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How to unlock the EU market through Flanders’ trade-friendly customs system

Located at the crossroads between Europe’s main cultures and language families (Latin, Germanic and Anglo Saxon), Flanders is a sweet spot for international trade. What’s more, the northern region of Belgium has a flexible and trade-friendly system of law and tax incentives for imports, distribution and sales operations.

The system at a glance

  • The business-oriented approach of customs authorities.
  • The introduction of new trade facilities, including extended gateways, centralized clearance light, entry into the records, self-assessment, etc.
  • Efforts to grant additional benefits to AEO-accredited companies focusing on system-based controls vs. transaction-based controls.
  • New IT applications that automate customs procedures.
  • New risk assessment-based control tools.
  • Various VAT incentives for companies importing and distributing via Belgium and Flanders as a region.

Transparent procedures for importation in Flanders

As part of Europe, Belgium and Flanders are situated within a customs union between EU member states that allows intra-community trade with common customs duties, which are mainly imposed on imports of goods.

There are 6 customs procedures used when importing goods into Flanders:

  1. Release for free circulation refers to the customs status of EU goods and non-EU goods. This might entail the payment of import duties and/or charges, as well as the application of commercial policy measures and the completion of customs formalities.
  2. Transit allows the movement of non-EU goods within the EU under the suspension of import duties and other charges, and without them being subject to commercial policy measures.
  3. Temporary admission enables the import of non-EU goods with partial or total exemption from import duties (and import VAT and other charges, and without them being subject to commercial policy measures), provided that they are re-exported in an unaltered state within a certain timeframe.
  4. Customs warehousing allows the storage of non-EU goods under suspension of import duties to be postponed (final destination of the goods within the EU) or to avoid (final destination outside the EU) the payment of import duties, import VAT and other charges – and without them being subject to commercial policy measures, until the final destination of the goods is known.
  5. Inward processing enables non-EU goods to be processed under duty suspension without being subject to commercial policy measures.
  6. End use allows non-EU goods to be released for free circulation under a duty exemption or at a reduced import duty rate due to their specific use.

Tax exemptions for intra-community supply and exportation from Flanders

If goods are destined for an EU member state other than Belgium, imports can be exempt from import VAT, and sometimes from import and excise duties.

When goods are exported from Flanders, the sale of the goods may be exempt from VAT and excise duties. There are two export procedures: exportation and outward processing relief.

Setting up sales operations in Flanders through third parties

There are three main options for setting up sales operations through third parties in Flanders: the agency agreement, the distribution agreement and the franchise agreement

Interested in doing business in Flanders?

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