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FAQ
 

What is Customs Clearance?
Why do I need an agent?
How do we Customs clear cargo in other ports?
How long does Customs Clearance take?
What supporting documentation do I require?
Who decides how much import duties and taxes I have to pay?
How do I pay for import duties and taxes
Where can I find further information on Customs rules?
Can I use a Customs agent if I use a freight forwarder for my actual movement?
What are the costs involved in Customs clearance?
What happens after Customs clearance?
How do I check to ensure that my export or import is acceptable to Customs?
I am importing for the first time – How can I check the products I will import are allowed into the EU?
I am a personal importer, how do I find information on whats involved?
I am moving my home furnishings/ immigrating / importing my car, what do I do?
I am importing foodstuffs, is this a problem?
If I use your service can your transport or store my goods?
I need Customs forms to complete, where do I get them from?
I am importing from Europe, do I need an agent?
I need to become VAT registered, how do I do that?
Can I be VAT registered from overseas?



What is Customs Clearance?
Customs Clearance is required for all products which are entering or leaving the EU. Customs clearance is the process for HM Customs & Excise to account for any charges due and to check for documentation and conformity to EU law. Customs also provide agency services to various other government departments for border checks, such as The Forestry Commission for instance.

Why do I need an agent?
Customs agents exist to provide a professional service between HM Customs & Excise and the trade, i.e. importers/exporters. Agents understand the laws applicable, the services and regulations which govern imports and exports within the EU and therefore are best placed to assist. Representations can be made without the need for an agent however it is strongly advised that you should seek to appoint one due to the complexity of the system and even the most basic knowledge required to navigate the government systems.

How do we Customs clear cargo in other ports?
We are based in Sheerness Docks. Throughout the boom in technology over the past decade we have been able to change the way we work, simplifying procedures and lowering costs for the customer. The biggest contributor to this was the remote access to other port community systems around the coasts of the UK from one location. This has been made possible by computer technology, changes in the Customs procedures and the recognised need by various port companies to work with government departments such as Customs and also agents in a step further towards making business almost universal by simplifying it. If this transformation had not occurred we would have 10 different branch offices over the UK having to do the same job.

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How long does Customs Clearance take?
The time taken for Customs clearance can vary from 10 minutes to a few days. The length of time taken depends on the type of product we are handling. Customs recognise that some products require further documentation checks and in some cases actual physical examination to ensure that declarations are correct, on average the service takes 12 hours but most commonly only a few hours and sometimes minutes.
More information can be found on our customs page.

What supporting documentation do I require?
This is dependant on the type of product being shipped. Basic documentation would be :

  • Shipping document ( Bill of Lading )
  • Supplier’s commercial invoice
  • Packing list
  • Certificate of Origin
  • Preference Certificates
  • Health certificates ( for foodstuffs etc )

Who decides how much import duties and taxes I have to pay?
VAT in the UK is currently 17.5%.
Duty is set at various rates depending on the type of product imported. All duty rates are set by Brussels for the EU, and are payable upon free circulation within the EU. Confirmation of the duty rate for your products can be obtained from us and on receipt of specific information we can help classify your products into a particular ‘ commodity code’. This code will apply for your product and will determine how much you will pay in percentage, based on the value of the product. Imports from some countries can also be subject to preferential lower rates which are introduced to encourage trade from that country and at the same time you could be levied with additional duty rates known as ‘ anti dumping’ duty which exists to stop the influx of cheap products known to be produced from that country.

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How do I pay for import duties and taxes?
When we complete a Customs declaration for you we will advise our calculations and how much money is due for Customs charges. Customs now encourage the trade to pay these charges by way of electronic transfer direct to their own bank which is very easy and less time consuming than say producing an actual bankers draft (Customs only accept cleared/approved funds). It is possible to pay by using a company cheque however Customs wait 21 days for it to clear before we can use the funds for clearance. The most common way for frequent importers is to set up a deferment account. Deferment accounts are approved by your own bankers as a guarantee to Customs that you will pay the funds due each month to save the time consuming affair of arranging individual payments each time you have a shipment to import, for details of how to set up a deferment account, please contact us as we shall be happy to help.

