produced in one E.U. country can be exported duty-free to any other E.U. country, and once foreign goods have cleared E.U. customs, they can be transported anywhere in the E.U. without incurring further charges. The countries included in this arrangement (technically known as the "Customs Territory of the Community") are Belgium, the Czech Republic, Bulgaria, Denmark, Germany, Estonia, Ireland, Greece, Spain, France, Italy, Cyprus, Latvia, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Hungary, Malta, the Netherlands, Austria, Poland, Portugal, Romania, Slovenia, the Slovak Republic, Finland, Sweden and the U.K.


If you are coming into the E.U., you can bring small amounts of alcohol and tobacco products in duty-free. You are allowed one litre of spirits or two litres of fortified or sparkling wine or four litres of still wine or16 litres of beer, while the allowance for tobacco products is 200 cigarettes, 50 cigars or 250 grams of tobacco. You may bring in up to €300 of other goods, or €430 for travellers arriving by boat or plane. Any goods in excess of the duty free allowance will be assessed duties. You can find the exact rate and any restrictions on the Taxation and Customs Union website.


The E.U. uses a Harmonized Tariff Schedule (HTS), which follows international norms and uses internationally agreed-upon codes and classifications. However, the E.U. also has a complicated system of preferential status and tariff quotas that reflect the colonial ties of many of its members. Preferential status usually refers to lower tariff rates, while tariff quotas refer to preferential rates that are given up to a certain amount annually, after which normal rates apply. To simplify the process, the E.U. has an online database where an importer can enter the code from the HTS and the country of origin in order to find the duty and any restrictions.

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