International trade, customs, and export controls advisory

How can companies best navigate an ever-shifting trade landscape to get business done? PwC helps clients to go beyond compliance and raise control over their supply chain.

Why does international trade matter?

In a continuously evolving international context, the focus on Customs and International trade compliance is more than ever key. 

Businesses must learn to evolve in a fast-changing legal and tax landscape during an unstable political climate, while at the same time navigating an increasingly digitized working environment. Companies need to be ready to adjust to change and reduce the hit on their supply chains. 

Customs and International Trade Compliance does not only represent a compliance risk, but as well a source of optimisation opportunities, beginning from customs duty burden reduction to logistics rationalisation. More than ever, Customs and International Trade holds a key position in each step of a company’s value chain.

What do we offer?

PwC has a dedicated international team and network with an extensive experience in the field of International trade compliance -  Customs, Excise, Export controls and Sanctions. We are subject matter experts from various industries, government and legal backgrounds. 

In addition to the core International Trade  offerings, PwC has an all-encompassing approach, integrating our expertise in VAT and Transfer Pricing to obtain the optimal results for our clients. 

Our full trade consulting capability arises from combining the international trade technical depth with the experience of our colleagues in Advisory, M&A and Assurance teams.  

To assist companies, our team relies on 5 core competencies. Below, each of these competencies is explained with an indication of the type of services we can provide. 



The optimisation of the customs pillars and use of specific customs regimes and simplifications can reduce the administrative burden and avoid unnecessary duty payments. 

The three key pillars customs compliance is structured around are :

  • Classification, 

  • Origin,

  • Valuation

These pillars are the basis to determine the customs duties, excise and VAT to be paid as well as any measures that can apply to the transaction. The incorrect determination of these elements will lead to compliance risks (e.g. underpayment of duties and VAT).

The optimisation of the customs pillars and use of specific customs regimes and simplifications can reduce the administrative burden and avoid unnecessary duty payments, for instance when raw materials are imported with the intention to export the finished products. 

In Customs advisory we guide you to the most appropriate solution related to customs licenses and customs compliance to optimize a company’s supply chain and distribution channels. 

Additionally, PwC offers on-site (interim) support to support its customers closer to their business premises in this framework. 


Excise duties are a consumption tax on the use of specific products: alcoholic beverages, manufactured tobacco and energy products. These products are regulated at an EU level. At a Belgian level coffee and non-alcoholic drinks are additional products that are subject to national excise duties. Excise is characterized by a complex legal framework where common EU provisions (Directives) are intermingled with national legislation. Navigating these rules and ensuring compliance can be difficult. 

PwC can help with: 

  • a Strategic analysis of the impact excise rules has on your companies operations. This would help you navigate towards the most efficient approach and opportunities to reduce risks related to excise. 

  • Excise authorizations and licenses. If you need to transform, produce, store or move excise goods in the EU, you can apply for different licenses to enable duty suspension. Depending on your position within the good’s supply chain, another layer of authorizations will be required. PwC is able to provide you with the best advice or compliance support concerning excise authorizations and licenses based on long and outstanding expertise in this field. 

ESG and the energy transition

Excises are a typical instrument to change behaviour in the consumption patterns and as such, are key in the ESG agenda. Significant revenues are currently linked to the use of combustion fuel where the electrification has a big impact. 

Different environment of health taxes such packaging taxes and recycling schemes are based on excise duty principles.


Trade Regulatory, Export Controls and Sanctions

International trade involves a broad spectrum of regulatory controls. Businesses must learn to evolve and adapt in a fast-changing regulatory landscape during an unstable political climate. 

  • Export controls and Sanctions

Recent world events including the unwarranted invasion of Russia on Ukraine, the trade wars and increased public attention brought the export controls and sanctions discussion to the forefront of companies and government’s agendas. 

Our dedicated specialists can guide you towards compliant business operations with export controls and sanctions requirements (including US extraterritorial control applicability). The team can cover full scope of obligations related to your: 

- Products: analysing portfolio to identify risk areas, dual use and items that have a potential to be used for military purposes, dual use code classification, product master data management, etc.

- Markets: guidance on the actual application of the country/ regions sanctions on your products and operations

- Business partners: screening against sanctions lists, ownership and control investigations, analysis of applicability of the sanctions on your operations

- End use: identify compliance red flags within your supply/value chains and training of the business to manage risks

  • ESG-regulations

With ESG on the agenda, more and more controls are expected and will be triggered automatically at the border when importing or exporting products, by example timber, deforestation, forced labour, CBAM, and others. PwC can help you identifying the impact on your companies operations and support you with fulfilling the obligations. 

  • Market access

With the Market Surveillance Regulation active as of June 2021, the market controls of (non-food) products has been moved to the border for more than 70 pieces of legislation (import only). It is of high importance that products imported into the EU and circulating on the EU market meet all EU regulatory standards concerning safety and consumer protection. 

Trade Governance and Programs

Having an appropriate and right-sized compliance program and international organisation is a prerequisite and enabler to fully tap into the market potential, both activity wise and geographically. Good customs governance enables companies to tackle challenges related to Customs, Excise and Export controls. An efficient framework will not only improve your relationship with the customs authorities, it can also be the source of financial savings and reduced administrative burden. 

PwC can help with: 

  • defining the optimal trade organisation supported by appropriate policies and processes

  • preparing your company to apply for AEO certificates

  • building and Internal Compliance Programme to manage export controls and sanctions obligations

  • conciliating risk management, governance and legal requirements through a tax control framework

  • keeping you competitive and updated  by continuous Learning programs

  • Target operating models: We help you to optimize, reorganise  and  standardise your customs operations from a global point of view

Trade Automation

Trade automation enables businesses to manage trade compliance complexities and gain insights into key areas of trade compliance risks and customs planning opportunities. EU Authorities use multiple systems for declarations, tracking the movements of goods etc. This is driven by the MASP of the Commission (Multi Annual Strategic Plan) and will lead to a lot of changes in the coming years. Common systems are PLDA (import and export in Belgium), NCTS (transit movements) and EMCS (Movement of Excise goods).

Our team can support your trade automation journey with: 

  • Support you in your ERP transformation journey to cover trade fundamentals. The objective is to build a robust architecture that creates a strong baseline for current and future enhancements related to data, processes, organization and systems, as well as visibility and transparency into trade operations.

  • Implement trade management solutions (including SAP GTS) covering Product classification, Export controls and Sanctions requirements, Customs filing, Special Customs procedures and Trade preference management. The combination of our technical and regulatory expertise helps to get the most out of the system.

  • Bring solutions to make customs data visible and to analyse, process and consolidate data in view corrective actions such as duty refunds.

Many businesses will soon be moving to new Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP) systems. Make sure that tax compliance doesn’t get left behind in the planning!