British importers who want to ship commercial goods into the country properly do not need a customs clearance agency to represent them. However, not having one could be a big mistake, especially if the company in question only has limited experience with customs clearance work. Like any sort of brokerage, there is a cost involved with utilising the resources and skills of a customs clearance agent. Nevertheless, the prices charged are not that great in many cases. Indeed, it can certainly be cheaper than employing your own administrative staff to deal with customs paperwork. After all, this is highly skilled work that requires training and investment. Using an agent, on the other hand, only means hiring the technical know-how you need as and when you require it.
As such, doing customs clearance work in-house rather than getting an expert to make the right declarations on your behalf is something of a false economy. As mentioned, a customs clearance agent is often more affordable, especially among firms that don’t import frequently. In addition, importers will find that a customs clearance agent helps with the following:
- Registering UK limited companies and partnerships with HMRC for imported goods. This entails obtaining an EORI number.
- Establishing which commodity codes need to be used for the class or classes of goods you are importing. Remember that some items can be interpreted in multiple ways so choosing the correct codes is essential.
- Completing the customs clearance paperwork in a timely fashion. Ideally, this will be long before your goods arrive at a UK port and the papers that accompany them will match your online declaration, something that your agent should also take care of on your behalf.
- Avoid delays when your imports are inspected. Remember that all goods are subject to random physical inspections at the border. If anything with your paperwork doesn’t look quite right, then your imports are more likely to be delayed while closer checks are made on them.
- Don’t have goods impounded by customs officials. If you make an incorrect declaration, then HMRC can hold up your goods indefinitely. This will often cost a great deal to sort out after the event. Good customs clearance agents avoid such undesirable outcomes from the outset.
- Ensure VAT and excise duty is declared and paid on time. All agents handling customs work today should be well-versed in the taxes that will apply to the goods being imported. Just because you are VAT registered doesn’t mean you’ll have the in-house skills available to deal with import declarations of this kind.
Finally, it is worth noting that customs clearance agencies exist all over the country. However, not all of them combine their services with freight forwarding work. According to one freight forwarder that also provides a customs clearance service at every port and airport in the UK, Barrington Freight, bringing these two aspects of modern importing processes together offers an economy of scale. Not only that, but if you choose to combine freight forwarding with customs clearance brokering, then you will only have one point of contact managing the entire logistical side of your firm’s import operation.