What is the Customs programme?
The Customs programme supports the essential cooperation between customs authorities across the EU and protects the financial and economic interests of the European Union and its Member States. It has helped to build a modern and innovative Customs Union that ensures the safety and security of all EU citizens, while at the same time facilitating growing global trade. It allows the joint development and operation of major, pan-European IT systems and establishes networks, bringing together national officials from across Europe. The Customs programme has a budget of €950 million for the period 2021-2027, an increase from €523 million in the period 2014-2020.
The new customs budget will help customs administrations to deal with increasing trade flows and emerging trends and technologies, such as e-commerce and blockchain. It will also support customs authorities through enhanced cooperation on the ground and more training. The programme will help to provide better risk management to protect the EU's financial interests and to respond to security threats and cross-border crime.
How does this programme help customs officials to operate at Member States borders?
When it comes to cooperation on the ground, the programme funds expert teams of customs officials from different Member States who work together in different fields. This allows EU countries to pool expertise in specific domains or carry out operational activities with the support of online collaboration services, administrative assistance and infrastructure and equipment facilities.
The programme also finances the development of eLearning courses on topics of common interest for customs administrations and business and trade representatives.
Case study: Customs programme helps officials to jointly tackle smuggling on the EU's Eastern border
The Customs Eastern and Southern Eastern European Land Border Expert Team (CELBET) brings together eleven Member States responsible for the EU's land borders: Estonia, Finland, Latvia, Lithuania, Poland, Slovakia, Hungary, Romania, Bulgaria, Greece and Croatia. The team has developed joint risk profiles to carry out more efficient and more effective customs controls. Based on these risk profiles, customs authorities carried out major controls between December 2016 and December 2017 which targeted commercial and non-commercial traffic at the Eastern land border in all 11 Member States. This led to almost 70 seizures including of hundreds of litres of fuel, more than 10,000 packets of cigarettes, counterfeit medicine and non-compliant meat products and of large quantities of cash. CELBET has also ramped up the use of equipment at border crossing points, created training maps, identified new possibilities for training customs officers and it has greatly fostered the dialogue between EU and non-EU border guards.
What IT systems are managed under the Customs programme?
The Customs programme allows the Commission to manage over 40 European IT systems that help to control the import, export and transit of goods and reduce red tape for legitimate traders. For example, the anti-Counterfeit and anti-Piracy system protects Intellectual Property Rights. The Customs Decision System enables import and export authorisations to be given to businesses, valid throughout the entire EU, while the Registered Exporters Systems make available up-to-date and comprehensive information on registered exporters that are established in non-EU countries and that have preferential arrangements with the EU. These tools help European customs authorities to better perform their duties at our borders. In 2017 alone, these systems allowed 331 million customs declarations in 2017 to be handled and helped customs officers to seize 2.7 million pieces of ammunition and 188,000 pieces of explosives in 2017.
What is the added value of the programme?
The customs union is an exclusive competence of the European Union, but the implementation of the legislation underpinning it is for national authorities to carry out. This means that the customs union must be complemented by supporting measures - like those provided by the Customs programme - in order to ensure that EU customs legislation is carried out in a harmonised way across our Member States.
At the same time, many activities in the area of customs are of a cross-border nature, involving and affecting all Member States. They cannot be effectively and efficiently delivered by Member States on their own. The Customs programme offers Member States a Union framework through which they can develop activities through cooperation among national customs officials on the one hand, and IT cooperation, on the other hand. This set-up is more cost-efficient than if each Member State were to set up its individual cooperation framework on a bilateral or multilateral basis.
A strong and robust customs union will also ensure the protection of the EU's financial interests. Customs duties on imports from outside the EU are a traditional own resource for the EU budget, with €20.33 billion going into the EU budget in 2017 alone.
What is the link with other Commission programmes?
