E-Customs
Process Organisation of the Electronic Customs Clearance Procedure (“e-zoll”)

This section contains extracts from the guidelines published by the Austrian Federal Ministry of Finance (BMF) on the electronic declaration procedure which are important for economic operators. These guidelines regulate the process organisation of the electronic customs clearance (‘e-zoll’) procedure.
They are used to harmonise procedures for managing electronically transmitted customs declarations and notifications throughout Austria, fallback procedure workflows and the processes involved in goods controls during and outside the normal operating hours of customs offices.

1.1. Definitions

As used in connection with “e-zoll”, the terms listed below have the following meanings:

Standard procedure: the fulfilment of customs formalities (presentation and related control of the goods) at the customs office.

Simplified procedure: the fulfilment of customs formalities (presentation and related control of the goods) at an authorised location of goods.

Simplified procedure/declaration procedure: the fulfilment of customs formalities at an authorised location of goods in conjunction with the lodgement of:

  • standard customs declarations
  • incomplete customs declarations
  • simplified declarations
  • notifications

Pre-declaration: a (customs) declaration lodged electronically with the customs authorities prior to presentation of the goods to customs (in the case of imports) and prior to arrival of a consignment at the authorised location of goods (in the case of exports).

Simplified procedure/local clearance procedure: Authorised location of goods: any location approved by the customs authorities that does not form part of a customs office for presentation of the goods, placing the goods under a customs procedure or customs approved treatment (Section 4 paragraph 2 number 18 of the Austrian Act Implementing Customs Law (ZollR-DG)).

Control service:

  • the control manager’s duties
  • the performance of data and documentary controls
  • the examination of the goods

Transaction monitor: a part of the “e-zoll” system used by the control manager to monitor and manage all electronic clearance cases.

Basic data management: the recording, preparation and updating of master and procedural data in the system; the officials in charge at the respective customs and tax offices and/or the customer administration competence centre are responsible for managing these processes.

Customer administration competence centre: responsible for quality assurance with regard to the basic data; also acts as a helpdesk for the customs offices in connection with matters concerning the e-finance system.

Risk management: the risk-oriented selection of consignments and/or goods for a targeted control to qualitatively improve the monitoring efforts aimed at ensuring proper management of customs procedures and combating fraud and irregularities.

Triple C Austria: a competence centre that acts as a ‘first level helpdesk’ to provide technical support for economic operators and the customer service teams.

Customs newsletter and „e-zoll“ newsletter: used to communicate new developments and pass information to the staff of the customs administration and economic operators. These services are free of charge but only available in German. To subscribe to (or unsubscribe from) the BMF newsletters, please visit the BMF website: https://service.bmf.gv.at/service/allg/feedback/_start.asp?FTyp=NEWSABO

Fallback procedure: in the event of a system failure within the customs administration or a system failure on the part of an economic operator, a fallback procedure is implemented to ensure due processing. Declarations, notifications and applications submitted using the fallback procedure are considered to have been submitted via the computerised procedure.

CRN (Customs Reference Number): a unique registration number for customs declarations; in the context of exchanging data with other member states, the CRN is also referred to as the MRN (movement reference number).

FRN (Fallback Reference Number): the registration number allocated within the scope of a fallback procedure.

General opening hours: Monday through Thursday, 7.30 a.m. to 3.30 p.m., Friday from 7.30 a.m. to 12.00 noon.

Specific opening hours: opening times to be specified by the customs offices pursuant to Section 10 (1) of the Austrian Act Implementing Customs Law (ZollR-DG) and are published at the respective office location.

Clearance hours: the period during which the control service is available in the respective economic area, not including on-call duties. The clearance hours of the customer service team will differ from the opening hours of the customs offices as required.

Customs clearance outside of normal clearance hours: must be requested sufficiently in advance by the economic operators to the responsible customs office during the general opening hours of the customs offices (no later than 3.00 p.m. Monday through Thursday and no later than 12.00 noon on Friday). This also applies to pre-declarations.

1.2. Customer service teams

In addition to the conceptual and operational duties specified by fiscal law in relation to releasing goods, the customer service teams are responsible for all activities of the customs authorities related to electronic customs clearance.

1.3. Authorised locations of goods

Provided that they cannot be held by their nature only outside the office place, all customs office activities must be conducted either at the premises of the customs offices or at authorised locations of goods. Upon advance notice (see Section 1.1., last sentence), the presentation and customs clearance of goods at authorised locations of goods within the scope of the computerised procedure is also possible outside the clearance hours of the customs offices, i.e. 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.

1.3.1. Authorisation of authorised locations of goods

The customs offices authorise economic operators to use the computerised procedure for the presentation and customs clearance of goods at authorised locations of goods when:

  • declarations and notifications are submitted via the computerised procedure;
  • the necessary facilities are available to allow use of the computerised procedure and to conduct customs controls;
  • and/or the person with authority over the locality guarantees the proper application of the customs rules.

