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HMRC internal manual

Guidance on the Audit of Customs Values

Selling agents


A selling agent is a person who acts for the account of a seller. The main task of a selling agent is to seek customers and collect orders, though in some cases they may arrange for the storage and delivery of the goods. The agent takes a ‘selling commission’ on sales. This may be paid by either the buyer or the seller (WCO EN 2.1 refers).

Where the seller pays the commission, it is usual for it to be included in the invoice price. If the buyer pays the commission, it is usually invoiced separately. If not already included in the invoice price, selling commission must be included in the customs value. Under Method 4 selling commission is deductable but otherwise it is dutiable.

Practical application

Imports by selling agents are made in the following ways:

Type of import Description
Imports to prior order These occur when a buyer has been found by the agent and the goods are imported to fulfil the order. As there is a sale at the time of importation, Method 1 is to be used; the transaction value being the price paid by the buyer including any commission earned by the agent. Invoices raised by either the agent or the seller (supplier) to the buyer are acceptable. The customs value is the invoice price plus any other additions to the price of the goods that are not included in the invoice price.
Imports as buffer stock These are made by agents in respect of long term sales contracts (for example a buyer may order a large quantity to be delivered over a period of time). As the goods relate to an existing sale, there is a price known at the time of importation and therefore buffer stock is treated in the same way as prior order goods.
Imports as consignment stock These are made without a buyer or a sale price being known at the time of importation. Once the goods are imported the agent attempts to find a buyer. The goods may be imported direct to free circulation or be placed in customs warehouse. For goods imported direct to free circulation in the EU, Method 1 cannot be used, as there is no sale/transaction. The goods have to be valued for customs purposes under another method (usually Method 6).
For goods placed in customs warehouse and subsequently removed to free circulation, Method 1 is to be considered where the goods are the subject of a sale in warehouse or ex-warehouse.