José Roma de Andrade
Official Broker / Customs Representative
In Vida Económica – 17/01/2020
After Portugal’s accession to the Common Market that today constitutes the European Union of 28 and which from February on will be of 27 with the departure of the United Kingdom, the intervention of the Official Dispatcher is no longer necessary to carry out customs procedures, once that there is no longer a border in the European space. This situation led to a little forgetting about the importance of the role of the Official Broker because most of Portugal’s international trade is with European countries. So, before 1993 when you wanted to import and export, for example to Germany or Spain, you had to resort to an Official Broker because there were borders. As of that date, the goods within the European Union started to circulate freely and to be dispatched, without the figure of the official broker in this transaction.
On the other hand, we have been witnessing a growth in the World market that started in the so-called emerging countries, such as China and India, among others, rapidly and progressively becoming a market designated as global, following the changes resulting from the creation of the World Trade Organization (WTO) with the objective of supervising and liberalizing International Trade in replacement of GATT – General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade.
Thus, the scenario was created for the Official Broker to perform its function for the customs clearance of goods from third countries, community extras, seeing its function once again valued, because based on this worldwide growth and the need for Portugal to expand its commercial horizons, both situations led to an increase in international transactions in terms of exports and imports.
In this framework, whenever there are borders, there must be an Official Broker / Customs Representative. The designation Customs Representative appears under the CCU – Customs Code of the Union, which means that throughout Europe the “traditional” Official Broker now has the designation of Customs Representative. Thus, all imported goods are subject to Customs clearance and their customs clearance requires an Official Broker and Customs Representative, as well as all sales goods that go outside Portugal, are subject to export clearance at Customs to prove their export and consequently exemption from VAT.
The Official Broker / Customs Representative is the representative of the owner of the goods before Customs. The first person who can dispatch at Customs is always the owner of the goods who can use the services of the Official Broker / Customs Representative because he does not have time to deal with customs procedures, or because he does not have the necessary and sufficient knowledge and technical skills to do it. Thus, the second person appears before Customs: The Customs Representative is the entity that can represent the economic operator at Customs.
Most people don’t know what an official broker is. Many of these people, individuals or those in charge of small businesses, shop online, sometimes thinking that they are shopping within the European space, when they often come from a country outside the European space. From there on they can be “lucky” that the merchandise has no problem and is easy to clear through or situations in which the goods require special documentation for customs clearance and if the buyer does not have such documentation the goods are returned or destroyed. There are also cases where the buyer is waiting for that documentation to be sent and is paying for storage.
Other situations is that of goods that come from third countries, where the importers are companies and do not contact an Official Broker / Customs Representative to find out what are the fees to pay at customs, the necessary documentation, etc., and when the goods arrive here they are very surprised because they thought they had already paid all the expenses with the purchase of the goods. There are people who buy certain goods in China and transport them to the factory in Portugal, ignoring the fact that when they arrive at the border, they have a series of procedures to reach the destination, in this case the factory. Companies that are now starting to import still make these mistakes, so we always advise you to contact a forwarder before importing the goods.
In this context, we also leave the alert to all individuals who resort to online shopping due to the huge development of E-commerce worldwide. We will return to this topic in due course.