Outside the EU
Within the Ministry of Finance and Public Administration, the Directorate-General for Customs and Excise Duties (DGAIEC) is responsible for controlling the external border of the EU and the national customs territory, for tax, economic and protection of society reasons, particularly in terms of culture, and public health and safety. It also administers excise duties and other indirect taxes.
The DGAIEC website lists the national legislation on customs and tax matters associated with foreign trade.
Depending on the country of destination, goods and types of product to be marketed, the formalities may be very different.
Supported by the AICEP Network abroad, and with the assistance of other entities (Embassies and Chambers of Commerce), the Portuguese Agency for Foreign Trade and Investment (AICEP) provides support and advice on the best way to tackle foreign markets, identifies international business opportunities and monitors the development of internationalisation processes. At the request of interested parties, it can also gather specific regulatory information.
Interested businesses can also consult the Market Access Database website operated by the European Commission, which provides information on the trade policy in third countries.
The European single market allows the free movement of goods at EU level. In terms of foreign trade outside the EU, the law provides for autonomous tariff suspensions and quotas where the Community production of an imported product is non-existent or insufficient.
In this respect, the Directorate-General for Customs and Excise Duties (DGAIEC) provides the Working Tariff, which contains all the information needed on the taxation of goods imported from third countries.
The Working Tariff includes common commercial policy measures, particularly quantitative restrictions, customs duties, anti-dumping duties, tariff suspensions and quotas, as well as national measures, such as value added tax, excise duties, and additional information on customs clearance conditions for goods.
The Working Tariff has no legal force, but its tariff codes must be used to complete customs and statistical declarations, as laid down in the Regulation on the tariff and statistical nomenclature and on the Common Customs Tariff.
State support for exporting
The Portuguese Agency for Foreign Trade and Investment (AICEP) develops public policies supporting foreign investment in Portugal and the internationalisation of Portuguese companies, regardless of their size.
Given the importance of this issue and despite the extensive restrictions on state aid under EU legislation, AICEP has developed a Practical Guide – Financial Support for Internationalisation, which is constantly being updated and is particularly aimed at SMEs. Its purpose is to guide businesses through the wealth of financing instruments and tools at their disposal, as well as incentives for promoting their products/services abroad. It has gathered together and systematically organised all the information in this area.
Regulations (EC) No 648/2005 and No 1875/2006, which respectively amended the Community Customs Code and its implementing provisions, introduced new measures aimed at reinforcing safety and protection in relation to goods entering and leaving the customs territory of the Community.
These measures, which entered into force on 1 July 2009, include the obligation for economic operators to provide customs authorities, in electronic format, with information on all goods entering or leaving the customs territory of the Community (CTC), prior to their arrival/departure, within set deadlines and in accordance with specific rules. They also include targeted common risk analyses and appropriate checks based on these analyses.
In order to comply with the provisions on outward movements not covered by an export declaration, the Directorate-General for Customs and Excise Duties (DGAIEC) is developing a computer system, referred to as ECS-DSS – Export Control System – Summary Outward Declarations, which will allow standardised electronic messages to be exchanged between economic operators and customs authorities, and which will also allow all the required formalities to be completed automatically.
In order to inform economic operators about the process of electronic data exchange within the ECS-DSS, a guide to the use of XML messages has been published.
The extra-EU trade in goods is subject to conditions and, exceptionally (most operations having been liberalised), to the submission of various customs documents, including, most importantly:
- Licences – for products subject to restrictions;
- Declarations – for products subject to prior statistical monitoring;
- Certificates – where required by legislation (e.g. agricultural products).
The Licensing Services Department of the Directorate-General for Customs and Excise Duties (DGAIEC) is responsible for issuing these documents. Goods cannot be cleared through customs without these documents having been submitted.
In addition to those documents already mentioned, the Single Administrative Document (SAD) is particularly important. This is the official customs declaration form, which is completed in writing as part of the normal procedure for subjecting goods to customs arrangements or for their re-export, in accordance with the implementing provisions of the Community Customs Code.
This is therefore the form used in commercial transactions between the EU and third countries in order to complete the customs formalities for export. For this purpose, businesses must contact an official customs agent, who is responsible for completing the required customs documentation.
