Last reviewed 18 November 2020

HMRC has updated its guidance to traders wishing to hire a person or business to deal with customs on their behalf.

This confirms that freight forwarders, customs agents or brokers and fast parcel operators can be contracted to do this work. It also explains that what they can do (and who will be liable) depends on the services being provided, what the business wants these agents to do and the commercial agreement in place between the two parties.

The guidance, which can be found at https://www.gov.uk/guidance/appoint-someone-to-deal-with-customs-on-your-behalf?utm_source=c0def1cc-ab0b-4aec-a57c-fcb41b6a1c1c&utm_medium=email&utm_campaign=govuk-notifications&utm_content=immediate, highlights that, currently, anyone carrying out such work must be established in the EU.

However, from 1 January 2021, at the end of the transition period, they will need to be established in Great Britain or Northern Ireland.

HMRC gives details of what the various options mean for traders, with freight forwarders, for example, able to arrange clearing goods through customs and fast parcel operators transporting documents, parcels and freight across the world in a specific time frame. They can also deal with customs for their clients, as part of their delivery.

The guidance explains that, while it is possible to get someone to act indirectly for the business (in their own name), this is not possible if the trader is declaring goods for: inward processing; outward processing; temporary admission; end-use relief; or private customs warehousing.

It also warns that where a person or business has been hired to act directly (in the name of the hiring business), the trader remains liable for keeping records, for the accuracy of any information provided on their customs declarations and for any Customs Duty or VAT due.