Declarations & representation

Declarations require expertise. Although anyone can technically submit a customs declaration, only a specialist has the expertise to take into account the variety of obligations, authorisations or product specifics and exceptions of customs law. For this reason there are organisations specialised in customs formalities, who can act as a representative, the customs broker. The customs broker translates the relevant data into the customs declaration, with or without representation. We recommend making clear agreements with all parties in the supply chain to ensure the declaration is made true and correct by the right party. We often see that when it turns out that the declaration was incorrect, a discussion starts, regarding the responsibilities of the various parties involved. Try to pre-empt this by hiring a customs broker and making clear agreements between parties and with the broker.

Many customs declarations are submitted every day. They can be submitted per transaction or periodically. The customs authorities have various systems for submitting customs declarations and are updated periodically such as AGS and DECO.

The AGS system is used for several declarations, such as import and export declarations. In the near future AGS will be replaced by DMS (Customs Declaration Management System). This change has an enormous impact on several types of declarations. In particular it will affect the automated periodic declaration (GPA) and the written periodic declaration (SPA).

A simplified declaration system exists for e-commerce shipments. These e-commerce declarations have to be submitted via DECO.

You canfile declarations yourself, but you can also use a representative. Read more about this on our website.

Customs declarations contain a lot of data. The commodity code, value and origin of the goods, the quantities and weights, all these aspects are important elements in the declaration. If you are a forwarding agent and submit declarations on behalf of a principal, you will receive (part of) the data from your principal. If you file declarations in your own name and for your own account, you will also have certain data at your disposal. Who is responsible for the data? What happens if the data is incorrect?

We strongly advise you to make sure that you have the correct data available. Record whether you or your principal keeps the data. 


Most customs declarations are outsourced to a customs broker by the import or exporter. Sometimes the customs broker is part of an integrated service provider.

Representation can be applied in three ways:

  • Direct representation
  • Indirect representation
  • No representation (declaration in your own name and for your own account)

Direct representation

In case of direct representation the customs broker (representative) acts in name and for the account of his customer (represented company). The customer is the sole customs debtor.

Indirect representation

This type of representation applies for example for non-EU established companies. The customs broker (representative) acts for the account of his customer (represented company) and for his own account. This means that both customer and customs broker are customs debtor.

No representation

Technically ‘no representation’ is not a type of representation as per article 18 and 19 UCC. However the customs broker also in this case performs the import declaration on behalf of his customer. When no representation is applied, the customs broker is the customs debtor.

Although three types of representation can be used when submitting the customs declaration, the choice is limited depending on the circumstances. For example, direct representation is only possible when the customer is established in the EU. Furthermore, the customs broker must hold a customs authorisation and must be appoint by his customer, e.g. through the use of a power of attorney.