Guidance

Get someone to deal with customs for you

How you can hire a person or business to deal with customs for you.

Getting help

You can hire a person or business to deal with customs for you, such as:

  • freight forwarders
  • customs agents or brokers
  • fast parcel operators

You can use the list of customs agents and fast parcel operators to help find someone to deal with customs for you.

What they can do for you (and who will be liable) depends on:

  • the services they provide
  • what you want them to do
  • the commercial agreement you have with them

They can act for you either as a:

  • direct representative
  • indirect representative

They cannot act on your behalf without written instructions from you. The instruction must show whether they’re acting for you directly or indirectly. HMRC will only ask for evidence of the authorisation if we need it.

They’ll need to be established in the UK.

Freight forwarders

Freight forwarders move goods around the world for importers.

A freight forwarder will arrange clearing your goods through customs. They’ll have the right software to communicate with HMRC’s systems.

You can find out how to use a freight forwarder on the British International Freight Association and Institute of Export websites.

Customs agent or broker

Customs agents and brokers make sure your goods clear through customs.

Find a list of customs agents and fast parcel operators.

Fast parcel operators

Fast parcel operators transport documents, parcels and freight across the world in a specific time frame. They can deal with customs for you, as part of their delivery.

Find out about the other services fast parcel operators provide on the Association of International Courier and Express Services website.

Before you get help

You’ll need:

  • evidence of the goods you’re importing or exporting, for example invoices or contracts
  • evidence of any goods you intend to import or export, for example invoices or contracts
  • a description of the goods you import or export
  • for any goods which are restricted, you must ensure you have the appropriate licences or certification
  • to check the goods you intend import are eligible if you’re using simplified declaration processes
  • your EORI number

You’ll need to check with the person or business doing customs for you whether you need to provide anything else.

You’ll need to confirm in writing the terms and conditions of your representation and keep a copy of this agreement for your own records.

Get someone to act directly

You can hire a person or business to act in your name. You’ll be solely liable for:

  • keeping records
  • the accuracy of any information provided on your customs declarations
  • any Customs Duty or import VAT due

But if you give clear instructions and they make a deliberate or unreasonable error, they may become jointly and severally liable.

You can ask someone to act directly if you hold authorisation and are declaring goods for:

  • inward processing
  • outward processing
  • temporary admission
  • end-use relief
  • private customs warehousing

If you hold authorisation for either simplified declaration procedures or entry in the declarant’s records, you can ask someone to act in your name.

If you’re established in the UK and import goods into Great Britain (England, Scotland and Wales) you can ask someone to act directly using their own authorisation, to make declarations using:

  • simplified declaration procedure
  • entry in the declarant’s records

The person representing you directly and making declarations in your name will not be held jointly liable.

You should agree with the person dealing with customs for you if you need to have a duty deferment account to make payments or if they’ll use their own.

Get someone to act indirectly

You can get someone to act for you in their own name, this means they’re:

  • equally responsible for making sure the information is accurate
  • jointly and severally liable for any Customs Duty or import VAT

If they have authorisation, you can get an indirect agent to make declarations using:

  • simplified declaration procedures
  • entry in the declarant’s records

If you’re not established in the UK and import goods into Great Britain (England, Scotland and Wales) you can only ask someone to act indirectly on your behalf.

You should agree with the person dealing with customs for you if you need to have a duty deferment account to make payments or if they’ll use their own.

You cannot ask someone to act indirectly if you’re declaring goods for:

  • inward processing
  • outward processing
  • temporary admission
  • end-use relief
  • private customs warehousing
Published 12 January 2019
Last updated 27 April 2021 + show all updates
  1. Added clarification that when someone is representing you directly and making declarations in your name (in set circumstances), they will not be held jointly liable.

  2. If you’re established in the UK and import goods into Great Britain (England, Scotland and Wales) you can ask someone to act directly using their own authorisation, to make declarations using either simplified declaration procedure or entry in the declarant’s records.

  3. From 1 January 2021, someone dealing with customs for you will need to be established in Great Britain or Northern Ireland.

  4. First published.