“Customs oils the wheels of our economy”
Ziegler Group as gatekeeper between freight forwarder and customs
Luc Sambre, Partner BDO Tax, Customs & Excise Solutions
Companies active in international trade are confronted with complex customs regulations that entail numerous compliance risks and efficiency issues. The new trade agreement between Europe and the United Kingdom, for instance, has clearly highlighted the need for fast, efficient and pragmatic training. Without a thorough grounding in the facts, any business, large or small, will get into trouble sooner or later. Acquiring and sharing knowledge is the core business of the customs experts at Ziegler Group.
In Belgium alone, Ziegler Group processes up to 8,000 customs declarations every month.
Every month, Dirk Pottilius’ team handles up to as many as 8,000 shipments for over 400 customers. Everything from the simplest to the most complex of customs documents are dealt with. That requires a great deal of expertise: expertise in the customs business, of course, but equally in areas such as taxation, digital processing, screening and reporting, licensing rules, project management, etc. Dirk is Head Customs & Fiscal Representation Belgium at multimodal freight forwarder Ziegler. After 35 years of loyal service, he knows all the ins and outs of the customs profession.
“Compliance is the greatest strength and, at the same time, the greatest risk of any cross-border trade transaction.”
Dirk Pottilius, Head Customs & Fiscal Representation Belgium at Ziegler Group
Would it be fair to say that that experience is no superfluous luxury in a customs and excise environment that is growing ever more complex in a fast-changing world?
Dirk says: “Following the new European customs legislation of 2016 (the Union Customs Code (UCC)), geo-economic trends and tensions have only added to the complexity. Think of Brexit, the growing instinct towards more protectionism in international trade, sanctions policies in connection with trade conflicts and wars, the increasing number of bilateral free trade agreements, the professionalisation of fraudulent and criminal practices, and so on. As a result, the rules of the game and customs requirements are also constantly changing, fragmenting and becoming more stringent. For a number of years now, compliance has been the greatest strength and, at the same time, the greatest risk of any cross-border trade transaction.”
What do you mean by “risk”?
“Many companies prefer to stay as far away from customs as possible because the regulations and processes are so complex or impenetrable. As a result, they unknowingly and in good faith make mistakes, for example by purchasing goods that do not correspond to the EU valuation or by using an incorrect goods code, or they underestimate the impact of an incorrect declaration. Bear in mind that customs can claim import duties, VAT and other surcharges up to three years back. That often makes a hole in a company’s finances that can even lead to bankruptcy.”