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’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.

You can hire a customs agent or broker to act as a:

  • direct representative
  • indirect representative

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.

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.

Get someone to act directly

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

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

If you give clear instructions and they make a mistake, 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

When acting directly, even if they have authorisation, they can only submit those types of declarations if you have authorisation.

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 duty or VAT

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

  • simplified customs procedures
  • 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
Published 12 January 2019
  1. Step 1 Check if you need to follow this process

    You need to follow this process if you're moving goods to a country outside the EU.

    What you need to do is different if you are:

    1. Get exporting advice on great.gov.uk
  2. Step 2 Check the rules for exporting your goods

    Check if you need a licence or certificate to export your goods from the UK. You also need to check if there are any restrictions or special rules in the country you want to export to.

    1. Check if you need a UK licence or certificate to export your goods
    2. Check the duties, rules and restrictions for your goods in the destination country

    The rules for trading with some countries outside the EU might change after Brexit.

    1. Check if the UK has negotiated a trade agreement with the country you are exporting to after Brexit
  3. Step 3 Register your business for exporting

    1. Get an EORI number
    2. Check if you should register for VAT

    You can apply for simplified declaration procedures and for Authorised Economic Operator status. These are most suitable for businesses that export goods regularly.

    1. Find out about using simplified declaration procedures
    2. Check if Authorised Economic Operator status is right for you
  4. Step 4 Apply for a licence or certificate if you need one

    How soon you need to start the application process and what you need to do depends on the type of goods you’re exporting.

    1. Apply for a licence or certificate if you need one
  5. Step 5 Decide who will make customs declarations and transport the goods

    You can hire someone to deal with customs and transport the goods for you, or you can do it yourself. Most businesses that export goods use a transporter or customs agent.

    1. You are currently viewing: Find out how to hire someone to deal with customs for you
    2. Find out what you'll need to do if you make the customs declaration yourself
    3. Find out how to transport goods out of the UK by road yourself
  6. Step 6 Classify your goods

    You must find the right commodity code to classify the goods you're exporting.

    Your customs agent or transporter might be able to help you with this.

    1. Find the right commodity code for your goods
  7. Step 7 Prepare the invoice and other documentation for your goods

    The completed invoice and any licences or certificates must travel with the goods.

    When filling in the value of your goods on the invoice, use the price you’re selling them for. List separately any freight or export insurance you included in the price. For free samples, use the market value of the goods.

    You might be able to zero rate the goods for VAT. This means you can charge your customers VAT at 0%.

    1. Check if you can zero rate the goods for VAT
  8. Step 8 Get your goods through customs

    If you've appointed someone to deal with UK customs for you, they'll make the declaration and get your goods through the UK border.

    1. Make an export declaration and get your goods cleared by UK customs

    You may need other documentation to get your goods into the destination country. Ask the person or business buying your goods what information you need to provide.

  9. Step 9 Keep invoices and records

    You must keep records of commercial invoices and any customs paperwork.

    If you exported controlled goods, for example firearms, keep the paperwork that shows who owns the goods.

    If you're VAT registered, record the goods in your VAT accounts and report them on your VAT Return. You'll need to do this even if you zero rated them.

    1. Find out how to record the goods in your VAT accounts
    2. Fill in your VAT Return