Declaring your goods at customs if the UK leaves the EU with no deal

Declaring goods and paying any duty for UK business that trade with the EU in the event that the UK exits the EU without a deal.


In the event that the UK exits the EU without a deal, from 11pm GMT on 29 March 2019, many UK businesses will need to apply the same processes to EU trade that apply when trading with the rest of the world.

However, if you only import or export goods with Ireland across the Northern Ireland–Ireland land border, you do not need to take any of the actions set out here. Instead, you can disregard it. We will write to you again with information about the arrangements for trading with Ireland as soon as we can.

HMRC has written to businesses setting out 3 things they should do as part of preparing for no deal. If you have not yet had the letter in the post you can read it here. You do not need to contact HMRC directly.

Making a declaration

Most businesses use a customs broker, agent, or freight forwarder to make customs declarations for them. This can make importing and exporting simpler and faster.

Alternatively, you can make declarations yourself by obtaining software as set out below.

The main customs form used in international trade is known as the Single Administrative Document. You can submit a Single Administrative Document electronically using the Customs Declaration Service or Customs Handling of Import and Export Freight (CHIEF).

Check how to complete a customs declaration.

Getting help from third parties

There are third parties that can help with the customs process and movement of your goods, these are:

  • freight forwarders
  • customs agents or brokers
  • express courier industry (fast parcel operators)

Freight forwarders

Freight forwarding is a service that involves moving goods around the world for importers and exporters. A freight forwarder will arrange customs clearance of goods crossing the frontier and they’ll have the right software to communicate with HMRC’s systems.

There’s more about this on the British International Freight Association and Institute of Export websites.

Customs agent or broker

Customs agents and brokers make sure that your goods clear through customs on their way to the final place of delivery in the UK.

A customs agent or broker will act as either a direct representative or indirect representative.

Express courier industry

The express courier industry involves operators who specialise in time definite transportation services for documents, parcels and freight.

These fast parcel operators offer world-wide, integrated, door-to-door movement of shipments. They track and control shipments throughout their journey.

Software providers

Software providers offer software that enables you to make customs declarations electronically to HMRC’s systems.

National Export System

Making your own declaration

You can make export declarations using HMRC’s National Export System. It operates within the Customs Handling of Import and Export Freight (CHIEF) system, which controls the movement of international cargo.

Making a declaration using third parties

If you’re using an agent, courier or freight forwarder, they’ll ask you to complete a commercial invoice. The commercial invoice must show the price you’re selling your goods for.

You must list separately, the price of any freight costs or export insurance (which you may have included in the selling price).

Check what data you need for full and simplified export declarations.

VAT, Excise and Customs Duty on goods you import or export

In addition to making import declarations, you may also be required to pay VAT, Excise or Customs Duty when you import your goods. The following sections provide a high level overview of these rules. Further information will be published ahead of March 2019 on what tariffs will apply in the event of a no deal scenario.

Pay Customs Duty on goods

You might have to pay Customs Duty on your imports depending on the classification of your goods and where they’ve come from. Some goods benefit from a duty suspension regime.

Your goods might also be liable to additional duties, such as Anti-Dumping Duty.

HMRC does not release goods until you’ve paid all the charges you owe.

However, there are a number of customs procedures which can defer the payment of these duties.

VAT on exports

You can usually zero rate goods you’re exporting out of the UK.

VAT on imports

UK VAT-registered businesses will be able to account for import VAT on their VAT Return, rather than paying import VAT on or soon after the time that the goods arrive at the UK border.

This will apply both to imports from the EU and non-EU countries.

Excise Duty on imports

You must pay Excise Duty on tobacco products, alcohol and fuel that you import into the UK. A list of products and the rates of Excise Duty are published in the Tariff.

At the time of importation you must either pay the Excise Duty that’s due, or place the excise goods under a Customs or Excise Duty suspension arrangement.

Excise Duty on exports

If your business exports excise goods from the UK, you must follow the correct procedure, depending on whether the goods are in an Excise Duty suspension arrangement or Excise Duty paid. You can reclaim Excise Duty paid on goods you’re exporting out of the UK.

Further information

Find out how to prepare if the UK leaves the EU with no deal.

Published 4 December 2018