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Customs transport agent: definition and functions

Customs transport agent: definition and functions

According to the tax agency, the customs agent refers to the people who carry out customs formalities acting as a customs representative as established in article 18 of the UCC.

The representative acts on behalf of a person engaged in customs-related business activities (for example, an importer or exporter).

The customs representative can act either on behalf of that person (direct representation) or on his own behalf (indirect representation).

International trade has experienced significant growth in recent decades. According to data from the Ministry of Industry, Commerce and Tourism, in 2022 a total of 389,000 million euros in exports and 457,321.2 million in imports were declared at Spanish customs. These figures show the magnitude of the operations managed by customs agents and the importance of their work.

Responsibilities of the customs agent

The responsibilities of the customs agent in the international supply chain may include, among others, the following:

  • Apply the necessary provisions, in accordance with the specific customs regulations corresponding to each type of representation, in order to place the goods under a certain customs regime;
  • Ensure that the customs or summary declaration is correct and that it is submitted within the appropriate deadlines.
  • Act as a representative of the exporter and importer, in the event of inspections by customs itself, to guarantee control of the legality of the goods entering or leaving the country.
  • Make a customs declaration on your behalf or on behalf of another natural or legal person.
  • Manage merchandise that is imported and exported.
  • Offer advice to citizens on legislation regarding customs, as well as foreign trade.
  • If you act on behalf of an importer, guarantee payment of the corresponding taxes before customs (tariffs and VAT).
  • Issuance of certificates of origin in which the origin of the goods is stated and completion of the corresponding forms.
  • Make the request for some customs services (quality and health controls), according to the type of merchandise entering or leaving a country.
  • Prevent the introduction of illegal items that represent a danger, but also prohibit the passage of items that are prohibited for health reasons. Each country establishes its lists of products that a citizen cannot bring into the territory, for example, meat products, exotic plants, animals, etc.

Additionally, customs agents, typically found at airports, seaports, and train stations, can ensure that people (individuals) entering and leaving a country comply with all regulations regarding the goods they bring in or they take out of a country. This is border control.

Customs controls

It is common to come across the term “customs inspection”, which refers to multiple inspections that can be carried out on goods passing through the border. Here we find:

  • Documentation control. If an orange channel is assigned, the customs authority needs to carry out an inspection of the goods document (the goods are not checked); If the green channel is assigned, then the goods can pass smoothly. If the result is not positive, the color red is assigned to the merchandise.
  • Physical inspection. When merchandise is “held” (has a red badge), it requires a physical inspection. These inspections can be: container emptying, scanning and positioning.

To prevent the authorities from holding these goods and, consequently, delaying commercial operations, companies can hire the services of a customs agent, because they have extensive knowledge in the matter and can advise clients, issue relevant certificates and carry out a control over the documentation that is required so that the merchandise can leave or enter.



Helia Rocha

I have more than 13 years of experience in the freight forwarding sector and in World Ocean Cargo Ibérica, managing export, import and cross trades shipments, both sea, air and land. Thanks to having attended different international conferences and having worked directly with freight forwarders all over the world, I am familiar with international door to door logistics. Currently in the commercial position within the company and occasionally managing traffic issues.