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HMRC internal manual

Customs Civil Penalties Guidance

Customs Civil Penalties Guidance: operational overview

HMRC undertake assurance work in the form of interventions and routine examination of trader records to confirm that traders are complying with their obligations regarding international trade activity for imports and exports. For example when looking at customs declarations for import we will check whether the information declared is accurate. We may establish this by

  • examining a sample of the goods,
  • a series of cross reference checks using the original supplier’s invoice or bill of lading and all of the supporting documentation for that particular declaration, and
  • exploring the relationship between the business and their suppliers / customers.

Once we find a contravention we

  • check the legal schedules to ensure that the contravention is covered there and identify the specific contravention, see CCPG11010,
  • consider which category the contravention falls into, see CCPG22100, and
  • consider the options for action on the contravention, see CCPG23100.

It is important that the use of warning letters, penalties and recommendations to amend or revoke an authorisation is only made in appropriate circumstances. We will carefully consider each situation before they are used.

Where appropriate we will,

  • complete the Customs Penalty Action Checklist (CPAC) to decide on the appropriateness of a warning letter or penalty notice
  • if CCP action is appropriate and the trader is part of Large Business (LB) or in Local Compliance, Mid-Size Business (MSB) and has a CRM in place, contact the CRM to discuss the case and obtain their approval prior to contacting the trader to progress any action.
  • for a warning letter for reason code 230/530 or a penalty for any reason code, give the trader a Right to be Heard (RTBH) before we take any CCP action, see CCPG11500 
  • consider whether there is a reasonable excuse for the contravention
  • set the amount of any penalty and consider mitigation.

NOTE: All of these actions must be documented on the CPAC. You will find the CPAC in SEES.

We must ensure that there is an audit trail in place in case the trader requests a review or appeal or asks the compliance officer to consider any new information.

For detailed guidance on