Preparing for a UK Customs Audit

Written by Leigh Trevis
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4 minute read

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It has been over two years since the UK left the European Customs Union. With that, the learning curve has been challenging for all involved.

Whether you are a trader, Importer or Exporter of goods, transport company, government body, or Customs Broker, no one escaped the new way of working. As the dust has settled, the reality of the UK’s customs environment is being discovered. 

The UK government decided to apply easements as part of the BREXIT transition, being mindful of the change in traders. The main easement created the ability to delay declarations for goods imported into Great Britain between January 1 – July 1, 2021. On March 16, 2021, this was later extended to run to December 31, 2021.

Based on this easement alone, it is estimated that there could be up to 400 million customs declarations not made post-implementation, equating to around £30bn of unpaid VAT. It remains unclear what this actual figure is.

Some of the reasons why the traders failed to declare could be:

  • Lack of customs experience
  • Misunderstanding of what the easement was – new traders to customs procedures assuming the easement meant that they didn’t have to do anything for the first six months
  • Customs controls not managed before BREXIT

With BREXIT and the COVID-19 pandemic well out of the way, HMRC are now looking retrospectively at the work that has or has not been done by traders. In the form of Customs audits and inspections, HMRC is reactively coming after any unpaid VAT. With an article published by HMRC on February 22, 2023, they are reminding businesses about unpaid VAT, penalties, and interest on outstanding amounts.

Five things a trader needs to consider when preparing for a Customs audit:

    1. Have you declared everything during the easement period between January 1 – December 31, 2021?
    2. How accessible are your Customs records with your appointed broker?
    3. Do you have proof of Export, if applicable, for goods that have left the country? (Including EXW shipments).
    4. Do you have a robust Customs program?
    5. What are your Customs accuracy and compliance like? Commodity code classification, licensing requirements, etc.

How can we help?

Expeditors Customs Brokerage services are designed to offer end-to-end seamless Customs compliance. Whether it be visibility and accessibility to Customs documentation or guidance on the ever-changing world of Customs, our program brings global consistency with local knowledge

Need help with Product classification?

Our consulting firm, Tradewin, assists in the detailed role of product classification, ensuring that you not only classify your goods correctly but also comply with the latest Duty and VAT rates.

For more information on the UK Customs audit, please fill out the form below or reach out to your local Customs contact. 


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Blog was originally posted on May 2, 2023 7 AM

Topics: Customs, Brexit, Compliance

Leigh Trevis

Written by Leigh Trevis

Leigh’s career path has encompassed all levels of operational logistics including Training and Personnel Development. Since 2004 he has managed various operational teams from Distribution Services to European Road Freight. Prior to his current role, Leigh lead the operational training team for Europe. His specialty for over 15 years has been Dangerous Goods training and working with customers to raise awareness of the compliance risks inherent with Dangerous Goods. Leigh’s passion towards compliance attracted him to the ever-changing world of Customs in July 2021. Leigh is a Certified Dangerous Goods Safety Advisor, a leadership coach, a Prosci® Certified Change Practitioner and holds a BTEC (Distinction) Intermediate Award in Customs Exports and Import Procedures.

4 minute read