French Customs in a few facts and figures
French Customs throughout history
Customs is a centuries’ old administration whose action is key for France, the safety and security of the French. During the 17th Century, the farmers-general leased the right to collect customs duties and paid to the Royal Treasury a sum fixed in their lease. They collected the duties on their own behalf. At that time, one of the most unpopular taxes was the salt tax (la Gabelle in French).
The so-called ‘modern’ customs administration was born after the French Revolution. The internal borders were abolished and the Ferme Générale was nationalised in 1791. In 1801, Bonaparte created the Ministry of Commerce and Manufacture to which customs was attached. He established the post of Director General for Customs.
During the 19th Century, customs officers’ uniforms gradually took shape. They sported a red madder stripe, the distinctive mark of an elite corps.
Besides its time-honoured role of levying duties for tax purposes is common knowledge, French customs was on gradual diversification during the 20th Century, so that it can tackle new areas of growing importance for citizens, i. e. the economy, and the fight against fraud.
Accordingly, customs has been reforming its system of checks on intra-EU borders. For the past 6 years, it has also been implementing changes in each of the areas in which it operates.
A wide variety of new responsibilities have been entrusted to customs since 1993 and the establishment of the Single Market, e.g. indirect taxes, domestic aid management for agriculture, fruit and vegetable withdrawal operations, green taxation, Schengen border controls, and security checkpoints on the fixed Channel link, to mention but a few.
Today customs has a threefold mission. Its foremost component is taxation since customs collects some 13% of State revenue every year and contributes to the funding of the EU budget, as do its European counterparts.
As an extension of this task, customs plays an economic role. Based on international trade rules, customs regulates trade flows through business-friendly procedures with three objects in view, e.g. fluidity, safety, and quality.
Customs is also in charge of protecting the domestic and European environment and of combating fraud and large-scale international trafficking. It is also responsible for safeguarding domestic and EU economic and financial interests (mobilising against the scourge of counterfeit goods, taking effective action against CAP fraud, and so on).
French Customs’ Organization
As of January 1, 2007, customs had a staff of 18,836 (36% of the workforce are women) scattered across mainland and overseas France.
Customs operational departments are divided into 2 branches : i) Commercial Transactions (i.e. 54% of customs’ workers) in charge of goods clearance and indirect taxes, and ii) Surveillance (46%) in charge of monitoring people, goods in transit and means of transport.
- 12 interregions, 39 regional directorates, and 4 regional coastguard directorates,
- 43 regional tax collection offices, 261 customs offices, 60 wine growing centres,
302 surveillance brigades (smuggling/trafficking prevention, passenger processing, etc.), including 238 land brigades and 64 sea brigades.
6 departments with national jurisdiction:
1) The National Directorate for Recruitment and Vocational Training (DNRFP) is responsible for implementing the policy on recruitment and basic vocational and advanced in-service training for all the customs staff (3 schools at all).
2) The Customs IT Centre (CID) is responsible for developing, maintaining, and running the processing software for customs clearance and excise operations and for developing the customs administration’s computer applications.
3) The National Directorate for Foreign Trade Statistics (DNSCE) compiles and publishes foreign-trade and balance-of-trade statistics and undertakes commissioned statistical work for businesses.
4) The National Customs Intelligence and Investigations Directorate (DNRED), specialising in serious fraud, operates throughout French customs territory (metropolitan France and French overseas départements).
5) The National Judicial Customs Department (SNDJ) headed by a magistrate is staffed by “judicial customs officers”.
6) The joint department of laboratories (service commun des laboratoires, SCL).
French Customs’ Equipment
- Vehicle fleet: 2,957 vehicles and 343 motorcycles.
- Marine fleet: 2 forty-three-meter coastguard patrol boats, recently commissioned on the Atlantic and Channel-North sea maritime facades, 20 nineteen to thirty-two-meter coastguard launches, 16 ten to fourteen-meter close-surveillance launches in charge of patrolling the coastal approach up to 24 miles offshore, 3 training vessels.
- Air fleet: 12 twin-engine planes equipped to monitor approaches to territorial waters up to 200 nautical miles away (2 are equipped with a Polmar system for remote marine pollution detection), 5 new generation helicopters with a 12 nautical mile flight range (zone of the territorial waters), to detect suspicious vessels and guide coastguard launches to their location so the vessels can be controlled.
- Detection equipment: 17 particle detectors, 2 mobile scanning vehicles, 79 density meters, 1 X-ray machine for containers, 48 radioactivity detectors, 64 X-ray machines for customs/safety inspections of hold luggage.
In addition, 252 dog-handler teams assigned to drug and explosive detection, 224 motorcycle officers, 169 pilots and flight engineers, 615 seamen.
French Customs’ Activity in 2007
French customs filed 102,471 reports, and significant results were recorded:
- 4,600,000 counterfeit products
- 49.7 tons of narcotics
- 202 tons of tobacco and cigarettes
- 25,000 specimens of endangered species
- 1,200 works of art
- 5,991 weapons
Customs aircraft observed 283 instances of pollution at sea.
During the 2007 campaign, controlling safety standards, more than 1.6 million items were controlled by customs and 187 samples were analysed (43% of them were dangerous for consumers).
Page mise à jour le 25/07/2008 par BIC et service tarduction du ministère