The UK has a long tradition as a major trading nation. Currently, as a member of the world’s largest trading bloc (the EU) the UK is able to trade within a customs union without hindrance. No customs paperwork or declarations are needed for the great mass of civil-use commercial goods traded with the Member States of the EU (with a few exceptions, eg excise products and military goods). This is expected to change dramatically on 29 March 2019 (at 11pm) when the UK is expected to leave the EU. There is currently little guidance or legislation that provides information regarding the regime that will be adopted post-Brexit, but it is expected that customs declarations will be required and exports to the EU will be zero-rated.

During the period when the UK is a member of the EU, VAT declarations need to be made regarding the “dispatch” of goods to the EU (a dispatch is the sending of goods to the EU). There may also be a need to complete Supplementary Sales Lists and Intrastats to record the value of sales into the EU. There are different treatments for the sale of goods into the EU for business customers and to private customers (what are termed “final consumers”). Furthermore, there are different treatments for the sale of goods compared to services.

For destinations beyond the EU, there are factors to be considered prior to exporting. These factors are brought about by distance, culture, regulation, language and sometimes obscure legislation. Political and economic factors can intrude and the wise beginner should seek help and guidance before trading internationally. Furthermore, the climate for exports is unsettled at the moment with the prospect of tariffs being imposed on goods and potential “trade wars”. Primary issues to be addressed are style of trading, eg through distributors or agents, contract terms, payment security and understanding how to determine documentary needs in the destination countries.

This topic explains export compliance through HMRC and exporting procedures as well as the records that each company must keep on all exports. Some new procedures such as the new customs declaration regime and authorised economic operators are detailed in the Imports topic.

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