On 20 March 2020, the European Commission announced that it intends to introduce exemptions from customs duty and import VAT for “protective equipment, other relevant medical devices or equipment in the context of the COVID-19 outbreak“, following a request from the Italian government.

Relief is to be granted under provisions of the EU’s customs and import VAT legislation granting relief for items “for the benefit of disaster victims”, where they are to be made available for free to disaster victims or used by disaster relief agencies.  Relief will be available to state-run organisations, and other approved charitable or philanthropic organisations.

The relief is subject to a formal Decision of the Commission, which is currently being prepared.  Pending the Decision, Member States that are affected by the disaster are able to authorise the suspension of duty and VAT for items in scope provided that importers give assurances that they will pay duty and VAT if relief is not granted.

We expect the Commission to issue its formal Decision in the coming days.