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import and export in Barcelona, Spain

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Spain has a developed trade sector which counts for more than a half of the country’s gross domestic product (GDP). The import and export field is a very important element of the economy.

This article helps import/export companies understand the necessary requirements to carry out trading activity. Plus, outlines the different steps of the import and export process from and into Spain and the EU.


Import From EU countries

Thanks to the EU internal market, it is fairly easy to trade with the vast majority of European countries. Pay no tariffs on goods traded between EU countries. There’s no limit the number of imports and exports, and it’s not possible to otherwise restrict trade between EU countries. Overall, importing from the European Union would have the same nature and requirements as if you were acquiring goods from within Spain.

That being said, we advise registering your company in the VIES Census. This number allows you to receive and issue invoices without VAT to other companies in Europe also registered in the VIES census. Note: the VIES registration is not immediate and must be approved by the Spanish tax authority.

Import From non-EU countries

What are the requirements to import into the EU?
  • As an EU importer/exporter you need to apply for an EORI number (“Economic Operators Registration and Identification number”). Businesses and people wishing to trade must use the EORI number as an identification number in all customs procedures when exchanging information with Customs administrations.
  • Many products require CE marking before they can be sold in the EU. CE marking indicates that a product has been assessed by the manufacturer and deemed to meet EU safety, health and environmental protection requirements. It is required for products manufactured anywhere in the world that are then marketed in the EU.
Be aware of the Import Restrictions: Imports of some sensitive goods or imports of certain goods coming from specific countries may be prohibited or restricted. You may need permits, a license or present an officially approved import notification.

What are the required documents for custom clearance in the EU?

  1. You need to provide a customs declaration to your national customs authority.
  2. You need to present an Entry Summary Declaration before the arrival of the goods at the first point of entry into the EU.
  3. Depending on the type of goods, additional documents to be presented to customs authorities may be required.

File a customs clearance to complete all the customs formalities required under EU customs legislation. The importer or a customs representative appointed by the importer can lodge the customs clearance.

Which import tariffs apply to your product?

  • Import tariffs may need to be paid for your product when it enters the EU. The EU is a customs union, which means that a single import tariff is due at the place of entry where the import declaration is made, irrespective of the EU Member State. The product can then circulate in the EU market without further customs formalities.
  • Who pays for the tariffs depends on the agreement with the seller, but often import duties are paid by the importer.

What internal taxes apply?

Value added tax (VAT) applies to goods sold on the EU market, as well as to those imported from outside the EU. VAT varies in each EU Member State and is usually the importer pays.

  • VAT-registered firms can reclaim the import VAT tax as input tax, just like they can claim back their domestic VAT payments.
  • For selected goods you will be required to pay excise duties, which vary from EU country to EU country. These taxes apply to, for example: tobacco products, alcoholic beverages, mineral oil, and energy products.


Bright and colorful import and export shipping containers

What are the required documents for export clearance in the EU?

  1. You must first submit anelectronic export declaration at your national customs authority. The export declaration provides the necessary information about the goods themselves and the transport.
  2. Invoice and transport documents and a packing list: You must keep all documents for at least three years in case of any checks after export clearance (national commercial and fiscal legislation often provides for longer periods).
  3. VAT and export records: When you export outside of the EU, your product is exempted from value-added tax (VAT) in the EU, independently of whether you are selling to a business or an individual consumer, providing that you keep records of the export and the proof of export issued by the customs authority.
  4. Certificates or licenses: such as phytosanitary certificates or export licenses for export purposes may be needed as well.

You can file the customs declaration yourself or by a service supplier who is your customs representative. If you employ a forwarding company or customs broker, they can act on your behalf.

A forwarding agent can assist you in the export and transport process by helping you with:

  • arranging the collection and delivery of your goods
  • negotiating freight rates with carriers
  • booking cargo space
  • packing
  • insurance
  • preparing customs documents on your behalf

What is the export and custom clearance process?

The export procedure has two stages:

  • the lodging of the export declaration and the the presentation of the goods at the customs office of export
  • the presentation of the goods and the indication of the Master Reference Number (MRN) of the export declaration at the customs office of exit, followed by a release for exit.

When your goods reach the country of destination, the local import requirements and processes will apply to your exports.

Which tariffs apply to your product?

  • Tariffs may need to be paid for your product when it is put on the export market. You will find the applied tariffs of various destination countries in My Trade Assistant.
  • If the EU has a preferential trade agreement with the country of destination tariffs on your product may be reduced or even completely eliminated. These customs duties are called preferential tariff rates.
  • It depends on your agreement and contract with the buyer, but in most cases it is advisable to leave the import clearance to the buyer who then pays the customs duties as well as the taxes and additional duties that become due at importation. Bear in mind that the latter will add to the price of your product on your export market.

How do sellers and buyers the liabilities between them?

You can use Incoterms (International Commercial Terms) to define your contractual liabilities. Incoterms set out the responsibilities of sellers and buyers for the delivery, insurance and transport of goods under sales contracts. They determine who is responsible for customs export formalities in the EU and the formalities in your export market.

Incoterms are very useful and practical tools that facilitate and simplify international trade. This avoids legal problems. However, they require proper and correct use for their service to be fully exploited.

How can our Spanish lawyers assist in import-export matters?

Our team of English-speaking Corporate Lawyers can offer more details on the regulations concerning trading activities in Spain. We will help you with a comprehensive advisory service from the point of view of commercial law.

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