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.

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 Make sure your business has an EORI number that starts with GB

    You’ll need an Economic Operator Registration and Identification (EORI) number starting with GB to continue importing goods.

    1. Get an EORI number
  2. Step 2 Decide who will make the import declarations

  3. Step 3 Apply to make importing easier

    You can apply to use 'transitional simplified procedures' to reduce the amount of information you need to give at the border.

    1. Register for transitional simplified procedures
    2. Decide what other customs procedures you could use

    You may also be able to use the Common Transit Convention (CTC) to simplify how your goods pass through customs and when you pay customs duties.

    1. Find out if you can use CTC
  4. and Set up a duty deferment account if you import regularly

    Set up a duty deferment account if you want to be able to make one payment of customs duties a month instead of paying for individual shipments.

    You must set one up if you plan to use transitional simplified procedures.

    1. Set up a duty deferment account
  5. Step 4 Check the rate of tax and duty you’ll need to pay

    You’ll need to pay customs duties and VAT on all imports.

    1. Find out the rate of customs on imports after Brexit
    2. Check when you'll need to account for and pay VAT

    You’ll also need to pay excise duties if you’re importing alcohol, tobacco or biofuels.

    1. Find out the rate of excise duty on imports
  6. Step 5 Check what you need to do for the type of goods you import

    Depending on what you're importing, there might be other things you'll need to do to get your business ready.

    For example, you might need to change the labelling on your goods, apply for licences, or find and approved UK border inspection post where your goods can enter the UK.

    1. Check what you need to do for the type of goods you import