The customs office competent for the region in which the economic operator has its normal residence or registered office is responsible for approving the computerised procedure and the authorised locations of goods. The customer service team responsible for the goods’ location must be involved in approving the authorised locations of goods.

An authorised location of goods must meet the following minimum requirements:

  • Network coverage for the office modem and/or Internet access;
  • Fax machine;
  • Infrastructure to ensure efficient customs controls (i.e. weighing equipment, unloading equipment, ramp facilities, lighting and similar);
  • Presence of authorised contact persons at the location of goods to ensure that the declarant’s duties are fulfilled at the time goods controls are conducted;
  • Access of the control body to both the authorised locations of goods and the technical facilities required to conduct controls;

1.4. Staff rostering

The management of the customs office is responsible for determining the basic conditions for establishing rosters in the economic area, taking into account the basic principles of service-orientation, economy, flexibility and efficiency.

1.4.1. Staff rostering in the economic area

When creating the roster, care must be taken to ensure that a sufficient number of control managers and control bodies are available 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.

1.4.2. Control manager availability outside clearance hours

To ensure that the control manager’s duties can be fulfilled outside clearance hours, the customs office must organise an on-call service, provided that notice of a need for customs clearance has been given sufficiently in advance.

1.4.3. On-call duty of the control body

To ensure that goods controls can be conducted outside clearance hours, the customs office must organise an on-call service pursuant to Section 50 (3) of the Austrian Civil Service Act (BDG).

1.4.4 Duties of the on-call control manager outside clearance hours

The control manager processes all customs declarations that appear on the transaction monitor and, where necessary, instructs the on-call control body to conduct a goods control.

1.4.5. Control decisions by the control manager

The following control decisions can be made:

  • The system does not propose a control (GREEN): the control manager decides to authorise the immediate unloading and release of the goods (transit procedure) or allows the electronic time controller to run without taking any further action (negative control decision). As a general rule, negative control decisions should not be the result of a time-out.
  • System does not propose a control (GREEN): the control manager decides to conduct a control (positive control decision)
  • System proposes a control (RED): the control manager decides to perform a control (positive control decision)
  • System proposes a control (RED): the control manager decides not to perform a control (negative control decision; grounds must be specified in the system)

Document requests: For control decisions or documentary controls, documents may also be requested electronically by the control manager. Such documents must be transmitted electronically to the „e-zoll“ system for storage in the electronic records of the customs declaration concerned. The goods will not be released until all of the documents requested for the customs declaration concerned have been stored.

The control manager must record the control decision in the system. If a control is to be performed, the name of the person responsible for carrying out the control and his/her expected arrival time at the authorised location of goods must also be registered.

1.5. Fallback procedure

The fallback procedure must be used in the event of a system failure (including an economic operator’s system failure) which prevents the proper exchange of messages. In such cases, the requisite declarations or notifications must be submitted to the customs office competent for the location of goods/customs place by either

  • presenting them directly to the responsible customer service team or control manager/control body,
  • submitting them via fax, or
  • submitting them via e-mail.

In consideration of the economic importance of quick customs processes, the customs offices or control managers must ensure that the fallback procedure is processed immediately and with the utmost efficiency.

The decision to assign a control body to a location of goods where a large number of clearances are to be conducted for the execution and duration of the fallback procedure is left to the discretion of the customs office (no obligation to assume costs).

1.5.1 Assignment of the fallback reference number (FRN)

To process the fallback procedure, the customs declarations must be registered with a fallback reference number (FRN) established and managed by the declarant.

An FRN is assigned only by the customs office for customs declarations normally submitted on paper at the customs place, even when the „e-zoll“ system is operational.

The FRN is an 18-digit alphanumeric number and is structured as follows:

  • Pos. 1: F for ‘Fallback’
  • Pos. 2+3: tens and unit digit for the year ((i.e.14’ for 2014)
  • Pos. 4+5: AT – country code (i.e.AT’ for Austria)
  • Pos. 6+11: the last 6 digits of the declarant’s EORI number ((i.e.012345’ for EORI ATEOS1000012345)
  • Pos. 12: one capital letter (i.e.A’)
  • Pos. 13-18: six-digit sequential number per year, starting with 1

Example: F14AT012345A000001

All documents that relate to fallback cases must be endorsed with the applicable FRN by the declarant/representative, placed in chronological order and kept available for possible controls by the customs authorities.

1.5.2 Announcement/termination of the fallback procedure in the event of a system failure in the customs administration

1.5.2.1. Commencement of the fallback procedure in the event of a system failure in the customs administration

In the event of a failure within the customs system, Triple C Austria will announce the use of the fallback procedure. The fallback procedure will be declared via the BMF newsletter, subscriptions to which are free of charge.

