Last checked : 10/09/2018

Paying excise duties

UK decision to invoke Article 50 of the TEU: More information

As of 30 March 2019, all EU law will cease to apply to the UK, unless a ratified withdrawal agreement establishes another date, or the European Council and the UK decide unanimously to extend the two-year negotiation period. For more information about the legal repercussions for businesses:

Selling to another business

When are excise duties payable?

There is an important difference between the time a product becomes subject to excise duty and the time this duty has to be paid.

Most Excise goods become subject to excise duty as soon as they are produced, or imported into the EU.

But this duty can in effect be suspended and does not have to be paid until the product is "released for consumption". This means the moment when products are no longer under duty suspension arrangements. Note that to be able to produce store and move excise goods without paying excise (under excise duty suspension) requires a special authorisation from the country in question.

If excise products are destroyed or lost due to unforeseeable reasons or natural disasters before they are released for consumption, no excise duties have to be paid.

Who pays excise duty?

Excise duty is paid by:

Transporting goods to different EU countries without paying duties

To enable you — as a seller — to transport goods, but maintain the suspension of excise duty (the duty will be paid by the buyer in the country of destination according to that country's rates) you must adhere to the following rules.

Rule 1 - Guarantee against transport risks

The EU country from which the goods are dispatched requires them to be covered by a guarantee covering transport risks that is valid throughout the EU.

This guarantee can also be provided by you as the seller (warehouse-keeper or registered consignor), or by the transporter or buyer - or by two or more of them/you.

The EU country of dispatch can waive this requirement if the goods are transported solely within its borders.

Similarly, no guarantee is needed for movements of energy products within the EU under the condition that the movement takes place by sea or by fixed pipeline, and if there is an agreement between the Member States concerned.

Rule 2 - Electronic administrative document (e-AD)

As well as the guarantee, you must also send an electronic administrative document (e-AD) to the responsible excise authority in your country using the Excise movement & control system (EMCS).

The authority:

  • checks the validity of the data in the e-AD (e.g. Excise authorisation number of the seller and buyer) and provides you with its administrative reference code;
  • forwards the e-AD to its counterpart authority in the buyer's EU country (who forwards it to the buyer).

Before transport begins, you must print out the e-AD with its administrative reference code and give it to the transport company.

At any time before transport begins, you can cancel the e-AD. During transport, you can also change the destination using the EMCS system.

If the EMCS system is not available, you can still transport the goods without paying excise duty if:

  • they are accompanied by a paper document containing the same data as the e-AD;
  • you notify the responsible authority in the country of dispatch about this. Some countries insist on the trader being given permission before being allowed to leave.

Rule 3 - receiving the goods

The buyer has 5 working days to confirm receipt of the goods in the EMCS system. Then:

  • the responsible authority in the EU destination country checks the validity of the confirmation;
  • it registers a report of receipt and forwards this to its counterpart authority in the country of dispatch - which forwards it to you, the seller.

After you receive this report, you can ask for your guarantee to be released.

If you follow these 3 rules, you will not - as the seller - have to pay excise duty on the goods transported.

Pay careful attention to the quantity indicated in the report of receipt — it is only for this confirmed quantity on which you do not have to pay the duty.

If any products were lost or damaged during transport — and this is confirmed by the authorities in the country where the loss or damage occurred or was detected — you can change the received and confirmed quantity on the documentation accordingly.

Check a business partner's excise number

If you want to find out whether a business partner's excise authorisation number is valid or not, you can use the SEED excise authorisation system.

If your partner has a valid number, SEED will show you a list of products they are authorised to trade.

Selling to private customers

If you sell excise goods directly to private customers and the place of sale is your country, you'll have to charge excise duties according to the rates valid in your country.

There are no limits on what private persons can buy and take with them when they travel between EU countries, as long as the products purchased are for personal use and not for resale, with exception of new means of transport. Taxes (VAT and excise) will be included in the price of the products in the Member State of purchase and no further payment of taxes can be due in any other Member State.

Tobacco and alcohol

However, special rules apply in the case of certain goods subject to excise duty, such as alcoholic beverages and tobacco products. If a private person purchases such products in one Member State and takes them to another Member State, the principle that no excise duty has to be paid in the Member State of destination only applies if the goods are:

To determine whether these products are for the own use of the traveller, Member States must take account of all the relevant factors. One of the factors is the quantity of goods. Member States may set guide levels to indicate up to which quantity goods are generally considered as for the own use of the traveller. The guide levels should be at least:

a) Tobacco products

b) Alcoholic beverages

As regards tobacco products, EU countries may limit the number of cigarettes you can bring with you from certain other EU countries which do not yet charge the minimum level of excise duty. This limit cannot be lower than 300 cigarettes.

As it stands now, Austria, Croatia, Denmark, Germany, Ireland, Italy, Slovenia and Sweden apply this lower limit for travellers coming from Bulgaria, Croatia, Hungary, Latvia, Lithuania or Romania.

Online & remote selling

If you sell excise goods to your private customers on the internet, you must pay the excise duty and rates of the country where the customers live.

In most EU countries the appointment of a tax representative is obligatory; one of their roles is to pay excise duty on your behalf, if that country's responsible authority approves this action.

Before shipping you must:

Getting duty reimbursed

If you have already paid excise duties in your own country on the goods you sold (to avoid paying twice), you can get this amount reimbursed. To do so, you must:

Tobacco products

Online selling of tobacco products in some EU countries may require the seller to:

Member States may prohibit cross-border distance sales of tobacco products to consumers.

EU legislation

Need support from assistance services?

Get in touch with specialised assistance services

Local business support - Do you have questions on operating a business cross-border, for example exporting or expanding to another EU country? If so, the Enterprise Europe Network can give you free advice.

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