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General arrangements for the holding and movement of products subject to excise duty

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General arrangements for the holding and movement of products subject to excise duty

This directive establishes common arrangements for products subject to excise duty in order to guarantee their free circulation and therefore the proper functioning of the internal market of the European Union (EU).


Council Directive 2008/118/EC of 16 December 2008 concerning the general arrangements for excise duty and repealing Directive 92/12/EEC [See amending act(s)].


This directive establishes the general arrangements for excise duties which affect the consumption of:

These products are subject to excise duties at the time of:

  • their production, including, where applicable, their extraction, within the European Union (EU);
  • their importation into the EU.

On condition that they do not give rise to formalities on the crossing of frontiers within the EU, EU countries may also levy taxes on:

  • products other than excise goods;
  • the supply of services, including those relating to excise goods, which cannot be characterised as turnover taxes.

This directive applies to the territory of the EU with the exception of certain territories such as:

  • the Canary Islands;
  • the French overseas departments;
  • the Åland Islands;
  • the Channel Islands.

Chargeability, reimbursement, exemption

Excise duties are chargeable at the time of release for consumption in the EU country concerned. The person liable to pay the excise duty is generally the authorised warehouse keeper or the registered consignee.

EU countries may remit or refund excise duty on excise goods which have been released for consumption. EU countries are free to fix the relevant conditions, so long as the result does not create a new class of exemption (see next paragraph).

Excise goods are exempted from payment of excise duty where they are intended to be used:

  • in the context of diplomatic or consular relations;
  • by international organisations;
  • by the armed forces of a State;
  • by the British armed forces stationed in Cyprus;
  • under an agreement concluded with non-EU countries or international organisations.

EU countries may also exempt from payment of excise duty excise goods supplied by tax-free shops which are carried away in the personal luggage of travellers to a non-EU country by flight or sea-crossing.

Production, processing and holding

The rules concerning the production, processing and holding of excise goods are determined by each EU country. These operations, where the excise duty has not yet been paid, must take place in a tax warehouse .

Movement of excise goods under suspension of excise duty

Excise goods may be moved under a duty suspension arrangement within the EU, from a tax warehouse or from a place of importation to another tax warehouse, an authorised consignee , a place of exportation from the EU or a beneficiary of the exemption referred to above (diplomatic or consular relations, international organisations, armed forces, etc.). A movement of excise goods must in principle take place under cover of an electronic administrative document.

The competent authorities of the EU country of dispatch may request from the authorised warehouse keeper or registered consignor a guarantee which covers the risks inherent in the movement under suspension of excise duty. In principle the guarantee can be provided by another party

Movements and taxation of excise goods after release for consumption

Excise duties may be charged only in the EU country in which the goods are acquired by a private individual for his own personal use and transported from one EU country to another by him. To determine whether the excise goods are intended for a private individual, EU countries take account of:

  • the commercial status of the holder of the goods;
  • the place where the goods are located;
  • any document relating to the goods;
  • the nature of the goods;
  • the quantity of the goods.

Where excise goods intended for consumption in an EU country are held for commercial purposes in another EU country, the goods are subject to the excise duties of the latter country. Excise duties paid in the first EU country may be reimbursed.

In the case of distance selling from one EU country to another, the vendor or his agent must pay excise duty in the EU country of destination.

EU countries may require that excise goods carry tax markings or national identification marks.

Directive 2008/118/EC repeals Directive 92/12/EC from 1 April 2010.



Entry into force

Deadline for transposition in the Member States

Official Journal

Directive 2008/118/EC



OJ L 9 of 14.1.2009

Amending act(s)

Entry into force

Deadline for transposition in the Member States

Official Journal

Directive 2010/12/EU



OJ L 50 of 27.2.2010

Directive 2013/61/EU



OJ L 353 of 28.12.2013

Last updated: 17.06.2014