How using a customs clearance service can benefit you

Are you looking to import or export goods between the UK and the EU post Brexit? Then you probably understand just how time consuming and stressful this process can be unless you complete all the steps in the correct order and allow yourself enough time. Our aim here at DTS Smart Customs is to simplify this process as much as possible for you, whether you are a haulier, freight forwarder, trader or an individual.

This guide explains many of the steps involved in customs clearance, the documents you will need, and how a customs clearance service can benefit you.

Post-Brexit trading

The supply chain is a daunting process for many businesses, regardless of the impact of Covid-19, which has made it even harder for organisations to navigate. Customs clearance is an unavoidable part of moving goods around the world but customs declarations mustn’t be allowed to push businesses to breaking point. Nor, after what has already been a turbulent and uncertain time for many, does anyone wish to see product shortages or the cost of customs clearance to trickle down to the end buyer.

What steps are involved in customs clearance?

When you are looking to move goods into the country, there are a number of specific steps that need to be followed. Because there are lots of factors involved in the process, there are a number of steps and they can all take different amounts of time to complete – it’s best to use a customs clearance agent or service like Smart Customs to help you. The government has helpfully outlined the necessary steps you should follow help ensure your goods to pass customs:

  • You need an EORI number that starts with GB to import goods into England, Wales or Scotland, or, if you move goods to or from Northern Ireland you may need one that starts with XI.

  • Some processes can make clearing customs quicker and easier such as using simplified declaration procedures or deciding if Authorised Economic Operator status is right for you.

  • Do remember the business sending you the goods may need to make an export declaration in their country, and licences or certificates to send goods to the UK.

  • Import declarations include a commodity code to determine the rate of duty you need to pay and if you need an import licence. And you’ll need to include the value of your goods - this helps work out how much duty and VAT you’ll need to pay.

  • It’s possible to pay less or no Customs Duty if the UK has a trade agreement with the country you're importing from. You may also be able to reduce the amount of duty you pay based on what the goods are and what you plan to do with them or to delay sending information about goods or paying Customs Duty.

Different types of goods have different rules and you may need to get licences or certificates if you are importing any of these:

And you’ll need to check how you mark, label and the specific marketing standards for food, plant seeds and manufactured goods. Obviously you can use Smart Customs to help you make the declaration and get your goods through the UK border or manage everything yourself.

A few extra points to remember:

  • If you are an Intrastat business make sure you or your intermediary continues to submit your Intrastat returns.

  • You’ll need your Import VAT Certificate (C79) to reclaim any VAT.

  • If you paid too much Customs Duty or import VAT or rejected the goods, you can claim a refund or ask for a payment to be waived.

  • And if you’ve inadvertently paid too little Customs Duty or import VAT, you must tell HMRC.

Finally, keep records of commercial invoices and any customs paperwork, including your Import VAT Certificate (C79), and if you imported controlled goods, for example firearms, keep any paperwork that shows who owns them.

Essential documentation

As part of these broad steps, you must submit a lot of very specific documents. We recommend that you have these organised before beginning the declaration process because some of them may take longer than you expect to obtain. As a guideline, when you are importing goods to the UK, at the very least you will need:

  • Invoice: You will either require a trade or Proforma document, used to request payments from the committed buyer

  • Preference: EUR1, Form A and a Certificate of Origin are all necessary when you are importing from Europe after Brexit

  • Transportation Documentation: Documents like the AWB, CMR, and CN22/23 will be needed to show the government your transportation activities

  • Licenses and Approvals: for goods like pharmaceuticals and animal and plant products, specific licenses and approvals will be necessary.

If you’d like help, speak to us as Smart Customs makes it easier to identify the paperwork you need and helps you submit your declarations more quickly. If you are managing the customs process alone then we would obviously advise you make copies of all the forms you need - and properly label them on your computer so they are easy to find in the future! No-one wants to make a mistake, forget about or misplace a vital document which could disrupt your import or export declarations, and we all recognise, post-Brexit, there’s a lot of new paperwork. The impact of mistakes could range from delays at ports to fines for failing to meet the rules and regulations.

The benefits of using a customs clearance service

If you’re not already doing so, you might wish to get help with your customs declarations. Some of the benefits can include

  • Money: Customs clearance services can help by reducing the need for you to recruit and retain customs experts, who are an increasing expensive and scarce resource. There’s also the expectation that, particularly a digital solution like Smart Customs which doesn’t ask complex questions or use customs jargon, can help you avoid mistakes. Smart Customs even helps by checking your declaration is ready to go before submission and will raise any issues with you so you’re happy it’s correct.

  • Time: There’s perhaps a lot of truth in the old adage ‘time is money’. A digital customs clearing service should help make customs administration easier for your organisation by speeding up the process through automation and use of technology.

  • Convenience: Most of us will agree that, rules, regulations and customs can quickly become time consuming and stressful. And post-Brexit, the full customs controls between the EU and Great Britain, are new to us and will take time to ‘bed in’. Rather than having to research the whole process and meticulously follow the necessary steps, a customs clearance service is equipped to go through these motions much quicker due to their expertise and experience. They can help relieve some of the pressure and make it more convenient than trying to juggle them, and stay across changes, in-house.

Why choose Smart Customs as your customs clearance service?

Smart Customs from Digital Trader Services has been developed by the Fujitsu led consortium that built and runs one of the largest customs advisory and declarations processing services in Europe. The consortium, supported by the Institute of Export and International Trade and including some of the world's leading customs and trade experts, are working together to transform customs administration.

Our Smart Customs solutions use technologies to facilitate the flow and reduce the ancillary costs of international trade, so you can focus on what really matters - your business. Our starting point with Brexit was to begin by addressing the immediate challenges of the highly integrated nature of trade between Great Britain and the EU, which demands efficient, cost-effective customs administration solutions.

Smart Customs looks to simplify the movement of goods, making it quicker and easier to raise and submit declarations. It’s an easy-to-use portal that lets businesses and logistics service providers to

  • Complete and submit declarations without complex questions or customs jargon

  • Cut your admin time with a smart engine that auto-populates up 75% of data fields

  • Keep track of declarations through our interactive dashboard

  • Easily interface with HMRC and port inventory systems

  • Get the support of a dedicated customer services team

Smart Customs for business helps reduce the worry of customs compliance:

  • Online educational content and customs news helps upskill admin teams

  • Our portal updates to match government requirements

  • And trade and customs experts are on hand to answer customs queries.

Smart Customs for LSPs lessens the burden of customs admin:

  • Makes collaboration easy, capturing customer data online

  • Reduces submission errors with real time data validation

  • Streamlines shipping by grouping consignments based on delivery plans

  • Flexes to match demand from customers

We are happy to talk through your requirements, and help make the processes as smooth as possible. If you have any further questions about customs declarations, or if you would like to know about our other services, then do get in touch with us by calling +44 (0) 203 808 3002 Monday to Friday.