Frequent Questions Answered - Customs
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 Revenue & Customs[ HMRC ] to account for any charges
due and to check for documentation and conformity to UK/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 HMRC and the trade,
i.e. importers/exporters. Agents understand the laws applicable, the services and regulations which
govern imports and exports within the UK 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. Throughout the boom in technology 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.
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.
What supporting documentation do I require?
This is dependent on the type of product being shipped. Basic documentation would be :
Shipping document ( Bill of Lading )
Supplier’s commercial invoice
Certificate of Origin
Health certificates ( for foodstuffs etc )
Who decides how much import duties and taxes I have to pay?
VAT in the UK is currently 20%.
Duty is set at various rates depending on the type of product imported and are payable upon free circulation within the UK. 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.
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 here.
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 us.
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 dependent 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 populate your CDS dashboard with 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.
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 UK 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 UK 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.
I am importing for the first time – How can I check the products I will import are allowed into the UK?
Details of restricted products and commodities can be found on the HMRC website or alternatively, please check with us.
I am moving my home furnishings/ immigrating / importing my car, what do I do?
In the UK 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. Read more on our Moving Home page.
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 UK 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.
If I use your service can you transport or store my goods?
Yes. We have storage facilities at various locations in the UK.
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?
Most forms are now online and must be completed online. Contact us, we can let you know which is the correct form required and where to find it.
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’.
EORI registration will be required for VAT registered businesses, the application form can be found on the here.
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 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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