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EU suspends tariffs on medical equipment

Following requests from numerous Member States, on 3 April the European Commission (“Commission“) adopted Commission Decision (EU) 2020/491 (“the Decision“), which provides for relief from import duties and VAT for goods imported in the EU to combat the COVID-19 outbreak.  Although the Decision does not include a specific list of covered products, it would likely cover items such as personal protective equipment (e.g., protective spectacles and visors, face shields, mouth-nose-protection equipment, protective garments and gloves), and other items to treat the pandemic, including testing kits, ventilators and other medical equipment. Several Member States had already waived customs duties and VAT for such items.

The Decision allows Member States to grant an exemption from import duties and VAT to imported goods that fulfil the following conditions:

  1. They are intended for (i) distribution free of charge by State organisations, including State bodies, public bodies and other bodies governed by public law or by or on behalf of organisations approved by the competent authorities in the Member States (“State bodies“) to persons affected by or at risk from COVID-19 or involved in combating COVID-19 (“affected persons“); or (ii) are made available free of charge to affected persons while remaining the property of State bodies.
  2. They satisfy certain requirements set out in prior EU legislation allowing import duties and VAT relief in cases of disasters (Council Regulation (EC) No 1186/2009 setting up a Community system of reliefs from customs duty; and Council Directive 2009/132/EC determining the scope of Article 143(b) and (c) of Directive 2006/112/EC as regards exemption from VAT on the final importation of certain goods).
  3. They are imported for release for free circulation by or on behalf of (i) State bodies or (ii) disaster relief agencies to meet their needs during the period they provide disaster relief to affected persons.

The duty relief applies to imports from 30 January 2020 and will be valid until 31 July 2020, unless further extended.

Please contact our team for any questions you may have.