Starting to import and restrictions
When planning to import goods, your company must choose the most suitable method and get to know the instructions, restrictions and taxation practices that relate to imports.
First, look into what goods it might be worthwhile for your company to start importing into Finland. Try to discover where you could find a reliable supplier of the goods, and whether there are any restrictions or a ban on their importation. Choose the most suitable import method, which will determine, for example, whether your company will have to arrange the relevant practical measures (e.g. transport) itself or whether they will be dealt with by another party.
Acquire the background information on the goods (e.g. the material) and on its supplier (e.g. its ethical stance), and, if possible, carry out an on-site inspection of the properties and quality of the goods and of their supplier. Look into how responsibilities would be shared too.
When planning export operations, make use of the business development company in your region and the Team Finland organisations (e.g. the Ministry for Foreign Affairs and Business Finland). Carefully check the import instructions and guidelines issued by Finnish Customs and matters of VAT on imports with the Tax Administration.
It is important to choose the right customs procedure for imports because the purpose of the goods has an impact on import duties. The purpose of the goods should be stated in the customs declaration.
If your company is importing goods that you wish to use immediately, choose as your customs procedure release for free circulation. Remember to take into account any import bans and restrictions.
If your company is importing goods temporarily, choose temporary importation.
If your company is importing goods from outside the EU for further processing, choose inward processing. Processing could involve, say, repairs, restoration or renovation.
If your company is exporting goods outside the EU for further processing and is reimporting them once the processing operation is complete, choose import from outward processing.
If your company is importing goods for which a certain use can be shown, choose end-use. End-use goods are, for example, civil aircraft and the goods used in them.
If your company is importing returned goods, samples, containers or goods for inspection or trial use, look into the relevant choice of customs procedure.
If your company wants to start importing goods from outside the customs and tax territory of the EU, find out beforehand where the goods are being sent from and whether they have already been customs cleared for the EU. Also find out the tariff heading for the goods and the restrictions in place for their import.
Acquire from Customs the registrations and identifiers needed to make an export declaration. Make out an electronic import declaration for Customs to clear for customs your consignment and pay the customs duty, taxes and charges that are determined on the basis of the tariff heading, the origin of the goods and their customs value. You will only receive the goods when Customs has approved your import declaration.
If your company is importing goods from another Member State in the customs and tax territory of the EU, you do not need to complete an import declaration. An exception to this is products subject to excise duty (e.g. alcoholic beverages and tobacco products). Remember, however, to inform and pay the Tax Administration in each case the VAT due on imports.
Some goods may have import restrictions, and the import of some goods may be completely prohibited.
The restrictions may also differ, depending on whether the goods are being bought among EU or Nordic countries as a form of internal trade or whether it is a matter of actual imports from outside the EU. The restrictions on internal trade are generally less stringent.
Restrictions and bans relate, for example, to the importation of weapons, seal products, waste and medicines.
Import restrictions are overseen by Finnish Customs, but other authorities administer them (e.g. The National Police Board, the Finnish Environment Institute and the Finnish Medicines Agency, Fimea.)
Get to know more about the restrictions and bans on imports using the Finnish Customs restrictions manual.
Your company can also import abroad goods whose import is restricted. A separate import licence is required, however.
Apply for an import licence to the authority that administers the restrictions on the goods (it could also be a foreign agency) and state the licence number on the import declaration for Customs. A licence must also be presented (if the licence authority or Customs demands one) when the goods are being entered for the arrangements.
Find out which authority is responsible for granting an import licence for the goods concerned by consulting, for example, the Finnish Customs restrictions manual or their customs information service.
The share of responsibilities in importing is generally agreed in a trade agreement using Incoterms 2010 or Incoterms 2020. That will determine at what stage the responsibility/liability for documentation, risks and costs transfers from the seller to your company. For example, according to the Incoterms 2010 term DDP, ‘delivered duty paid’, the seller is responsible for clearance and pays the import duties, carriage and insurance.
If your company is responsible for customs clearance, you can attend to it yourself or use a direct representative, who will act in your name and on your behalf. Your company will normally be responsible for any customs debt or post-clearance recovery.
Your company may also use an indirect representative for the customs declaration, who will act in his own name on behalf of your company. Your company will be liable for VAT on imports. On the other hand, it will be the representative that is primarily responsible for any customs debt or post-clearance recovery.
The seller will be responsible for ensuring that the product you import complies with requirements. It is your company’s responsibility to ensure that the product meets European and national requirements.
Agree the details in a trade agreement.