Another essential document for any commercial transaction is the Commercial Invoice, which, as a rule, must be issued by the seller to the purchaser. It must be made out in the language of the importer. It must contain the essential information on the sale, including the respective names (addresses and tax numbers of the exporter and importer), quantity, unit price, designation and detailed description of the goods sold/services provided, VAT, value and tariff code.
In addition to describing the goods, the commercial invoice normally includes information on how and when the goods were sent by the seller, who is responsible for their transport and the terms of payment, assuming that a contract of sale has been concluded. The invoice is generally (but not necessarily) issued when a commercial transaction has been completed, after delivery of the goods to the purchaser.
An oral/postal transit declaration is a simplified procedure for clearing goods through customs. This document is completed by the customs authority itself, in which case a customs declaration (SAD – Single Administrative Document) is not required. Those goods which are not commercial in nature, whether contained in travellers’ luggage or intended for private individuals or in other cases where their economic value is negligible, may be covered by an oral customs declaration for the purpose of customs clearance, where permitted by the customs authorities.
Likewise, goods which are commercial in nature can also be covered by an oral customs declaration for the purpose of customs clearance, where they meet two conditions:
- First, the total value of these goods cannot exceed, per shipment and per declarant, the statistical limit laid down in the EU provisions in force.
- Second, the goods cannot be transported by an independent carrier as part of a larger freight movement.
The statistical limit is currently set at EUR 1 000.
In those situations not covered by the above, goods must be cleared through customs by submitting the customs declaration (SAD – Single Administrative Document) in hard copy or electronically.
In recent years there has been a general reduction in customs duties, essentially as a result of multilateral negotiations and regional or bilateral agreements.
Currently, despite customs duties remaining a significant impediment, it is non-tariff barriers (technical or other impediments, such as licences, conformity requirements, administrative procedures or export fees) that represent one of the main obstacles to trade and to penetration of third-country markets by EU exports.
The Directorate-General for Economic Activities has a simple questionnaire for recording trade barriers in various areas, from the trade in goods and services to investment, intellectual property and export/import restrictions, which national operators face when exporting from and/or importing to third countries.
In order to develop and exploit business opportunities, Portuguese businesses can use the services of Economic Diplomacy abroad.
As part of the national effort to increase Portuguese exports, the Portuguese Agency for Foreign Trade and Investment (AICEP) has an international network of business support services, which is particularly aimed at SMEs. During the working hours of the offices from which they operate, these services offer all the facilities normally associated with an office, such as meeting rooms, computers with Internet access, telephones, faxes and basic secretarial support.
Businesses can find information on international invitations to tender, business cooperation, business opportunities and international projects by registering on the business opportunities page of the AICEP website. Export businesses in particular can find information here on business opportunities and the international promotion of their business.
If import and export businesses have any questions about taxes, customs duties, restrictions, transport or other matters, they can visit the Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs) section of the AICEP website.
To obtain information on market access, economic diplomacy, new markets, support centres for Portuguese investors, rules on the internationalisation of Portuguese business, and the fund for the internationalisation of Portuguese business, please visit the Internationalisation and Export page of the IAPMEI website.
Businesses can apply for support and incentives that are aimed at developing R&D projects, improving production processes and systems, and internationalisation, through the following organisations:
- Portuguese Agency for Foreign Trade and Investment (AICEP) Institute for Support to Small and Medium-Sized Enterprises and Innovation (IAPMEI).
AICEP and IAPMEI can provide information on support and incentives:
International projects between businesses (production or trade), banks and the State can receive financing from the Fund for the internationalisation of Portuguese business (FIEP).
Micro- and small enterprise projects aimed at the global marketing of goods and services can obtain support through QREN Incentives.
In this respect, the SME Incentive Scheme (Incentive Scheme for the Qualification and Internationalisation of SMEs) aims to develop the competitiveness of SMEs by improving their productivity, flexibility, responsiveness and active presence on the global market. It is designed to support investment projects developed by businesses, either individually or cooperatively, and also by public bodies, business associations or entities in the Science and Technology System (SCT), which are aimed at assisting SMEs with innovation, modernisation and internationalisation, by using dynamic competitiveness factors.