Electronic customs declaring in Russia: peculiarities and trends

The electronic declaring of goods, i.e., the declaring of goods at the customs by submitting a customs declaration in electronic form via the electronic communications channels, is now commonly practiced worldwide.

In Russia, the first electronic customs declaration was submitted in 2002, but it was only in 2004 that the electronic customs declaring began to be gradually implemented and used for certain areas of foreign economic activity. It was then that the Federal Customs Service of Russia (FCS) adopted several legal acts to determine the procedure of electronic declaring.

In 2008, the electronic form of declaration was stimulated further when the FCS developed the means for electronically declaring goods through the Internet. Hence, there are now two ways of electronically declaring goods, i.e., traditionally, when certain communication channels are used, and via the Internet (Internet declaring).

Those two types of electronic declaring differ in, say, that in the event of the Internet declaring, the declarer submits to the customs the documents attached to the electronic declaration, completing the special electronic XML forms drawn up by the FCS for most of those documents (invoice, bill of lading, etc.), while in the event of an ordinary electronic declaring, the documents attached to the electronic declaration are sent in scanned, informal form. The Internet declaration can be submitted no matter how far the declarer is from the customs authority, while they are at an arm’s length from one another when an ordinary electronic declaration is submitted.

The Internet declaring is advantageous because, among other things, the declarer need not be personally present in some cases at the customs, clearance is quick (it may take only about 15 minutes from the time when the declarer sends an electronic declaration to the time when the customs authorities release the goods) and, after sending an electronic declaration, the declarer receives electronic communications at all the stages of passage of the declaration: its receipt by the customs authority, acceptance (with data on the inspector who accepted it), registration (with its number), release, etc.

Currently, the Internet declaring still cannot be regarded as the simplest and most convenient method of declaring in all respects. Sometimes, paper documents must be presented to the customs (e.g., in the course of verification of an electronic declaration, risks are discovered within the risk management system used by the customs service).

At the same time, many experts believe that the Internet declaring facilitates customs clearance in certain cases. For instance, ED2 (which is the Internet declaring in the language of the legal acts of the FCS) can be conveniently used by the foreign trade participants who regularly declare relatively the same items with more or less the same sets of documents. The ED2 advantages will also be appreciated by importers and exporters whose goods are not subject to certain risks.

Currently, the electronic customs declaring of goods (especially ED2) is increasingly used by Russian foreign trade participants. The current strategy of development of the customs system, being implemented by the FCS according to the instructions of the country’s top leadership, plays an important part in promoting the electronic declaring of goods. For instance, in compliance with the Russian President’s instructions, the FCS technically prepared all the customs checkpoints by the end of 2010 for accepting the ED2 declarations.

As for the introduction of a compulsory electronic declaring, the Federal Law “Concerning Customs Regulation in the Russian Federation” (entered into force on 29 December 2010) enshrines the general rule whereby a goods declaration is to be submitted in electronic form1. In the meantime, there is a transition period until 1 January 2014 when the declarer has the choice to submit a customs declaration in either written or electronic form2. Therefore, foreign trade participants will probably have to declare goods only in electronic form starting from 1 January 2014.

That circumstance should be taken into account when foreign trade is being planned for a long term. The transition to the electronic form of declaration (possibly to the ED2 form) should be considered already now, because the obligation to use that form may be introduced earlier than expected.

The transition to the electronic form of declaring will require time and money. For instance, it may be necessary to acquire special certified software and hardware, have an electronic digital signature, enter into a special agreement with the FCS, etc. Many specialists believe, however, that the above advantages will eventually cover the expenses incurred.

1 Article 204.1 of Federal Law No. 311-FZ of 27 November 2010 «Concerning Customs Regulation in the Russian Federation». 2 Article 322.4 of Federal Law No. 311-FZ of 27 November 2010 «Concerning Customs Regulation in the Russian Federation».