A customs declaration is a form that lists the details of goods that are being imported or exported across a country's borders. Declaration forms are important as they help the customs service control the goods that enter the country. This means they can manage any items that might affect the country's economy, security or environment. There are two types of customs declaration. The first is for items with a value of up to £270 (CN22), and the other is for items with a value over £270 (CN23). An example of a customs declaration form includes a commercial invoice, which is an official statement of the value of the goods and contains the basic information on the transaction.
Customs declaration forms are also required when travellers are bringing restricted goods across international borders. Some examples include:
- Alcoholic beverages
- Plants and animals
- Animal products
Which countries need customs declarations?
If you exporting to EU countries, you won't need a declaration form. The EU countries include:
- Czech Republic
If you are exporting goods from any country outside the EU, you will need a customs declaration. Goods from 'Special Territories' are subject to excise duty and import VAT, which means they are processed in the same way as goods imported from outside the EU. Therefore, if you're exporting to these countries, you will need a customs declaration. 'Special Territories' are Member states that aren't included in the fiscal territory. They include:
- The Ǻland Islands (Finland)
- The Canary Islands (Spain)
- The Channel Islands
- The French Overseas Departments of Guadeloupe, French Guiana, Martinique and Reunion
- Mount Athos also known as Agion Poros
In 1996, the EU and Turkey established a Customs Union, and many goods from Turkey no longer attract customs duty. However, Excise Duty and import VAT still apply, and you will need a customs declaration if you're exporting there.
However, it's important to note that if the UK leaves the EU with no deal, many businesses will need to apply the same processes to EU trade that apply when trading with the rest of the world. This means customs declarations may well be necessary even when trading within the EU.
Making a declaration
Most businesses use a customs broker or agent or freight forwarder to make customs declarations for them. Customs agents and brokers make sure that your goods clear through customs on their way to the final place of delivery. They have expert knowledge of international trade, so they can help clients ensure they have all the right documents and licences. Freight forwarders similarly provide a service that involves moving goods around the world for importers and exporters. They arrange customs clearance of goods crossing the frontier and have access to software that helps communicate with HM Revenue and Custom's (HMRC) systems.
Through the express courier industry, you can use operators who specialise in time-sensitive transportation services for documents, parcels and freight. They can track and control shipments throughout their journey. These services make importing exporting much more efficient and also reduce the risk of any mistakes made during the customs declaration process. However, you can do this yourself by using the National Export System.
What happens if you don't declare items?
If you do not provide an accurate customs declaration form when you send goods outside of the European Union, there will be delays in processing. This can also lead to the seizure of your goods by customs. Under customs law, the importer is legally responsible for the information on the declaration. This is why it's so important to ensure that you fill out the relevant forms properly and accurately. The customs clearance process might seem lengthy, however, the various procedures are implemented to keep us safe. Customs declaration forms are also important to help traders identify any taxes they need to pay, as well as check whether any of their exports are banned. Therefore, by being thorough throughout the entire customs declarations process, you can avoid any extra taxes or fines.