The customs code prescribes obligations for the taxpayer, the non-compliance of which constitutes offenses. These obligations are the same for most customs regimes, whether they are simple suspensive regimes or specific to import or export.


The taxpayer’s obligations begin as soon as the merchandise is on its way to the border.

Paragraph 1: The obligation to convey and present goods to customs

The law obliges every importer and exporter to promptly convey their merchandise to the customs office designated by the customs authorities or to any other location approved by them. To ensure compliance with this obligation, the customs code provides a set of formalities to be fulfilled even before the arrival of the merchandise at the customs office. Any failure to meet this obligation constitutes an act of smuggling.

Thus, in each country, legal routes are established for the transportation of goods.

Any importation outside of these routes is presumed to be smuggling. Likewise, it is important to know the customs offices and their specialties. Not all offices are competent to handle all types of traffic; for example, there are customs offices exclusively specialized for hydrocarbons, others for minerals… It should also be noted that not all ports or airports handle customs clearance formalities. Some are not equipped with customs offices and therefore cannot receive goods from abroad.

Goods arriving at the customs office or any other location designated or approved by the customs authorities must be presented to customs by the person who brought them into the territory or, where applicable, by the person responsible for their transportation.

Paragraph 2: The obligation of summary declaration and detailed declaration of goods.

The obligation to present goods to customs is accompanied by another imperative formality: customs clearance, which is materialized by the filing of the summary declaration.

The summary declaration consists of all documents accompanying the goods. Its content must allow for the identification of the goods and, to this end, mention their nature, quantity, brand, etc.

Generally, any transport document (manifest, bill of lading, waybill) can be submitted to serve as a summary declaration.

Operators are also obliged to assign a customs destination to the goods. The importer or exporter fulfills this obligation by submitting a detailed declaration. When the goods have been subject to a summary declaration, the customs code prescribes that a customs destination (customs regime) be assigned to them within a maximum period of fifteen (15) days from the date of filing the summary declaration.

Exemption from duties and taxes on the goods does not exempt the importer or exporter from this obligation.

The detailed declaration is the act (made in the form prescribed by customs), by which the importer or exporter indicates the customs regime to be assigned to the goods and communicates the elements required by customs for the application of this regime.

Failure to comply with this obligation constitutes an offense. The customs code of Benin states in Article 459: Any act of smuggling as well as any act of importation or exportation without declaration is punishable by imprisonment for a term of six (06) months to two (02) years and a fine ranging from one (01) to two (02) times the value of the fraudulent object. Confiscation of the fraudulent object, means of transport, and objects used to conceal the fraud is also pronounced.

These penalties are even more severe when it comes to offenses committed by organized gangs or relating to dangerous goods, public health, morality, public safety, or the environment.


It is not enough to submit a detailed declaration; it must also be complete, correct, and in accordance with the goods.

Paragraph 1: The obligation of correct declaration of goods and payment of duties.

False declarations are constituted by detailed declarations which, although applicable to the goods presented, are marred by inaccuracies or omissions in the statements, particularly regarding the tariff classification, origin, and customs value of the goods.

Parcels exceeding the declared number are deemed to have been imported or exported without declaration.

The release of goods is not automatic; it is subject either to the payment of duties and taxes, or to their deposit, or to the submission of a guarantee.

In principle, duties and taxes assessed by the customs service are payable in cash, by any means, including electronic methods. But an easing has been made to this rule: the removal credit, which allows the beneficiary to immediately dispose of their goods while offering them facilities for settling their debt.


This text is an extract from the book “BETTER KNOW CUSTOMS” written by Idrissou IMOROU.

We invite you to read the following article “THE CUSTOMS DECLARATION“.

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