Customs declarations for international trade

Blogs 12 Feb 2021

Moving goods internationally? Whether you’re importing or exporting, find out what you need to know about customs declarations and when they’re required.

Customs clearance is the process that goods must go through before being imported or exported. It’s important that your customs declaration is accurate, or this can cause delays crossing the border. Customs declarations are also necessary for security, as certain goods are subject to licences or permits. 

What is a customs declaration? 

A customs declaration is a legal document that declares the value and contents of what you’re importing or exporting. It’s used by customs authorities in both the origin country and the destination country to ensure trades are compliant and pay the correct taxes and duties.  

When do I need a customs declaration? 

Customs declarations are required for international trade of goods, including all UK-EU imports and exports. You can make a declaration yourself, orappoint someone to deal with it on your behalf.  

You may be able to make a simplified declaration – find out whether that applies to you here, or check if Authorised Economic Operator status could benefit you. 

What is Customs Duty? 

Customs Duty applies to goods imported from outside the UK, or outside the UK and the EU for Northern Ireland, if they’re valued over £135.You can find out more about taxes, duties and rates for goods sent from overseas on the government website.  

As part of the UK-EU Trade and Cooperation Agreement, there are new rules regarding UK-EU imports and exports. You will need to pay customs duties and VAT on imports from the EU, which you can check here. You can also look up the duties and customs procedures for exporting goods country by country here

If you’re bringing goods into Northern Ireland from Great Britain you will need to make customs declarations and may need to pay tariffs, depending on whether your goods will then move into the EU single market. More information on how to move goods between Northern Ireland and Great Britain can be found in detailed guidance here.  

The Government has created a Trader Support Service for businesses moving goods between Great Britain and Northern Ireland.  

What information will I need? 

To make the declaration for your goods and ensure your paperwork is filled out correctly, you’ll be asked to provide a range of information, including:  

The government has detailed guidance on making an export declaration and import declaration.  

I post orders to my customers in the EU. Do I need to fill out a form?

International postal agreements require you as the sender to fill out a customs declaration, which you attach to your parcel. If you’re sending goods or gifts through the post from England, Scotland or Wales to the EU, you’ll need to fill out a customs form. For Northern Ireland to the EU, customs declarations aren’t required.  

The Government has detailed guidance explaining what to do when you import or export goods by post through Royal Mail or Parcelforce Worldwide

Where can I find help with customs declarations? 

The Government has compiled guidance on how to make export declarations and import declarations, as well as a list of customs training providers, if you decide to deal with customs declarations yourself. 

Import and export customs declarations can be complex. You may choose to hire a person or business to handle them for you, such as freight forwarders. If you decide to do this, the Government has compiled a list of customs agents and fast parcel operators.