Binding customs tariff information for imports of goods into the EU

Anyone importing goods into the EU must state an 11-digit customs tariff code in the import declaration. This code can be used to determine, among other things, the type of goods and the customs duties and taxes to be applied. The customs code is crucial in order to classify the goods in the correct tariff. It therefore has a direct impact on the amount of customs duties payable. It also determines any necessary documents that must be presented at clearance or quota rules. In the event of an inspection, an incorrect customs tariff code can lead to significant additional costs and, in the worst case, fines.

Binding tariff information: why you need it and what there is to know

The system of customs tariff numbers was developed by the World Trade Organization and applies in all its member states. They consist of the internationally uniform six-digit HS code, the two-digit EC Combined Nomenclature, a two-digit set of numbers for coding Community customs measures (TARIC code) and finally an eleventh digit for the purposes of national customs authorities.  

In order to be able to comprehensively calculate the total costs of your import, it is therefore advisable to determine the customs tariff code in advance. A task that has its pitfalls. The European Customs Administration keeps a central register in which the code can be looked up. But customs officials are not bound by it and can arrive at a different assessment based on the description of the goods.

Especially if the same goods are imported regularly, a binding customs tariff information (BTI) helps to calculate your own costs reliably and save time.

This FAQ explains what a BTI is, who can apply for it, how and where, and what to look out for.

What does a BTI cover?

Binding tariff information indicates in a legally binding way how a good will be classified in the Common Customs Tariff of the European Union from the date of validity. It is important to note that the actual measures resulting from the customs tariff are not the subject of the BTI. For example, if the duty rate for a tariff heading changes after the BTI has been issued, there is no entitlement to the original duty rate.

Who can apply for a BTI?

Any legal entity that has an EORI number.

Where can the BTI be applied for?

In principle, at any customs authority within the European Union. However, the customs authority of the Member State in which the applicant is based or in which the BTI is to be used is responsible. In exceptional cases, an application may be submitted to a customs authority other than the responsible one.

Are all national customs authorities bound by a BTI?

It does not matter in which member state the BTI was issued. All national customs authorities within the EU are bound by it. They may only deviate from it if it is determined during an audit that the classification is obviously wrong or that the consignment does not contain the appropriate goods.

What is needed to apply for a BTI?

A separate electronic application must be submitted for each type of goods. General applications for collections, consignments or similar are not possible. Each application must contain the address of the applicant, a description of the goods and the desired nomenclature (eight-digit, ten-digit or eleven-digit tariff number). In addition, each application must be accompanied by samples of the goods. It may be sufficient to provide photographs, technical drawings, brochures, etc.

How much time should I allow for the application?

If all the necessary information and requirements are provided, the application will be examined and the BTI will usually be issued immediately. If it is not issued within 120 days, the customs authorities have to inform the applicant of the reasons for the delay and indicate when it is expected to be issued.

How long is a BTI valid?

In principle, three years from the date of issue. However, applicants should note that with an eleven-digit customs tariff code, the subdivisions beyond the eighth digit may change at the turn of the year. BTI holders should therefore check the validity regularly.

Who is the holder of the BTI?

The holder is the legal person who has applied for a BTI or on whose behalf it has been applied for. Only the holder is entitled to use the issued BTI.

Do customs authorities have to be informed of an existing BTI in the customs declaration?

Yes, the customs declaration must refer to an existing binding tariff information by quoting the reference number of the BTI decision. In addition, it must be made credible, for example by means of article numbers, that the goods declared and presented are actually the goods described in the BTI. This does not affect the right of customs officials to inspect the goods.

What consequences can be expected if the goods presented are not the goods described in the BTI?

In this case, the goods will be classified in the correct customs tariff. Furthermore, it is at the discretion of the customs authorities whether additional fines will be imposed. In case of a repetition or an obvious intention to deceive, a fine can certainly be expected.

Can BTIs that have already been issued be consulted?

The EU has set up a central BTI database where all non-confidential information can be accessed. Similar to the customs tariff codes available from the European Customs Administration, the information in the BTI database can only be used for guidance and is not legally binding except for the holder of the respective BTI.

Time and cost savings thanks to binding customs tariff information

As you can see, binding customs tariff information offers a number of advantages to the holder. Costs can be better calculated and customs clearance is usually faster:

Time saving

The necessary documents and any special provisions such as quotas and special permits result from the tariff classification within the framework of the BTI. Documents can therefore be obtained in good time. In addition, the correct tariff classification no longer has to be determined, which can sometimes be time-consuming.

Cost savings and transparency

Depending on the group of goods, more favourable customs duties can be claimed if quotas are applied for. In any case, the actual costs can be better calculated in advance, as it is known in which customs tariff the goods will be classified. This makes it easier to calculate the exact amount of duties to be paid.

Our logistics experts – your reliable contacts

We can’t apply for BTI for you, but we can help you with all your shipping and customs questions – and if there are any problems, we can also take care of communication with the carriers. Since 2000, LetMeShip has been supporting small and medium-sized B2B companies in handling their shipments as an international multi-carrier shipping platform. The logistics experts in our in-house customer service help you to always find the right shipping solution and to identify and avoid difficulties in good time.