The export and import of goods is a lengthy process. This is because goods need to cross borders to reach the destination. Customs declaration is an essential part of export activity and the Certificate of Origin (CO) plays an important part in this process. These documents help customs to know what goods are being shipped, whether there are any import quotas, customs or excise taxes, other tariffs or duties to be paid and whether any goods are banned from entry. Goods cannot be exported without an export declaration.
A CO confirms where the goods and their components have been obtained, produced, manufactured or processed. Components may have been produced in different countries and it's important to know their origin in order to impose the correct taxes or duties are paid and any sanctions. Generally, a CO includes the basic details about the product's shipment, a tariff code, the exporter and importer, and the country of origin. The CO is usually prepared by the exporter of the goods as they know about the specific requirements of border control at the importing country. Before the CO is submitted with the shipment, the details must get notarised (certified through a notary public) by a chamber of commerce. A chamber of commerce is made up of business owners in towns and cities, who advocate on behalf of their local business community.
Preferential and non-preferential
There are two types of certificate of origin: preferential and non-preferential.
- Preferential certificates of origin concern goods that meet criteria to qualify for preferential treatment. Goods may benefit from tax exemptions or Free Trade Agreement reductions. For goods with an origin from one or more countries, the origin is confirmed according to where the last major part of the manufacturing process took place.
- Non-preferential certificates of origin are the most common. They concern goods that do not benefit from preferential treatment but help to determine whether goods are subject to quotas, anti-dumping, embargoes and other restrictions.
How do you get a certificate of origin?
Your local chamber of commerce acts as the third-party responsible for verifying the shipper's declaration. They charge a fee and notarise the document to certify it. The shipper can then email it through to the importer and it can be used in the customs clearance process. The document must be available before the shipment arrives into the country of import to avoid any problems or delays with the customs clearance process.
Obtaining an electronic certificate of origin (eCO) is relatively easy. The first step is submitting the required documentation online. A chamber of commerce will stamp the document online, or provide an expedited paper certificate. This is quite an efficient process – sometimes documents are available for collection the same day. Chambers of commerce will generally only certify a certificate of commerce if it is verifiable.
Fees vary depending on the Embassy for legalised documents. For example, the London Chamber of Origin charges £52.20 for a blank certificate of origin for non-members. Chamber of commerce members benefit from monthly payment terms; however, non-members are usually asked to make payment via credit card, bank transfer or by company cheques. Cheques should be made payable to 'Chamber Management Services'.
Why is the purpose of them?
It's important to have the correct information relating to goods shipments at customers because:
- The correct taxes/duty can be applied
- To know what goods are being shipped
- To impose any necessary sanctions
As components may have been produced in different countries, the taxes or duties might be different. For example, goods from Switzerland would not incur any tax charge within the EU, however, if any of the components were to come from a country such as China, then additional taxes would apply.