22.10.2018 12:03

This is how you begin importing

When you start importing, find out where the goods are sent from and whether they have cleared customs in the EU.

Nadja Painokallio of the Foreign Trade and Taxation Affairs Department of Finnish Customs stresses the importance of finding out the tariff item number, also known as the Taric code.

“Business owners don’t always understand that the tariff item number sets the import taxes and limitations that are imposed. Often, the seller knows the tariff item number, so it’s worth asking the seller for it as early as the buying stage,” Painokallio says.

“If the product has not cleared customs, the business owner will generally complete a customs declaration. Ordering a product from an online store based in the EU doesn’t necessarily mean the product comes from the EU and that it has cleared customs.”

Finnish Customs carries out inspections of customs clearance post-factum, and incorrect declarations can lead to import duties being imposed subsequently. For this reason, notifying the correct tariff item number is important. If necessary, Finnish Customs can help with finding the correct tariff item number.

“Sometimes defining the tariff item number can be very difficult. A business owner can also apply for binding tariff information. This is a binding decision about the correct tariff item number, and it is usually free of charge.”

The importer is responsible for a lot

The importer should clarify what the import requirements for its products are, before importing, by contacting the market oversight authority. The importer is responsible for the products’ security and packaging labels.

“For example, if a business owner launches an online store selling toys, he or she will want to know the safety requirements. Tukes is responsible for these matters. If the business owner were importing food supplements, the relevant body would be Evira,” Nadja Painokallio says.

The importer should contact the market oversight authority to find out the requirements for package labelling. The Tukes website has a list of such authorities.

Payment time for customs duty invoices

If the goods arrive, duty unpaid, and a business owner does the customs declaration himself or herself, he or she should get a Katso number. Many new entrepreneurs outsource this service to a freight forwarding service or the post office.

“Businesses which import large quantities regularly can submit declarations remotely. This means that the business’s data are sent from the company’s own data systems to Customs’ systems. A permit is needed for submissions of this kind.”

You only receive the goods when you have done the customs declaration for them.

“This means that import taxes have then been paid to Customs. However, if the business imports significant amounts and customs-clears them itself, it can apply for a deferment of payment and comprehensive guarantee permit, meaning it can get the goods faster.  In this case, the business can receive extra payment time for the customs invoice. Remember that you can buy customs clearance as a service, meaning you don’t need permits.”

Choose the country you import from carefully

Painokallio has a tip about something not many people know about: the EU has a range of preferential duty agreements, which means that a product can receive a preferential duty if it is imported from a certain country.

“For example, there’s a difference between exporting shirts from China and Bangladesh. Goods imported from Bangladesh are eligible for a preferential duty. In this case, imports can be duty-free or receive discounted customs treatment. Ask the seller whether he or she has an appropriate certificate of origin entitling him or her to a preferential duty. You’ll need this certification for customs clearance.”


Find out where the goods are despatched from…

…or whether they were manufactured or customs-cleared in the EU. If the product is from the EU or from outside the EU and undeclared, the business owner does a customs declaration.

The Finnish Customs website has information, sorted by product and country, available via the Taric query programme.

Find out the tariff item number

The tariff item number defines the import taxes and limitations that are imposed.

Find out the import requirements for the products

Find these out by contacting the market oversight authority before importing. The importer is responsible for the security and packaging labels of the products.

Find out about the EU’s preferential duty agreements

A preferential duty agreement means that the product can receive a preferential duty if it is imported from a country that is a party to the agreements.

Riikka Koskenranta


Translation from Finnish by Ian Mac Eochagáin, Maceochi Language Services.