Customs and Customs Formalities - France
- Express carriers
- Customs classification
- Customs duties
- Customs origin
- Value-Added Tax (VAT)
- Customs clearance documents
- Customs operations
- Special customs regimes
- Payment of customs clearance cost
- Trademarks and counterfeits
- St-Pierre and Miquelon
- Travel and moving
- Reference sites
France is a member of the European Union (EU) the OECD and the WTO, along with the World Customs Organization. The Overseas Departments (Guadeloupe, Martinique, Réunion, French Guyana, Mayotte) are part of the European Union and its customs territory, but St-Pierre and Miquelon, New Caledonia, Wallis and Futuna Islands, French Polynesia and the French Southern Antarctic Lands are not part of the EU customs territory.
The Principality of Monaco is not part of the EU, but is part of the EU customs territory. The Principality of Andorra is not part of the EU, but has had a special arrangement with the EU since 1990.
The 27 countries of the EU apply common taxation rules upon entry of their territory. There are no customs duties or formalities for interchange among EU countries, which are not limited since 1993.
The EU has signed a large number of customs agreements with other countries and parts of the world, including the EFTA, the Visegrad Agreement countries, the former Yugoslavia, except for Serbia and Montenegro, the ACP countries, also known as "Cotonou agreement", PTOMA (Overseas Countries and Territories, including St. Pierre and Miquelon), the countries of the Maghreb, the countries of the Machrak and other countries such as Türkiye and Israel;
In 2016, the E.U. and Canada signed the CETA (Comprehensive Economic and Trade Agreement). On 21 September 2017, the provisional implementation of the agreement resulted in the disappearance of tariffs on 98% of all tariff lines. At the end of the phase-out period of seven years, 99% of the lines will be duty-free.
In practice, 90% of the provisions of the agreement came into effect on September 21, 2017, and in particular the elimination of tariffs on most products in both directions, and the opening up of Canadian public procurement markets to European companies.
In the agri-food sector in the broad sense, a large majority of products passed to zero customs duty on 21 September 2017. The sectors excluded from the agreement are eggs and poultry meat in both directions, pork and beef meat in the Canada to EU direction (progressive tariff quotas are implemented), dairy products in the EU To Canada direction (a gradual increase in the import quota for cheeses is also implemented). For a number of products, tariff elimination is phased in over 3, 5 or 7 years. The general rule is that all products pass to zero duty except those on the "Tariff schedule of the European Union" (second part of this page) which may be excluded or have their tariffs gradually phased out.
Rules of origin apply, and to be eligible for the preferential provisions of the agreement, Canadian products must respect them. For products wholly obtained in Canada (eg grains, oilseeds, fruit, maple syrup, seafood landed in Canada, meat of animals born, reared and slaughtered in Canada), these products meet the rules. For processed products that contain imported ingredients such as sugar, there are specific rules for each product, and it is up to the Canadian exporter to verify that the conditions are met. The declaration of origin provided for in the agreement is a certification of origin by the exporter issued under its responsibility, which must accompany the goods and the exact form of which is laid down in the agreement.
Companies which are not certain that their products meet the product-specific rules of origin may apply for a Binding Origin Information (BOI) decision filed at one of the EU points of entry.
Certain food products processed in Canada from imported raw materials that do not comply with the product-specific rules of origin of the agreement may nevertheless benefit from the preferential provisions in line with the alternative origin quotas provided for in the agreement.
The health and import requirements in each Party remain strictly unchanged. Thus - as currently - Canadian meat exported to the EU will have to be raised hormone-free, products of animal origin will have to be accompanied by a health certificate, European labeling and composition requirements will apply unchanged for Canadian products, and in the other direction, Canada's specific requirements - for example, on the use of flour enriched with vitamins and minerals - will continue to apply. The provisions on sanitary inspection also remain the same.
Merchandise from Canada can be cleared in all the major French ports and airports, and can also enter France indirectly, primarily through the Belgian and Dutch ports.
Customs formalities are carried out by a customs officer, normally designated by the importer. Customs officers invoice their services to the importer, unless alternative arrangements are made. Most of the cost for a customs agent consists of customs duties, invoicing of customs clearance per se and the VAT advance that is subsequently recovered by the importer.
