Whether a deal is agreed with the EU or not, from 1st January 2021, there will be changes to import and export procedures for goods and services going to the EU (and the rest of the world) that businesses need to be aware of.  We focus on two particular areas that firms need to be aware of and make preparations for:

  • Customs Declarations
  • Customs Duties and VAT


Customs Declarations

Customs declarations provide government authorities with information about goods being imported and exported. These typically include information about the type of goods, transport, customs value and any applicable tariffs or duties. HMRC anticipate approximately 270 million additional customs declarations each year from UK companies for the import of EU goods (with a similar number expected on the EU side of the border).

Most customs declarations are completed by customs agents (private companies specialising in customs procedures) on behalf of traders. They are usually submitted electronically using the Customs Handling Import and Export Freight (CHIEF) system in the UK.



1. Customs Declaration and Imports from the EU to the UK?

From January 2021: Full declarations will be required for controlled goods (e.g. excise goods like tobacco and alcohol).

For standard goods (most goods), simplified customs requirements will be in place from January. Traders will have to keep sufficient records of their imports, but will be able to defer full customs declarations until 1 July 2021 (although they may submit customs declarations before if they wish).

From July 2021: Full customs declarations will need to be made at the time of import for all goods. Some traders may be eligible for simplified declaration procedures.



Customs Declarations and Exports from the UK to the EU?

From January 2021: Full customs declarations (UK export declarations and EU import declarations) will be required.



1. Customs Duties (Tariffs) and VAT

Tariffs (a tax on imports and exports) may be payable on goods traded between GB and the EU. Even if a deal providing for zero tariffs is agreed, some goods will still be subject to tariffs because importers choose not to, or are unable to, comply with preferential rules of origin requirements. The tariffs applicable to GB imports are outlined in the UK Global Tariff, while those payable on EU imports from GB are outlined in the Union Customs Code.

Import VAT will also payable on relevant goods.



Customs Duties (Tariffs) and VAT – Imports from the EU to the UK

From January 2021: If applicable, tariffs will be payable, but it will be possible to defer payment until customs declarations are made (no later than July 2021). If applicable, import VAT will be payable, although many traders will be able to defer payment.

From July 2021: Any applicable tariffs will be payable on import, although many traders are eligible to defer payments.



Customs Duties (Tariffs) and VAT – Exports from the UK to the EU

January 2021: If applicable, tariffs and import VAT will be payable at the time of import, unless traders are eligible to defer payments.

In summary, a Customs Declaration can be complicated and a right first-time approach to completing them accurately is essential to prevent delays and extra costs for your business (not to mention dissatisfied customers and consumers). Likewise, to ensure good cost and margin control, it will be vital to ensure that your business is fully aware of any VAT and tariffs that may be associated with the import and export of goods.



  • To find out more about our Customs Declarations Service, click here
  • To get your business EU-Exit ready, click here


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