Note:

To subscribe to the BMF newsletter, please visit the following URL:https://service.bmf.gv.at/service/allg/feedback/_start.asp?FTyp=NEWSABO

1.5.2.2. Termination of the fallback procedure implemented in response to a system failure in the customs administration

Termination of the fallback procedure will also be announced via the BMF newsletter. Likewise, the fallback procedure shall be deemed to have ended at the time when the announcement of the conclusion of maintenance activities appears in the BMF newsletter.

1.5.2.3. Commencement and termination of the fallback procedure in the event of a local system failure in the customs administration

Should a local system failure affect the customs administration, the relevant economic operators will be notified by the customs office concerned of the commencement and termination of the fallback procedure.

1.5.3. Use of the fallback procedure in the event of an economic operator’s system failure

The customs authorities must be notified of the commencement and termination of the fallback procedure via fax or e-mail, using the official forms in accordance with the template in Appendix 3 or Appendix 4 of guideline ZK-0612.

1.5.3.1. Nationwide system failure of an economic operator during general opening hours

In that case, the notification of the commencement and termination of the fallback procedure shall be made to the customs office/customer service team that granted the authorisation for the computerised procedure (e-zoll authorisation).

The notification of the commencement of the procedure will be confirmed by the customer service team and returned immediately to the economic operator concerned.

In addition, the customer service team shall inform, via e-mail, all customs offices competent for the locations of goods concerned and Triple C Austria.

1.5.3.2. Local system failure of an economic operator and system failure outside general opening hours

The notification of the commencement and termination of the fallback procedure must be submitted to the competent customer service team (control manager) to whom the first customs declaration under the fallback procedure must be submitted.

The notification of commencement of the procedure will be confirmed by the customer service team and returned immediately to the economic operator concerned.

Once the notification of the fallback procedure has been confirmed by the customs office, it must be submitted along with the first customs declaration made under the fallback procedure.

If it is impossible to provide notification regarding the commencement/termination of the emergency procedure by fax or e-mail, then such notification may also be made by telephone.

If, in the event of a system failure on the part of the economic operator, it should only be possible to make the necessary notification by telephone, the relevant staff member of the customs office must make a note for the file using the template provided in guideline ZK-0612 and forward it to the customs offices concerned or the customs office that granted the authorisation.

1.6. Processing

For every clearance case, the economic operator must send a customs declaration (including cover sheet) via fax or e-mail to the customer service team responsible for the applicable location of goods. Alternatively, such declaration may be presented directly at the customs office. This customs declaration must already include a fallback reference number (FRN). For the purposes of customs provisions in connection with the transit procedure, the FRN used may also be foreign.

The time of submission of the customs declaration shall be deemed to be:

  • the time of presentation to the customs office, or
  • the time and date stamped on the fax conformation, or
  • the time of e-mail transmission.

Where customs declarations are presented directly under the emergency procedure or are transmitted by fax, release by the responsible customs office/customer service team must be awaited under all circumstances.

In the event customs declarations are submitted via e-mail, depending on whether the fallback procedure is used due to a system failure on the part of the customs administration or the economic operator, the alternative procedures described in the following sections must be followed:

1.6.1. Control decision in the event of a system failure within the customs administration

If no notification of a control is issued, the goods on the relevant customs declaration shall be considered as having been released 30 minutes after transmission of the e-mail (in the case of imports) and 15 minutes after transmission of the e-mail (in the case of exports).

1.6.2. Control decision in the event of a failure of an economic operator’s system

If an economic operator’s system fails, the fallback procedure must be used by the customs office and/or the responsible customer service team at ‘the request of the economic operator.

In the case of e-mail transmission of customs declarations by declarants that do not hold AEOC/F status, release by the control manager or control body must be awaited.

Where such declarants hold AEOC/F status, the goods concerned shall be regarded as having been released 30 minutes after the e-mail has been transmitted (in the case of imports) and, respectively, 15 minutes after the e-mail has been transmitted (in the case of transit provisions for arrival advice/control results) or 15 minutes after transmission of the e-mail (in the case of exports), provided no verification of the export documents is required.

1.6.3. Fallback contact information: customs offices and customer service teams

1.6.4 Subsequent submission of the declarations

When the „e-zoll“ system becomes available again, the customs declarations made under the fallback procedure must immediately be transmitted electronically to the customs authorities by the declarant.

In the case of exports and/or imports, the declarations that are to be made retroactively in the system must be transmitted with a separate EX430 message (for exports) or IM530 message (for imports). The FRN must be cited as reference to the fallback declaration.

In the case of transits, the corresponding NCTS messages must be used for the retroactive transmission:

TR200 (arrival advice);
TR201 (error message – arrival advice);
TR202 (notification of ‘improper redirection’);
TR204 (notice of unloading);
TR005 (error message – notice of unloading).

The customs office must monitor the subsequent submission of the declarations after the fallback procedure has been terminated, and where necessary, request these from the economic operator.