It should be noted that, in some cases, the Canadian exporter may be the importer in the European Union, if the sale is made on a DDP basis for example. In this case, the Canadian company must obtain an EORI number.
Sample list of carriers that can provide customs clearance:
The express carriers, also known as integrators (DHL, UPS, Fedex, etc.) are not customs agents and cannot do special operations, such as sanitary inspections. They have the benefit of a simplified "express" regime applied to non-specific merchandise definitively imported and with little value. The merchandise may eventually be inspected.
Merchandise must be classified in the Common European Customs Tariff (CCT) also designated by the name CN (Combined Nomenclature), which consists of a series of 8 figures. The first six figures are primarily those of the Harmonized System (HS). French nomenclature of 12 figures plus one letter is used for a more detailed description of the products. The description obtained is called a tariff species.
Canadian exporters must determine the nomenclature for their products. They may suggest a nomenclature based on the HS code already used to export to the U.S.A., for example, and supply all the information allowing the products to be classified when passing through customs. The customs administration services are fully authorized to determine what kind of nomenclature should be used (they must follow the HS rules).
To avoid classification problems and for merchandise that could cause litigation, one should follow the European procedure known as "Binding Tariff Information" or BTI (EEC regulations 2913/92 and 2454/93). This procedure is binding; customs cannot change the classification obtained.
Some tariff positions require a knowledge of additional four-figure codes, which depend on product composition (for example, for some food products, the percentage of sugar, starch, milk protein, etc.).
When the classification has been determined, the customs tariff determines any customs duty that must be paid immediately by the customs officer. The duty may be expressed as a percentage of the value or as a fixed value, given in Euros per item or per unit of weight. For the exchange rate in Euros, visit the OANDA website. The European customs tariff is called TARIC.
With the CETA provisional implementation, duties are automatically updated on the European web site TARIC.
There is a dedicated website managed by Global Affairs Canada that also gives the customs duties in relation with CETA: Canada Tariff Finder
It should be noted that the preferential rate (usually 0%) will be granted only for products that meet the product-specific rules of origin. See paragraph above "Introduction".
In addition to customs duties, some French para-fiscal taxes may also be charged, eg for vegetable oils, excise taxes are charged to alcoholic beverages. For the overseas departments (Guadeloupe, Martinique, French Guyana, Réunion and Mayotte), additional taxes must be paid (in French only).
Determining customs value: The customs value of a product is its price, including transportation to the border of the European Union. The regulatory texts refer to the "transactional value". In practice, this is the CIF Le Havre price, or the CIF Roissy price. Some products have a set customs value. The customs administration is fully authorized to raise the customs value of a product if it is clearly under-evaluated.
The benefit of the CETA-CETA provisions is conditional on proof of the Canadian customs origin of the products. Specific conditions described in the agreement apply. An origin declaration, the exact form of which is laid down in the agreement, must accompany the goods.
Value-Added Tax (VAT)
The VAT is also paid by the customs agent on the day of importing. It is calculated on the total customs value + duty + taxes. There are four main levels of taxes: the super-reduced rates (2.1%) for medicine, the reduced rate (5,5%) for agricultural and food products, the intermediate rate (10%) for some services, and the normal rate (20%) for almost all other products and services, including alcoholic beverages.
Special VAT rates apply for Guadeloupe, Martinique and la Réunion. French Guyana has no VAT. The VAT is paid by the importer, who must then recover it from the French tax services.
Documents required for customs clearance
Documents required for customs clearance:
- the invoice, which should be written in French or, in principle, accompanied by a translation
- units of measurement must be metric
- the transportation document (LTA/AWB, Maritim Connaissement/Bill of Lading, LTM, CMR or LVI)
- the origin declaration as per the CETA agreement (model included in the agreement)
- the transit documents (T1 or T2) if the merchandise came in through another EU country
- other documents, depending on the products:
- documents proving compliance with EC or French standards
- import licenses
- sanitary or phytosanitary certificates
- sanitary certificates must now be obtained electronically on the TRACES web site
From the viewpoint of customs technicalities, customs clearance of a product imported from Canada involves at least two operations:
- put in free circulation: payment of customs duty
- put to consumption: payment of VAT
Customs inspection: The merchandise may be inspected in all cases, especially those that are to receive EC marking. This customs inspection is designed to check the accuracy of documents supplied to the customs administration. The physical inspection is carried out in the presence of a representative of the customs agent, often the person making the declaration (person who fills out the customs declaration).
