Due to our ever increasing globalization, not only global corporations but also medium sized companies increasingly are buying components manufactured abroad or even producing them abroad themselves. This regularly raises questions and problems related to customs law. Business activities which implicate these issues can lead to significant payment obligations and to criminal charges or procedures to impose fines. The latter consequences are by no means rare in customs law administration, as the customs authorities are much more determined to open criminal proceedings than are, for example, the tax authorities with regard to delinquent tax payments. The correct handling of customs issues must therefore be a priority objective of all businesses involved in transactions with countries outside the European Union.
What is the AEO or authorized economic operators?
As the resources of the customs authorities are insufficient to check all imports of goods into the EU, risk profiles are drawn up and customs duty payers are categorized. “Good” customs duty payers are distinguished from the “bad” payers. The “good” ones are trusted; they receive substantial procedural and other benefits. As only the “bad” ones are checked closely, considerable effort and resources are saved. The “good” ones receive the designation “zugelassene Wirtshaftsbeteilgten,” in English, “authorized economic operator” (AEO). There are three different AEO categorizations: (i) the AEO S (S stands for security), who are subject to laxer security requirements but do not receive less demanding customs scrutiny, (ii) the AEO C (C stands for customs), who receive lessened customs scrutiny but not reduced security requirements, and (iii) the AEO F (F stands for full), who receive reduced scrutiny in both security and customs inspections. The EU has a database to provide information on authorized economic operators, see http://ec.europa.eu/taxation_customs/dds2/eos/aeo_consultation.jsp?Lang=en