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

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



Directive 2008/118/EC — general arrangements for excise duty


It introduces arrangements for products subject to excise duty in order to guarantee their free circulation and therefore the proper functioning of the EU’s single market.


This directive establishes the general arrangements for excise duties which apply to:

These products are subject to excise duties when:

  • they are produced, including, where applicable, their extraction, within the EU;
  • they are imported into the EU.

As long as they do not give rise to cross-border formalities within the EU, EU countries may also apply 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 some exceptions, 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;
  • are free to fix the relevant conditions, included their tax rates, as long as
    • the taxes are higher than the rates set by the EU
    • this 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 an EU country;
  • 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 in the personal luggage of travellers to a non-EU country by flight or sea-crossing.

Production, processing and holding

Each EU country sets rules concerning the production, processing and holding of excise goods. Where the excise duty has not yet been paid, these 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 as specified in Regulation (EC) No 684/2009, most recently amended by Regulation (EU) 2018/503.

The competent authorities of the EU country of dispatch may ask the authorised warehouse keeper or registered consignor for 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 on goods acquired by a private individual for his or her own personal use, and transported from one EU country to another by him or her, may be charged only in the EU country in which the goods are acquired. 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.


It has applied since 15 January 2009 and had to become law in the EU countries by 1 January 2010.


For more information, see:


Council Directive 2008/118/EC of 16 December 2008 concerning the general arrangements for excise duty and repealing Directive 92/12/EEC (OJ L 9, 14.1.2009, pp. 12-30)

Successive amendments and changes to Directive 2008/118/EC have been incorporated in the original text. This consolidated version is of documentary value only.


Commission Regulation (EC) No 684/2009 of 24 July 2009 implementing Council Directive 2008/118/EC as regards the computerised procedures for the movement of excise goods under suspension of excise duty (OJ L 197, 29.7.2009, pp. 24-64)

See consolidated version.

last update 18.01.2019