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Customs Audits

If your trading activities include imports, exports or both, you could at any time be subject to a customs audit. The main purpose of the audit is to target the under-declaring of duty, import VAT and other irregularities. Errors made could result in serious fines, or worse!

Businesses operating in the UK must comply with UK Law customs regulations which are overseen by HMRC. 

Businesses should ensure that there are written procedures in place detailing the processes for each department of company. The procedures must in place to establish the correct data for import and export declarations and businesses are expected to have competent, skilled and educated staff undertaking customs and international trade activities. 

If your business uses third parties, i.e. intermediaries such as freight forwarders or clearing agents to make customs declarations, the business on behalf of whom the declaration is made is legally liable for the accuracy of the information provided.

Businesses must be able to easily and clearly identify all goods that are imported, exported and moved around the UK. They must also understand the main areas of compliance relating to the different customs matters relevant to their own international trade activities. 

Customs regulations must be taken seriously and if a business cannot satisfy HMRC that they meet the compliance criteria it could result in customs civil penalties being levied, supply chain delays due to increased inspections, have certain customs simplifications and duty relief benefits withdrawn and a demand issued for the payment of additional customs duties. If an error is made with intent to defraud HMRC they are classed as criminal offences and are subject to criminal investigations and prison sentences.

The main areas of compliance with regard to customs declarations are:

•    import customs declarations
•    tariff classification (ie commodity codes)
•    valuation of goods at import and export
•    declarations of origin of the goods
•    issuing preference statements and/or claiming preferential duty at import
•    the use of special procedures, such as inward and outward processing relief
•    sufficient evidence of export to support zero-rating supplies under the VAT regulations.

In general terms, customs compliance includes areas such as VAT, PAYE, corporation tax, etc.

Customs Audits
Customs audits vary and may be as simple as a “desk” audit where HMRC will send an email requesting further information or supporting customs and/or commercial evidence for a particular import or export shipment. A customs audit visit will either be a general review of the company’s international trade activities, be focussed on imports or exports or be related to a specific customs measure such as preferential trade or use of a customs special procedure. It is essential to hold adequate records to support all enquiries.

How can Essex Chambers help?


Trade Expert Training: We have a range of Trade Expert courses designed to cover all areas of International Trade to help ensure your staff are adequately trained in all the procedures required to be customs compliant. All our Trade Expert course are British Chambers of Commerce accredited.

View our ranges of course HERE

Our Diagnostic supply Chain & Customs Health Check has been designed around the current UK Customs Audit checks for companies involved in Manufacturing / Wholesale & Retail. Designed like an App we will go through key stages of the following for your business :

  • Import procedures
  • Export Procedures
  • Customs Procedures
  • Supply Chain
  • Customs Valuation
  • Incoterms
  • Commodity Codes
  • Origin
  • Freight
  • Returns
  • Samples
  • C88/SAD/CDS Form

Our experts will look at every aspect and go through your Procedures and Standard Operating Procedures (SOPS). 

Available both virtually or in house, you will receive a full report of our findings and help and assistance on moving forward.

Contact us for more information

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