Regulation (EC) No 1186/2009 setting up a Community system of reliefs from customs duty provides the possibility of granting tax relief in special circumstances, respectively in the aid of disaster victims, subject to a decision by the Commission.
Thus, all Member States, as well as the United Kingdom submitted a request to waive customs duties and VAT on the importation of protective and other medical equipment from third countries. Basically, the required goods consist in masks and protective equipment, as well as testing kits, ventilators and other medical equipment.
In order to set out these cases, the European Commission has issued on 03.04.2020the Decision regarding the waiver of customs duties and VAT on the importation of necessary goods in order to combat the effects of the COVID-19 outbreak during the year 2020.
This decision is applicable retroactively from the 30th of January until 31st of July 2020, for a six-month period, with the possibility of extension.
Summary of the Commission’s Decision
The imported goods shall be exempted from customs duties and VAT provided that the following conditions are fulfilled:
1. The goods are intended for the following uses:
(a) distribution free of charge by the bodies and organizations to the persons affected by or at high risk from COVID-19 or involved in combating the COVID-19 outbreak, such as the physicians and auxiliary personnel;
(b) given to use, free of charge, to the persons mentioned under letter (a), while remaining the property of the bodies and organizations that have purchased them.
2. The imported goods do not include the materials and the equipment necessary in order to rebuild the areas affected by the disaster; the bodies and organizations that benefit from the waiver cannot lend, rent or transfer, in exchange of money or free of charge, without previously informing the competent authorities; when no longer used by the victims, the respective goods shall not be lent, rented or transferred, in exchange of money or free of charge, without previously informing the competent authorities the organizations that benefit from the waiver, which no longer fulfill the necessary conditions in order to exercise their right to exemption, or which give another purpose to the goods than those permitted by the Regulation, must inform the competent authorities in this regard.
3. The goods are imported for release into free circulation by or on behalf of State organizations including State bodies, public bodies and other bodies governed by public law or by or on behalf of organizations approved by the competent authorities in the Member States
4. The goods are imported for release into free circulation by or on behalf of disaster relief agencies in order to meet their needs during the period they provide disaster relief to the persons affected by or at risk from COVID-19 or involved in combatting the COVID-19 outbreak.
Furthermore, the Member States have an obligation to inform the Commission, no later than 30th of November 2020 with regards to the following issues:
1. A list of organizations approved by the competent authorities in the Member States as referred above;
2. Information regarding the nature and quantities of the various goods admitted free of import duties and VAT pursuant to this Decision;
3. Measures taken to ensure compliance with the appropriate use according to the purposes of the imported goods.
Therefore, the measure taken by the Commission regards the medical equipment necessary for the combating of the Covid-19 outbreak consequences, according to the requests submitted by the Member States, and sets out that the goods can be used only according to their purpose established by the Commission through this Decision and includes the imports from third countries by State organizations including State bodies, public bodies and other bodies governed by public law or by or on behalf organizations approved by the competent authorities in the Member States.
This measure will facilitate financially the access to the medical equipment much needed by the medical staff and the persons affected by the pandemic, as it is more than necessary in the present global context.