How Importers can Improve their Customs Compliance in 10 Steps

Many importers struggle to fully comprehend and manage the complexity of international trade and customs duty legislation. Compliance requirements, governmental audits, and customer demands make it even more challenging to manage.

Together with Gavin Roberts, Director of Trade Flow Customs Consultancy, we have combined a list of 10 key actions for importers looking to improve their customs compliance.

Improving customs compliance with these 10 key actions for importers

1: Understand Classification, Origin & Valuation Rules

Classification, origin, and valuation rules are the three pillars of Customs.

Prior to being “released” in the Customs department, your employees should have a basic understanding of these pillars.

The three pillars of Customs: Classidication, origin, and valuation

2: Ensure staff are trained and keep records of their training

Keep employees’ knowledge of Customs up to date with regular training.

While Brexit doesn’t happen every day, staff must know where to look to monitor changes in classification, for example

Gavin Roberts, Director, Trade Flow Customs Consultancy

3: Regularly check that important metrics are up to date

You should keep track of important metrics such as:  

  • Tariff codes (keep a database of Tariff codes)
  • Insurance level (update insurance details each time policy renews)
  • Compliance with preference rules

Remember to also work with your supplier to ensure that they meet your preferences.

4: Provide instructions for Freight/ Clearance Agents

You as the importer/exporter are legally responsible for each declaration, so it is crucial that you ensure that your vendors meet your requirements: Therefore, Instruct your freight/clearance agents!

Give (written) instructions to agents for each import/export declaration being made in your name including Tariff code, insurance details, CPC etc in addition to the supplier invoice, packing list, any preference documents.

5: Make sure you receive copies of all import and export entries

Following step 4, you should also make sure you receive copies of all import and export entries where you are the importer/ exporter.

In repeated conversations with our customers, we have heard them express their desire for all their customs documents to be compiled in one place. Any responsible agent would comply with this as well

Mark Jamieson, VP Operations UK, Emma Systems

6: Check the work of your agents

Monitor the performance of your agents. Are they following your instructions on e.g. tariff code usage, insurance rate and discounts applied?

Emma E-Doc simplifies monitoring the performance of your vendors. Learn more about Emma E-Doc

7: Keep records of entry amendments / Vol disclosures / Reclaims

Keep records of checks and amendments to entries in a central location. Ensure a member of staff nominated to have responsibility for this task.

8: Make sure you comply with customs record requirements

Make sure you meet national laws for retainment of customs and VAT records.

In the UK, this means that the customer records must be retained by law for 6 years for VAT and 4 years for customs.

Eliminate the need for an internal archive with Emma E-Doc 

9: Have procedures in place throughout the business and clear lines of responsibility for customs matters

Procedures are very helpful for staff to understand their role.

The AEO application provides a useful list of the areas in the Customs, finance, accounting, export, import, IT, sales departments where procedures should be in place.

10: Have third party reviews / Gap analysis done from time to time

Consider a third-party review of your Customs processes periodically.

You might also consider an AEO (Authorised Economic Operator) application. The Authorised Economic Operator (AEO) certificate is an internationally recognised quality mark indicating that your customs controls and procedures are efficient and compliant.

Read more about how Trade Flow Customs Consultancy can help with gap analysis, compliance reviews and more

Free guide: Improving internal control and self-auditing of customs data

Webinar: Keeping Customs Compliant

View recording of webinar featuring Gavin Roberts, Trade Flow Customs Consultancy & Mark Jamieson, Emma Systems.