The European Commission (EC) has proposed what it has called “its most ambitious and comprehensive reform of the EU Customs Union since its establishment in 1968”.

This includes a plan to introduce a new EU Customs Authority that will oversee an EU Customs Data Hub – a single system for the entire bloc that will replace existing customs infrastructure across the EU’s 27 member states.

This could save EU countries up to €2bn a year in operating costs, according to Economy Commissioner Paolo Gentiloni.

The reforms will also have a significant impact on the e-commerce sector. Platforms including Amazon and Alibaba will need to ensure that customs duties and VAT are charged at the point of purchase on their platforms, under the plans. This will mean that consumers “no longer face hidden charges or unexpected paperwork when the parcel arrives.

The target is for the new data hub to open for e-commerce consignments in 2028, with other importers able to start using it on a voluntary basis in 2032.

The EC has said that the reforms are a response to the current pressures under which EU customs operate, citing a significant increase in trade volumes, particularly in e-commerce, as well as an increase in the number of checks that need to be imposed at the union’s borders.

The proposals seek to:
– Increase duty revenue
– Avoid illicit and non-compliant products
– Align the current customs framework with the current e-commerce landscape
– Standardise the operational implementation of customs in the different EU Member States

It is predicted that plans could also lead to:

– The creation of a single ‘customs one-stop shop’ for traders to provide customs and trade information to the EU Customs Union
– A new ‘Trust and Check’ programme around release of goods into free circulation
– The increased use of AI and data to monitor consignment risk levels, enabling the EU to adopt a ‘risk-based’ approach to checks