What Customs duty issues need to be considered?

Customs duty and customs unions have regularly been in the headlines.  Under current rules, goods moving between the UK and the EU are not subject to customs duties, declarations or routine interventions.  If the UK leaves the EU and becomes a non-EU ‘third’ country, then customs declarations, processes and tariffs will be applicable, unless a future arrangement is agreed to mitigate these.

There could be significant change for businesses dealing with customs duty and procedures.  However, the continued uncertainty surrounding the UK-EU negotiations means it is not yet possible to establish exactly what the scale of impact may be.

  • If there is a transition period, there may be little initial change. 
  • If the Ireland / Northern Ireland backstop is triggered, it is likely that little will change if the rest of the UK, Great Britain, stays in the proposed single customs territory. 
  • If there is ‘no-deal’ there may be swift and wide-reaching change.
  • If there is a deal that involves leaving a customs union there are likely to be significant changes – this could include a free trade agreement.

We highlight below many of the aspects that need to be considered.  This is not an exhaustive list but work in progress. If you have further aspects to include please contact technical [at] ciot.org.uk.

‘No-deal’ (and future deal?) preparations

In the event of a ‘no deal’ Brexit, goods traded between the UK from the EU will be subject to the same requirements as third country goods, after 11pm on 29 March 2019.  This includes, where required, the payment of duty.  UK rates of duty have not yet been published.

The government has published a variety of information about customs in the event of there being no Withdrawal Agreement:  Customs, excise, VAT and regulatory changes you need to know about if there is no deal and No deal step by step guide importing and No deal step by step guide exporting and Trading with the EU if there’s no deal.

Much of this could be relevant for other types of deals also.

In December 2018, HMRC advised that businesses need to take the following actions:

  1. Register for a UK Economic Operator Registration and Identification (EORI) number at www.gov.uk/hmrc/get-eori
  2. Decide whether to use an agent to make import and/or export declarations or to make these declarations independently (by buying software that interacts with HMRC’s systems).
  3. Contact the organisation(s) that moves their goods (for example, a haulage firm) to find out if additional information will be needed to enable them to make the necessary safety and security declarations, or whether these will need to be submitted by the business.

Practical issues to consider

  • register for a UK Economic Operator Registration and Identification number
  • find out the commodity code of your goods - Commodity codes classify goods so you can fill in export declarations.
  • determine the value of your goods
  • import & export licences - check whether your goods are prohibited or restricted
  • establish the origin of the goods
  • consider whether you are eligible to use any facilitations
  • There are a number of customs special procedures available to traders:
    • storage comprising of Customs Warehousing (CW)
    • specific use comprising of Temporary Admission and End Use
    • processing comprising Inward and Outward Processing
    • transit
  • choose the correct customs procedure code for your goods - Customs procedure codes (CPCs) identify the customs and/or excise regimes which goods are being entered into and removed from (where this applies).
  • declare your imports to customs
    • It is possible to make your own customs declarations. This is done by completing a Single Administrative Document (SAD), form C88.
    • SADs can be submitted electronically using Customs Declaration Service.
  • pay duty on goods
  • keeping records

Authorised Economic Operator

  • Authorised Economic Operator (AEO) status is an internationally recognised quality mark indicating that your role in the international supply chain is secure, and that your customs controls and procedures are efficient and compliant.
  • You can apply for AEO status for customs simplification (AEOC), AEO status for security and safety (AEOS) or both.
  • You can find more information on the application process, benefits, and more, in Notice 117.


  • register for the National Export System - The National Export System (NES) is a computer system which allows export declarations to be made electronically.
  • There are a number of routes into the Customs Handling of Import and Export Freight (CHIEF) system.
  • NES operates within the CHIEF system, which controls the movement of international cargo.
  • the goods must be ‘presented’ to customs
    • Notification of the arrival of goods at the required location for customs control is referred to as ‘presentation of the goods to customs’.
    • CHIEF will examine the ‘arrival message’ and determine whether the goods have permission-to-progress (P2P) or need to go a different route.
  • finalise the export entry on CHIEF
  • Once the means of transport upon which the goods were loaded has physically left the UK, a departure message must be submitted to CHIEF.

On exports to the EU:

For UK exports arriving at the EU border, the EU will require payment of customs duty at the rate under the EU’s Common Customs Tariff (CCT).), unless otherwise agreed.  The EU will apply its MFN rates to goods imported into the EU from the UK. The EUMFN rates are set out in the CCT, where they are listed as ‘erga omnes’ (which means ‘towards all’), rather than stating a specific country. The EU may change these rates between now and March 2019, but this provides an indication.