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The EU's Union Customs Code - what is it, how does it work and why is there talk of SSS?

The Union Customs Code (UCC) is a key element of the ongoing actions to modernise EU customs. What is the impact for EU and other businesses?

The EU has produced its interim assessment in June 2022 on the UCC. But what actually is the UCC?

The UCC provides a comprehensive framework for customs rules and procedures in the EU customs territory adapted to modern trade realities and modern communication tools.

The Union Customs Code (UCC) replaced the Community Customs Code (CCC) of 1992 in 2016.

The UCC's goals are as follows:

  • modernize,

  • simplify,

  • harmonise,

  • streamline customs processes and controls.

Paperless and fully automated

The Union Customs Code envisions a completely paperless and computerised customs union. To accomplish this goal, the EU Commission and the 27 Member States must modernise some current electronic systems and implement new ones for the fulfilment of all customs requirements.

Transitional arrangements

The UCC entered into force on 1 May 2016, but some transitional arrangements still apply, most notably because not all the electronic systems to deal with formalities are in place yet.

Legal Framework

The Union Customs Code (UCC) defines the legal framework for customs rules and procedures in the EU customs territory, adapted to modern trade models and communication tools.

A Package Deal

The UCC legal package entered into force on 1 May 2016, repealing and replacing the previous framework for customs legislation, contained in the Community Customs Code (Council Regulation (EEC) No 2913/92 and the Code's implementing provisions (Commission Regulation (EEC) No 2454/93 and recasting the Modernised Customs Code (Regulation (EC) No 450/2008 so as to align EU customs legislation with the requirements of the EU's Lisbon Treaty.

Objectives: Simplicity, Speed and Service - the three SSS

The UCC has simplicity, service, and speed as its key objectives.

Its aim is to:

  • Increase legal certainty and consistency for companies while increasing clarity for customs authorities throughout the EU.

  • Complete the transition to a paperless and completely electronic customs environment. Reinforce faster customs operations for compliant and reliable economic operators (AEO)

  • Improve European business competitiveness

  • Protect the flow of commodities entering and leaving the EU.

  • Protect the EU's and Member States' financial and economic interests, as well as the safety and security of EU people.


  • Build on current principles to streamline and simplify customs regulations and processes.

  • Define the laws, such as those governing the free circulation of products and special processes.

  • Combine the majority of EU customs law into a single package and specify how it should be applied.

  • Integrate the data needs for customs, pre-arrival and pre-departure declarations, notifications, applications, and judgments. The EU Customs Data Model was created to help national customs administrations in adapting data needs to their systems in accordance with international standards such as the World Customs Organization (WCO) data model.

All of this is intended to contribute to the uniform application of customs regulations and procedures across the EU.


  • The UCC was designed with everyday demands and established trade practises in mind to a significant degree. For example, it permits the use of electronic transport manifests for customs purposes, as well as the movement of goods under temporary storage without the filing of a transit declaration, and it envisions new forms to discharge a customs debt.

  • It adds contemporary ideas like as centralised clearance and provides greater consistency to business by, for example, establishing standard and harmonised regulations on guarantees.

  • It also decreases the administrative burden on compliant and trustworthy economic operators (AEOs) by permitting a variety of simplifications of customs processes and the use of guarantees, as well as allowing customs debt self-assessment under specific situations.


  • The UCC aspires for increasing automation of all information transmission and storage via additional IT systems that combine new procedures and legislative requirements, such as common and shared customs services and harmonised interfaces and EU trade websites.

  • Customs will be totally computerised in the future.

  • While the substantive provisions of the UCC were effective on May 1, 2016, a transition time is required before full implementation.

This is primarily due to the fact that there is a need to develop new IT systems or upgrade existing ones in order to fully implement the legal requirements.

Transitional rules until 2025

For a few customs requirements controlled by computerised systems, the transition period now lasts until 2025.

The transitional period's full provisions are provided in a Transitional Delegated Act and the UCC Work Programme.

Several advice publications created in partnership with Member State and Trade representatives address their practical use.

These regulations will facilitate a seamless transition from the current customs legislative system to the new UCC rules between May 1, 2016 and December 31, 2025.

Interim Report June 2022

On May 31, 2022, the European Commission released an interim assessment report. It offers an evaluation of the execution of UCC legislative rules and IT systems from May 1, 2016 to the end of December 2020. What themes are included in the UCC implementation assessment report?

How we can help

Customs are a fact of life for most businesses, especially for companies that ship goods overseas. To best prepare for customs and avoid costly missteps, you must understand what customs officers do and how they interpret international trade laws.

Our service and expertise is to help you get the most from your UCC. We have the experience to help you design a risk mitigation strategy specifically for your needs.

Customs Manager provides training, consulting and coaching services to businesses that need help managing their customs compliance campaigns. Don't lose time-fighting with customs; let us help your business succeed in the global marketplace!

If you have any questions about our service or if you need further information, please do not hesitate to contact us today!

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