Where can I find further information on Customs rules?
Further information on Customs, their rules and regulations, service standards and details of your local Customs office can be found on their website : www.hmce.gov.uk

Can I use a Customs agent if I use a freight forwarder for my actual movement?
Customs agents can be used at any time for your movement. Customs procedures are not restricted by the company actually carrying out your entire transport movement. An example of this is if you use a transport company for your goods but their Customs clearance takes a long time or is inefficient, you can use an outside company to arrange this for you, such as our selves.

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What are the costs involved in Customs clearance?
Considering the time and expertise involved to successfully and professionally carry out the service, Customs clearance is a relatively cost effective service. It is dependant heavily on the type of products and frequency at which they are imported as some products are more time consuming than others. There are direct costs which are invoiced to us from third parties which we have to pay on your behalf and generally these charges are also included in our actual service fee.

What happens after Customs clearance?

Once we have advised you of Customs clearance we are then in a position to give you copies of all documentation raised on your behalf in the form of official documents and we shall also return any original documentation used that Customs did not require and forward our invoice for payment. After the clearance it is then time to arrange the delivery of your products, a service which we also provide. If you are a VAT registered company, Customs will automatically produce a form C79 each month detailing your monthly VAT spend. This for is then used in your accounts to reclaim any VAT back from Customs in your VAT returns, the C79 will be sent to the importer directly, not to us.

How do I check to ensure that my export or import is acceptable to Customs?
There are certain commodities which cannot be legally imported into the EU by unauthorised persons, such as firearms and explosives for example. There is generally no problem with regular everyday items however some items which may seem normal to you on a daily basis may have very strict rules for import and export, foodstuffs being one of the most popular which is regulated in this fashion. If in any doubt about whether your products are allowed into the EU then you should check with us for confirmation or clarification prior to shipment. One other important issue here is to also check that there are no further financial penalties for importing a product, ie additional duties etc which would deem your products unviable commercially.

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I am importing for the first time – How can I check the products I will import are allowed into the EU?
Details of restricted products and commodities can be found on the Customs website : www.hmce.gov.uk or alternatively, please check with us.

I am moving my home furnishings/ immigrating / importing my car, what do I do?
In the EU we have specific rules for persons transferring residence from outside . There are certain conditions which should be met to obtain VAT and duty relief at import which applies to personal effects and possessions. There are also specific forms which require completion with original signatures so if you are planning a move you should check with us regarding the documents and information required before making any plans to import items which belong to you. Imports of motor cars also attract rules and regulations which again are dependant on how long you have owned the vehicle for and what your intentions are for it when you arrive. Also other regulations which are not Customs related need to be addressed and checked for road compliance and registration for example, these things can be extremely costly.

I am importing foodstuffs, is this a problem?
Commercially most foodstuffs are not a problem as long as they have satisfactory official documentation. Not all foodstuffs require back up documents but most do. The most common is the Phytosanitary Certificate which is issued to international food departments to show that foodstuffs are of good quality and fit for human consumption and distribution within the EU for later resale which meets our standards. These rules also strictly apply to very small amounts which are imported personally along with your personal belongings for instance, if in doubt, check prior to shipment.

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If I use your service can you transport or store my goods?
Yes. We have storage facilities at various locations in the UK as well as our own warehouse based in Sheerness. This warehouse is also classed as a Freezone bonded area and as such we can store products for any length of time without having to make VAT and duty payments to Customs until such time as you require the goods. We can store complete container loads of products down to single pallets where required. As for transportation we can carryout varying forms of transport from small part loads to full truck loads, oversize items and temperature controlled distribution, if it can be carried by truck ship or rail, we can help.

I need Customs forms to complete, where do I get them from?
You can download copies of any documentation you require for import and export from the Custom Forms page. We have listed the most common forms however should you not find what you are looking for there is a link to the full catalogue of forms and publications.

I am importing from Europe, do I need an agent?
Agents are generally not required for imports from within the EU. VAT is accounted for under the intra-stat scheme which is generally carried out by importers directly. For further information on intra-stat, please visit www.hmce.gov.uk

I need to become VAT registered, how do I do that?
If you intend to import or export on a regular basis you will need to become VAT registered. Details of how to become registered can be obtained from your local VAT office and details of your local office can be found in your phonebook under ‘ VAT’.

Can I be VAT registered from overseas?
If you are an international company yet wish to become VAT registered to make imports into the UK/EU you can apply for overseas registration, for details of how to do this, please contact us directly for information on how to do this.

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