The term tariff preferences or trade preferences describes the preferential treatment of goods from certain countries or regions. These trade advantages consist of reduced or completely waived tariffs. Preferences are particularly relevant for exporters who regularly transport goods across the EU's external borders.
Tariff preferences are a part of foreign trade policy. These are customs agreements between individual countries. They are called preferential agreements. Preferential agreements can exist both unilaterally and mutually. The EU grants unilateral tariff preferences collectively to 167 developing countries within the framework of the so-called General System of Preferences (GSP).
Customs law distinguishes between two types of tariff preferences: over-the-counter and origin preferences. An over-the-counter preference means the goods originate from the free circulation of the exporting country. Therefore, the goods have already been cleared in the exporting country and the exporter can now transfer them to the partner country without having to pay customs duty again. Over-the-counter preferences often exist within the framework of a customs union.
The origin preference, however, is based on the origin of the goods. Certain goods that are produced in a country that has concluded a preferential agreement with Germany can benefit from these advantages under customs law if they comply with the respective processing steps (so-called rule of origin).
An exporter wishing to refer to a tariff preference must demonstrate that the necessary requirements have been met (proof of preference). This includes, firstly, evidence of the preferential origin property and secondly, compliance with the rules of origin. Exporters should verify which rules of origin apply to their goods before shipping. They can be looked up in the customs authority's electronic information database “origin of goods and preferences online” (Warenursprung und Preferenzen online - WuP online).
The exporter must provide written proof in the form of a movement certificate issued by the responsible customs office. For consignments worth less than 6,000 euros, a so-called declaration of origin is sufficient, which the exporter must print onto the invoice of the consignment. It is important that the declaration of origin is drawn up in the language of the recipient country and signed by the exporter. Templates for declarations of origin of the respective countries or groups of countries can be downloaded as a PDF from the customs authority's website. Afterwards, there is no further participation needed from the customs office.
By way of exception, a movement certificate is no longer required for goods valuing more than 6,000 euros if the exporter has been granted the status of "authorized exporter". This privilege is to be applied for at the responsible main customs office. For exporters with this status, a declaration of origin is sufficient even if the 6,000 euro limit is exceeded.
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