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Guest blog: Understanding the new EU customs rules

When the UK left the EU Customs Union and Single Market, new controls were put in place for businesses moving goods to and from the EU. These new regulations can be tricky to get your head around, but they’re important to follow because otherwise your goods could be delayed.

The tax and customs specialists at Deloitte have provided some top tips to help you navigate these regulation changes. They’re designed to give you a general summary of the key changes and requirements for businesses trading with the EU, and are not specific to any one type of goods or business scenario.

1. Get clued up on customs declarations

As a trader moving goods between GB and the EU, you’ll need to submit a customs declaration when you import or export goods. A customs declaration details the goods you’re importing or exporting.

Businesses in the UK that wish to trade with the EU need to make an export declaration. You can find the details you’ll need for an import declaration in the UK government Border Operating Model (BOM).

Delayed declarations

If your business is importing ‘non-controlled’ goods – such as clothes or electronic devices – from the EU, you may be eligible to delay making customs declarations for up to 6 months (175 days) if the goods meet all the requirements for the Government’s delayed declarations facility. If you wish to use this scheme, you’ll need to keep records of imported goods so you can make your customs declarations at the end of the deferment period.

You’ll need to either get your own Customs Freight Simplified Procedures (CFSP) or Simplified Declaration Procedure authorisation, or find an agent or partner who is authorised and can support you by making these declarations on your behalf.

If you’re a trader importing controlled or excise goods, such as alcohol or tobacco products, you will be required to complete full customs declarations at the point of import – these goods aren’t eligible for delayed declarations.

Export declarations are required on all goods being moved from GB to the EU.

Are there more changes to come?

Yes. From 1 October 2021, goods subject to sanitary and phytosanitary controls will have additional requirements and will require pre-notification documentation and health certification. These rules will apply to imports into GB of products of animal origin (POAO) and all regulated plants and plant products. More information can be found in the Border Operating Model ‘Stage 2: April 2021’ section*.

From 1 January 2022, all UK importers and exporters will need to make customs declarations and pay customs duties if due. The delayed declarations facility will end.

Safety and Security Declarations will be required on all GB imports from the EU. This can be arranged by the haulier or transport provider you use to move your goods.

2. Get set up

To submit a customs declaration, there are a few key things you will need to set up:

    • Sign up for access to the HMRC customs declaration Service
    • Apply for a GB EORI number
      • This is required to trade and must be included on all customs declarations
        • If your business is applying for a GB EORI for the first time, you can get access to the HMRC CDS system at the same time
        • This can take up to 2-3 days
        • You can apply here
        • For businesses moving goods into Northern Ireland, a separate XI EORI Number from HMRC is required
    • Decide how you will pay, and set up a Duty Deferment Account if eligible or look at other payment methods for payment of duties and VAT on import.
    • Make sure products are registered with the appropriate government department, where required. For example, if your business intends to import/export plant or animal-based products, you will need to have registered with the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (DEFRA). Without these registrations you won’t be able to get the health certificates required to move your goods.

3. Gather the information you need to make a declaration

The customs declaration itself has many ‘data elements’ that you must complete. It’s important you have the required information about your goods to be able to complete the declaration successfully. This includes:

    • The key information about your goods and their journey, such as:
      • The origin of the goods (commonly described as the nationality of the goods)
      • The mode of transport
      • The country of dispatch
      • The port of dispatch and the port of arrival
    • You may need to enter extra data to complete a customs declaration, which you can learn more about here.

4. Decide how you’ll submit your customs declarations

You can submit declarations yourself – in house – using a system that will connect with UK Customs systems. Or you can use a third-party agent or intermediary to make a customs declaration on behalf of your business.

5. Decide when you’ll submit your customs declarations

Full import declarations can be made at the time of import. But you’ll need to make sure the customs declaration is made before your goods physically arrive at the UK border.

If eligible, you can use the BOM easement allowing for delayed declarations up to 31 December 2021. There are extra requirements when using this facility, including:

    • Submission of a Simplified Frontier Declaration or make an Entry in the Declarant’s Records at the time of import
    • Submission of a supplementary declaration within six months (175 days) from when the goods were imported. 

6. Other important things to remember

  • Make sure you submit your customs declarations at the right times and within the given deadlines
  • Make sure you’ve met the correct licensing requirements and registrations with all the correct Government bodies are complete for trading specific types of goods
  • Keep records of all your trade activities:
    • It’s a HMRC requirement that you keep customs records for at least four years.
    • Failure to produce your customs records upon request may lead to your business being subject to enforcement action, potential assessments and penalties.
    • You can find more information on record keeping here.

What’s the impact of non-compliance with the new laws and regulations?

Importing from EU into GB

Without a customs declaration for imported goods, goods are likely to be stopped at the border by HMRC.

If you make an import declaration but enter incorrect data, this may be identified in a post-clearance audit undertaken by HMRC, which can result in a tax assessment and in some cases penalties.

Exporting from GB into EU

All processes and documentation will need to be completed before goods can be moved to the country of destination. If these rules and processes are not followed before your goods leave the UK, your goods are likely to be held at the EU port of arrival.


* Please note, since publication of the BOM the Government has delayed the start of Stage 2 to 1 October 2021.
This publication has been written in general terms and we recommend that you obtain professional advice before acting or refraining from action on any of the contents of this publication. Deloitte LLP accepts no liability for any loss occasioned to any person acting or refraining from action as a result of any material in this publication.
Deloitte LLP is a limited liability partnership registered in England and Wales with registered number OC303675 and its registered office at 1 New Street Square, London EC4A 3HQ, United Kingdom.
Deloitte LLP is the United Kingdom affiliate of Deloitte NSE LLP, a member firm of Deloitte Touche Tohmatsu Limited, a UK private company limited by guarantee (“DTTL”). DTTL and each of its member firms are legally separate and independent entities. DTTL and Deloitte NSE LLP do not provide services to clients. Please click here to learn more about our global network of member firms.
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