The European Commission Directorate General of Taxation and Customs Union has developed, also upon request by the Italian Customs Administration, an explanatory document showing the benefits which carriers, freight forwarders and customs agents may derive from obtaining Community AEO certificates. It is evident that such benefits will be recognised on the basis of the type of certificate issued as well as the level of responsibility requested and ensured by AEOs upon customs formalities, customs operations and in the overall management of their commercial business.

As already clarified in the introduction to the Authorised Economic Operator posted on this Web page, the AEO status is not mandatory and depends on the type of status applied for by the economic operator and the relevant operational conditions verified.

The explanatory document highlights that economic operators are not obliged to require their business partners to obtain an AEO status. Therefore, they will not be unreasonably disadvantaged if their business partners are not AEOs or part of their customs operations are performed by customs agents not having an AEO status. Actually, any AEOs are only responsible for their part in the supply chain and for the goods they handle, although the security measures applied by all their business partners are taken into account to ensure security.

Given the above, the Customs Administration will look into the position of each applicant and their role in the international supply chain during a targeted audit, whereby available evidence and information will be examined as well as whether specific conditions are in place, the type of certificate applied for, and compliance with customs and security requirements.

Finally, the Community document is a useful reference for users and Customs Administrations of Member States but should be taken as an unbinding guideline tool by Customs Administrations, which should take into account any case-by-case differences yet assuring a homogenous final decision which should be consistent with the interpretation given in similar cases by other Member States.

In addition, please note that the cases included in the Community document may be integrated by the European Commission with other practical examples which could lead to a harmonised interpretation of the procedure for granting AEO status.