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

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 EU.

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

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.

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.

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 cannot ask someone to act directly if they’re submitting your declarations using:

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

They can only do this if you have the appropriate authorisation yourself.

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 procedure
  • entry in the declarant’s records

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

Changes from 1 January 2021

If you hire someone to deal with customs for you, they’ll need to be established in the UK.

Using direct representation for simplified declarations

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

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.

Published 12 January 2019
Last updated 16 October 2020 + show all updates
  1. 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.

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

  3. First published.