On January 31, 2020, the United Kingdom officially left the European Union. Until the end of 2020, the UK and EU will be in a transition period. Starting in January 2021, businesses engaging in cross-border trade with the UK will need to consider new requirements for imports and exports.
In a recent blog post, we covered the top three factors that will be important to consider when navigating the Brexit transition. Now we will take a look at the three core advantages to managing your trade data in order to better avoid any potential delays related to Brexit.
The estimates of the number of shipments that will require customs processing, combined with the available capacity, indicate there is a high risk of shipment delays. Much of this is going to be out of the control of individual companies. Many can influence, but cannot wholly change the dynamic here.
What then, can companies do now and in the coming months to mitigate potential delays? Let’s focus on what you can control right now. Here are three core things we believe are important to organize your data management to support the customs processing.
Assess the Classification of Goods
The UK has published a preliminary Harmonized Tariff Schedule (HTS) that is set to debut in 2021. It is published online with an eight-digit structure. It’s expected that it will expand to 10 digits officially by end of this year to become the official new UK HTS for 2021. Even if you have classified your products under the EU Taric HTS, do not assume the classification will carry over for the new UK HTS. It may be the case the 10-digit UK structure stays the same as the existing EU 10-digit structure; or it may not. Even if the structure stays the same, duty rates may still change, so importers should assess how this affects the landed cost of goods. And especially if you have not had to worry about HTS classification at all previously, give yourself additional time here. It takes time to classify, so this is not something to leave to the last minute. You may also want to enlist the support of a third party trade consultancy, such as Tradewin, to assist.
Centralizing Data to Stay Organized
While you are assessing the classification of your goods, your next step is to consider where and how you will manage this, and other related data elements. If you have an in-house system that can store the HTS classifications, commercial descriptions, country of origin and other key attributes, you are off to a good start. Sometimes internal systems are not designed to support multiple country customs data elements. Or in cases where the internal system may support the data, it may not be accessible to others who need it. You may want to consider a web-based system (Software as a Service), like Tradeflow. Along with having a place to manage the data elements, you can usually give access to key stakeholders like vendors and brokers. Further, these systems often come with access to trade content like the HTS for the UK and many other countries; plus other areas of trade data that may be relevant.
Confirm the Data Flow to your Customs Broker
After readying the classification of goods and getting organized to manage the data, it’s important to stay close to your third party customs broker. First of all, does your broker have the capacity to support your volume of customs entries? Assuming they can support you, have you discussed what data elements they need, and how to provide those? For example, are you expecting them to pull everything manually off documents (probably the slowest and most expensive method), or do you have data feeds in place to automate a significant portion of the declaration elements? It takes time, often several months, under normal circumstances to setup new data feeds and work through the mapping between systems, so ample lead time is key.
Don’t let your trade data be the excuse your shipment is delayed. There might be shipment delays for other reasons, outside your control. However, if you focus on what you can control – managing the flow of the customs and other trade data – you increase your likelihood of success.