Looking for a customs agent?

The Brexit transition period has come to an end and a new customs border has been created between the UK and EU. If you are moving goods to or from the UK then you need to ensure that you have all the correct procedures in place.

One of the most important areas that businesses must consider is how to make customs declarations. Customs declarations can be difficult and time consuming to complete. Businesses can make their own customs declarations; however, this is complex and requires specialist skills and software. 

Most businesses use a specialist such as a customs agent, broker, freight forwarder or fast parcel operator to submit import and export customs declarations on their behalf. HMRC publishes a regularly updated list of customs agents and fast parcel operators who may be able to help.

Since 1 January 2021, customs agents can make simplified declarations for you using their own authorisation, so you don’t need to be authorised. They can only do this if:

  • your business is established in the United Kingdom
  • your business imports goods into Great Britain (England, Scotland and Wales)
  • the customs agent has the appropriate authorisation

HMRC’s guidance is clear that if your goods do not have the right paperwork, or if information is incorrect or missing, your goods may be seized, and you may face delays and have to pay extra charges. 

If you are moving goods between Great Britain and Northern Ireland, the free Trader Support Service can help guide you through new processes. Under the Northern Ireland Protocol, all Northern Ireland businesses will continue to have unfettered access to the whole UK market. 

£50m extra funding for Customs Intermediary Grant Scheme

Over the past few months, HMRC has unveiled a package of measures to accelerate the growth of the UK's customs intermediary sector. These announcements included £50 million of new funding to support businesses with recruitment, training and supplying IT equipment to handle customs declarations as the transition period comes to an end on 31 December 2020.

The application process for the £50 million of additional funding opened on 29 July 2020. HMRC, which is running the scheme, is encouraging customs intermediaries (including customs brokers, freight forwarders and express parcel operators) and traders who make their own declarations to take advantage of the funding now. Grants will be issued on a first come, first served basis. Applications will close on 30 June 2021, or earlier if all funding is allocated.

The grant can be used to cover salary costs for new or redeployed staff, up to a limit of £12,000 per person and £3,000 to meet recruitment costs for new employees. This will help businesses recruit new staff and train them ahead of July 2021, when all traders moving goods will have to make declarations.

Prior to the launch of this additional £50 million of funding, HMRC has already invested £34 million which has been used to fund more than 20,000 training courses, nearly 15,000 units of IT and the recruitment of almost 600 new customs agents.

The government also intends to change rules which will remove the financial liability from intermediaries operating on behalf of their clients and to allow parcel operators to continue declaring multiple consignments in a single customs declaration.

Customs declarations for exporters of goods from 1 January 2021

The Brexit transition period is due to end 31 December 2020. The UK and EU have agreed there will not be any further extensions, although with the COVID-19 outbreak nothing appears certain. As things currently stand, no formal trade deal has been reached with the EU. Consequently, it seems likely that the process for exporting goods to the EU will change from 1 January 2021.

Current guidance published by HMRC states that from 1 January 2021, businesses will need to make customs declarations when exporting goods to the EU. These rules currently apply to exporting goods to the rest of the world, including Switzerland, Norway, Iceland and Liechtenstein. Businesses, especially those that only trade with EU, should be making the necessary preparations for how they will trade with the EU next year. Businesses can make customs declarations themselves or hire a third-party such as a courier, freight forwarder or customs agent.

Some important points to bear in mind are as follows:

  1. Make sure you have an EORI number that starts with GB. You will need an Economic Operator Registration and Identification (EORI) number starting with GB to import/export goods from 1 January 2021.
  2. Check the rules for your type of goods. For example, check what import/export licences or certificates you need, check the labelling and marketing standards for food, plant seeds and manufactured goods and check the rules for importing/exporting alcohol, tobacco and certain oils.
  3. Find out if you can charge VAT at 0% on goods exported to the EU.
  4. There are likely to be different rules if you are exporting goods from Northern Ireland to Ireland.

Controls for importing goods from July 2021

As we reported previously, the UK government has confirmed that it will neither accept nor seek any extension to the Brexit transition period which expires on 31 December 2020. The EU has formally accepted this position.

The UK has taken the decision to introduce the new border controls in three stages from 1 January 2021. Controls for importing goods will now apply from July 2021. This means that traders moving goods will have to make declarations at the point of importation and pay relevant tariffs.

HMRC has unveiled a package of measures to accelerate growth of the UK’s customs intermediary sector. This includes £50 million to support businesses with recruitment, training and supplying IT equipment to handle customs declarations.  The government also intends to change rules which will remove the financial liability from intermediaries operating on behalf of their clients and allow parcel operators to continue declaring multiple consignments in a single customs declaration.