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HMRC internal manual

Customs Civil Penalties Guidance

Persons who must comply with Customs law: Agents

Who is an agent

A trader may use an agent as their representative.

This agent may be

  • direct, where they act in the name of, and on behalf of, the trader or
  • indirect, where they act in their own name but on behalf of another person.

If a trader employs an agent to act as a direct representative, meaning that the agent makes the customs declaration on the trader’s behalf acting in the trader’s name, the trader is deemed to be the declarant and therefore liable for any customs debt.

Where an agent acts as an indirect representative that is they make the customs declaration on behalf of a trader in their own name they are deemed to be the declarant. In such cases both the agent and the trader could be jointly liable for any customs debt.

When a third party is and is not empowered to act as an agent.

You must check the evidence that shows that a third party is empowered to act as an agent.

There may be a formal written authorisation stating that the third party is empowered to act as a direct or indirect representative on behalf of the trader.

If the authorisation does not state the level of representation and the importer is not established in the EC, the third party will be deemed to be acting as an indirect agent.

Where there is no evidence that a third party is empowered to act as an agent, they will be deemed to be acting in their own name and on their own behalf. As such, the third party would be solely liable for any Customs debt.

Sometimes the agent may delegate the making of a declaration to a sub-agent, either in a direct or indirect capacity. You should expect to see evidence showing this to be the case.

You should normally regard the statement on a Customs declaration that a person is acting as direct or indirect representative as acceptable evidence that the agent is empowered to act.

(This content has been withheld because of exemptions in the Freedom of Information Act 2000)