The programme has strong links with Fiscalis, Pericles and the EU Anti-Fraud Programme as regards the activities, delivery mechanism and target beneficiaries. It will also generate synergies with the Digital Europe Programme, where generic solutions for electronic system architecture and infrastructure are developed, allowing further streamlining and economies of scale between IT systems. Collaboration between the programmes is already happening, i.e. on development of certain electronic system components. There are also links with the Integrated Border Management Fund, specifically with the Customs Control Equipment component, which will help national customs to procure equipment, and the Internal Security Fund.
What is the Fiscalis programme?
The Fiscalis programmeis an EU cooperation programme that enables national tax administrations to create and exchange information and expertise. It helps Member States to develop and run major trans-European IT tax systems, as well as establishing networks of officials across the EU. The Fiscalis programmehas a budget of €270 million for the period 2021-2027, up from €223.2 million in the period 2014-2020.
It focuses on improving the proper functioning of the internal market's taxation systems by helping participating countries, their tax authorities and their officials to work together in the fight against tax fraud, tax evasion and aggressive tax planning. At the same time, Fiscalis helps to protect the financial interests of Member States and honest taxpayers, given the role it plays in fighting fraud related to Value Added Tax (VAT) - a percentage of which is an own resource for the EU budget. It allows the relevant authorities to implement EU law in the field of taxation by ensuring exchange of information, supporting administrative cooperation and helping to reduce the administrative burden of tax authorities and compliance costs for taxpayers when needed.
What is the added value of the programme?
Without intense cooperation and coordination between Member States, unfair tax competition and tax evasion would increase, while fraudsters would be able exploit the lack of cooperation between national authorities. Tax fraud and tax evasion cannot be tackled if Member States do not look beyond the borders of their administrative territories or liaise closely with their counterparts. Also, the set-up achieved under Fiscalis is more cost-effective than if each Member State were to put in place individual cooperation frameworks on a bilateral or multilateral basis.
What kinds of systems and projects are managed under Fiscalis?
Under the Fiscalis programme the Commission will develop and maintain interoperable and cost-effective IT solutions to support tax authorities in their efforts to fight tax evasion and tax avoidance. The programme will facilitate cooperation, the sharing of good practices, IT and human capacity-building to boost administrative efficiency and IT collaboration, joint risk management and audit. In turn, this will lead to improvements in the EU's competitiveness - boosting innovation and facilitating new economic models.
This work includes the creation of standardised forms for the exchange of information on request and spontaneous exchanges, an EU system which can check the validity of national Tax Identification Numbers, helping to identify taxpayers that are engaged in cross-border activity so that tax administrations and businesses can collect and exchange data automatically. Among the 25 IT systems currently funded by Fiscalis is the Commission's VAT Information Exchange System (VIES) where businesses and individuals can check if a business is registered for VAT purposes to trade cross-border within the EU.
Fiscalis supports Member States in their tax audit activities, by providing financial and organisational support for international audits and controls and the presence of tax officials in other Member States' tax administration premises. Thanks to the Fiscalis programme, €591 million in taxes was assessed for possible recovery in 2015. The programme has financed over 1000 joint actions since 2014.
Case study: Fiscalis helps Member States to exchange more tax information, boosting tax transparency
In recent years, the EU has taken major steps on tax transparency, ensuring that information is shared between Member States so that they can act when cases of tax avoidance and tax evasion become known. In this vein, Fiscalis funds an international team of experts which focuses on assisting Member States to implement EU rules for the exchange of tax information of EU citizens' bank accounts. Six countries (Malta, the Netherlands, Sweden, Romania, the UK and Portugal) make up one expert team that has designed and implemented software to manage the flow of standardised information between Member States, leading to the better sharing of information among tax administrations and a reduction in tax fraud and evasion.
Who can participate in the Customs and Fiscalis programmes?
All actions involved in the Customs and Fiscalis programmes are open to officials working in customs and tax administrations from the EU's Member States, as well as candidate and potential candidate countries that joined the programme - Albania, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Montenegro, Serbia and Turkey.