Veterinary inspection: Facilities for veterinary inspection are provided at the Border Inspection Posts (BIP), which are the main points of entry into the country, which number about 20 in France. Veterinary inspection includes verification of documents and a physical inspection. It is invoiced on a fixed-cost basis.
Special customs regimes
ATA booklets, which make it possible to avoid payment of the CCT (Common Custom Tariff) or the VAT, are very useful to businessmen carrying samples.
The Canadian Chamber of Commerce can provide ATA booklets. The "Chambre Internationale de Commerce de Paris" also provides information on ATA booklets (in French). You may also consult this other site explaining the ATA booklets.
For trade fairs, tests or repairs, a temporary import regime followed by re-exporting within 24 months is used. The customs officer must secure a bond guaranteeing the orderly conducting of the operation. The importer must use the SOPRANO online service (in French only) when importing into France.
Temporary importing may also be done under an active development regime (inward processing). For example, durum wheat can be imported to EU without payment of duty or VAT, and the derived products (pasta) re-exported from the EU.
There is also a customs warehousing regime.
Sending samples not accompanied by a traveller require a pro-forma invoice. A symbolic customs value may be placed on this invoice; customs administration will assign a commercial value for calculating duty and VAT.
Samples of animal or plant products not accompanying a traveller must comply with all of the sanitary and phytosanitary regulations, be accompanied by a certificate and pass the inspection visit.
Payment of customs clearance cost
Depending on the Incoterm used, the exporter or importer pays the customs officer's invoice. If the FOB incoterm is used, customs clearance is paid by the importer. The form called Single Administrative Document or SAD used for a classic import, also called "IM A", accompanies the customs agent's invoice. The VAT is recovered in full from the French tax services by the importer.
We advise Canadian exporters against selecting incoterms making them responsible for paying customs duties and VAT, in particular DDP. If they do, they will have to pay the VAT and appoint a tax representative to recover it, all of which is a very long process.
The incoterms used in France are those of the International Chamber of Commerce. However, they differ from those commonly used in North America, in particular FOB. We advise all exporters to give the CIF – Le Havre or CIF - Roissy price. Strictly speaking, CIF is a maritime incoterm; CIP should be used for air arrivals at Roissy.
Note that Incoterms determine the distribution of transportation costs, the transfer point of risks and ownership and the responsibility of each party for the customs clearance documentation. Incoterm descriptions are covered by an ICC copyright and therefore we cannot reprint them witout their authorization.
Trademarks and counterfeits
Products may be subject to counterfeiting laws as soon as they are brought into EU territory. It is advisable to check if the trademark is already being used in France.
France is very strict concerning counterfeiting, especially where clothing, leather work, etc. are involved. Products can be seized and destroyed. For more information, visit the Counterfeiting section of the French government's Customs website (in French only).
St-Pierre and Miquelon
St-Pierre and Miquelon is not a part of the EU customs territory. The EU has a customs agreement with the PTOMA overseas territories, of which St-Pierre and Miquelon are part. The regulations and duties applied in St-Pierre and Miquelon are not the same as those applied in the EU. For one thing, there is no VAT.
Direction du service des douanes de Saint-Pierre et Miquelon:
97500 Saint-Pierre et Miquelon
Tel.: 05 08.41 17 40
Fax: 05 08 41 30 29
Douanes SPM (in French only)
Sites for these islands:
- Ministère des Outre-mer (in French only)
A preferential tariff regime covers trade between St-Pierre-et-Miquelon and the European Union, a certificate of origin may be required.
Although it is preferable to obtain information from the customs officers rather than entering into direct contact with French customs, we are supplying the latter's coordinates (in French only).
For another site explaining French customs, visit the site for an American audience.
Travel to or within France
If you're travelling to or within France, visit the French government's Customs site (in French only).
Postal dispatches, purchases on Internet, visit the site of the French Customs on the subject (in French only).
- French Customs (in French only)
- French Customs Code (in French only)
- Community Customs Code (European)
- CETA page on the French customs website (in French only)
- "EU-Canada Comprehensive Economic and Trade Agreement (CETA) -Guidance on the Rules of Origin" – Document published by the European Commission
- Date Modified: