EU Trader Portal: migration of permits is progressing well
Step by step, Customs is converting all paper UCC permits into a digital version. This can be requested via the EU Trader Portal. About half of the conversions have now been completed. In addition, Customs helps companies changing the permits they already have. This is easier said than done. After a new release of the portal (in July last year), the underlying data structure of these documents changed.
A quick reminder. The EU Trader Portal (EU TP) is the portal through which Dutch companies can ultimately apply for, change or revoke 20 different UCC permits, digitally. They are all actions that require eHerkenning.
“We’re now halfway through the migration of permits,” Jasper Blok, a customs officer, says. “Still to come are Comprehensive guarantee (CGU), Deferred payment (DPO) and the permits for customs transit. We hope to have everything finished by the end of this year. Once a permit has been migrated, the paper version will cease to exist. Companies that want to apply for a new permit can now only do so digitally, in the EU TP. We now have a total of nearly 3,300 permits in the system. They are new applications in the EU TP that have led to a permit and paper permits that have been digitised by us.”
New data model
The second version of the EU TP was implemented halfway through 2020. Unlike version 1, this is based on data elements from the current Appendix A of the Union Customs Code (UCC), Ronnie de Croon, customs officer, explains. “As a result, the entire UCC permits data model has been adjusted with the new release. If a customer or his representative wants to apply for a new permit, he will hardly notice. However, changing an existing permit is a bit more work. Requests for change also run via the EU TP. Companies need not adjust their systems or buy other software for this.”
Blok: “Changing permits involves more than just adding or changing a code or description of goods. Unfortunately, it’s not always immediately clear which fields in the permit need to be changed. If a customer or representative wants to change something in an existing permit, he may have to complete mandatory fields that were not there before, for example. If data is missing or fields are not completed correctly, you will see all kinds of red error messages.”
“There are many different adjustments possible, which in turn differ per type of permit. That is why it’s difficult for us to indicate what exactly has been changed and where,” De Croon adds. “And this regularly leads to questions. We can tell by the telephone calls that come in, for example, at the National Customs Help Desk and the Business Contact Points. There are no instructions yet for changing an existing digital UCC permit, but they are in the making.”
“Companies being sent from pillar to post is of no use to anyone,” Blok explains. “That’s why it’s good to explain once more whom to contact with which question. If you have questions about or problems with eHerkenning, such as not being able to log in, you can contact the providers of the login tool. For IT-related questions, you can contact the National Customs Help Desk. And you can ask customs-related questions to your local Customs office or the Dutch Customs Information Line. The latter can also assist companies that are not yet a Customs customer. We understand that this difference is sometimes difficult. But we are keen to solve it, together with the customer. If the system returns an error, a super-user like me can guide the customer through it, inspect the permit with them and change it to version 2. And we notice that customers appreciate that, particularly if you take the time to explain why those steps are necessary.”
Customs is not only available to companies if they have questions. We also actively check how we can be of assistance, without being prompted. “We know which customers have permits that are still in version 1 and which need to be changed. If possible, we will change it to version 2 ourselves. Both Customs and the business community benefit from this. And it saves the customer a lot of work.”
“We do everything we can to inform companies. Instructions for applying for a new permit can be found at www.douane.nl. This helps companies to enter the correct information, in the correct fields. We also notify companies that their permits have been migrated to the EU TP. And that they must apply for eHerkenning in time, if they haven’t already done so. Otherwise, they will not be able to log in into the portal. And therefore they will not request for their permits to be changed either.”
The UCC legislation has been in effect since 2016. This stipulates that the exchange of information between customs agencies and companies must increasingly be digital. All communication and interaction on European customs affairs run via the EU Trader Portal. This is to ensure increased harmonisation within the EU. For example, Appendix A of the UCC describes in detail what an application form and permit should look like, for all 22 different UCC permits.