Expert Guide to Latest Changes in Customs Clearance

With the Brexit transition period well and truly lapsed it’s important that businesses continue to prepare themselves for changes in legislation and understand how this affects UK customs clearance.

As most readers will already know, customs clearance is an essential procedure before goods can be imported or exported.

This article looks at some of the risks involved in managing customs clearance and who can help.

The next stage of post-Brexit border controls has arrived; but will your goods?

Customs clearance is necessary for the majority of goods entering or leaving the UK. If a shipment clears customs, then the shipper will provide documentation confirming that the necessary customs formalities have been completed and the shipment can then be processed.

A key element of the process includes having an accurate shipment description, which would typically include information on content, commodity code, quantity, price, weight, and the country of origin or destination. When importing or exporting, the right customs clearance paperwork is crucial to ensuring cargo can be transported seamlessly.

Missing or inaccurate documents can increase risks, lead to delays and extra costs, or result in cargo being unable to leave the port of entry.

Not surprisingly, many business have a lot of questions, including

  • Do I need customs clearance?
  • How can I make customs clearance easier?
  • What documentation is required for customs clearance?
  • How long does UK customs clearance take?
  • At what point will my customs declaration clear?
  • Will I have to pay customs charges?
  • What do I need to know about duties and taxes?

This is why businesses typically use a third party to manage their customs clearance, known as a customs broker (or sometimes customs agents). A customs broker acts as an agent for importers and exporters to help them transact their customs business. A freight forwarder may also act as a customs broker.

Where customs clearance fits into the overall import and export process

It's worth thinking first about how customs clearance is part of the bigger picture on importing and exporting goods. The stages before and after your goods enter, and leave the UK can be just as important as what happens at the border.

The UK government has set out helpful step-by-step guides on importing and exporting. These include breakdowns giving more details and links through to supporting resources or other websites, including the specific steps relating to customs clearance.

If we take first the process of how to move goods from the UK to international destinations, including the EU, there are eight steps involved:

  1. Check if you need to follow this process
  2. Check the rules for exporting your goods, and apply for any licences you need to export your goods
  3. Get your business ready to export, and check whoever's receiving the goods can import them
  4. Decide who will make export declarations and transport the goods
  5. Classify your goods
  6. Prepare the invoice and other documentation for your goods
  7. Get your goods through customs
  8. Keep invoices and records

The process of how to bring goods into the UK from any country is a little more complicated and consequently has more steps, covering how much duty and VAT you’ll need to pay and whether you need to get a licence or certificate.

  1. Check if you need to follow this process
  2. Get your business ready to import, and check the business sending you the goods can export to the UK
  3. Decide who will make customs declarations and transport the goods
  4. Find out the commodity code for your goods, and work out the value of your goods
  5. Find out if you can reduce your Customs Duty, and find out if you can delay your Customs Duty
  6. Check if you need a licence or certificate for your goods
  7. Check the labelling, marking and marketing rules
  8. Get your goods through customs
  9. Claim a VAT refund
  10. If you paid the wrong amount of duty or rejected the goods
  11. Keep invoices and records

An overview of the UK customs clearance process

Even for those who know the customs clearance process well, it can be quite confusing.

Customs brokers - or customs agents - can help to successfully navigate the standard three stages of customs clearance.

  1. Verifying paperwork
    This is where a customs officer will check that the paperwork completed for shipments is correct, such as country of origin (for imports), product codes, shipper details and much more.
  2. Checking and applying fees
    Shipments may attract a fee depending on the type of goods, their value, and laws or fees applying to the countries of origin and destination. A customs officer will check what applies and take steps to ensure any fees are paid.
  3. Releasing the shipment
    Once taxes and duties are paid then the shipment is released. If everything has been done properly then the goods should be on their way to their end destination.
What will I pay in customs duties and other costs?

Costs vary significantly because every independent customs broker will have different services and prices. Also, the customs rules that apply depend on the commodity. Most customs brokers will give a client a fee that will vary based on the products that are imported, along with their value and point of origin.

These are some of the costs you might face, some of which apply even if you don’t use a customs broker:

  • A flat rate customs clearance charge to cover administration
  • Duties and taxes
  • Third-party documentation and handover fees
  • Government agency inspection fees
  • Delivery and storage costs
  • Bank transfer or other intermediary fees.

How long does UK customs clearance take

Typically, customs clearance takes less than 24 hours. But, it can take days or even weeks. This is most likely to be a result of delays in government agency inspections. However, it could also happen if there have been errors with the paperwork or delays in paying import duties or other fees.

So what has changed now in the customs clearance process?

There are four main differences at ‘stage 2’ of the post-Brexit arrangements.

  1. Staged Customs Controls are no longer possible (excluding Ireland/NI to GB movements).
  2. Frontier Border Locations have chosen a Border Control Model. This means the type of declaration, and when you need to submit that declaration, depends on where your goods are arriving in to or departing from.
  3. You must have supplier origin declarations (where required) at the time you import/export your goods.
  4. Commodity codes have changed. It’s important you check your trade tariff to ensure your tariff code is still valid.
What do I need to do to manage my customs clearance?

For those businesses that don’t have the necessary in-house expertise to navigate their way through the complexities of customs clearance , the simplest thing to do is work with a customs broker that has Authorised Economic Operator (AEO) status.

You can find a list of authorised customs brokers on the UK government website. It’s important to note that not all brokers offer all services or cover all modes of transport.

Peel Ports Logistics operate under AEO status and we are keen to work with any companies that require our expert help.  You can contact us at

More about Authorised Economic Operator (AEO) status

There are two types of AEO status: C and S. These accreditations recognise that a business’s customs controls and procedures are safe and efficient. It is a sign of being an operator trusted to work with HMRC and other border control officers.

AEO accreditation offers businesses the following benefits, which is why we would highly recommend working with such accredited companies:

  • Fewer physical and document checks at border
  • Advance notice of any required checks
  • If your goods are selected for inspection, your consignment will be prioritised ahead of non-AEO declarations
  • Mutual recognition with trading countries, leading to less stringent restrictions on the other side.

 Authorised Economic Operator status is an internationally recognised quality mark that shows a  business’s role in the international supply chain is secure and has customs control procedures that meet Authorised Economic Operator standards and criteria.

Using a broker with Authorised Economic Operator Security and Safety status you can benefit from Mutual Recognition Agreements (MRAs). The UK negotiates MRAs with other customs authorities.

The UK has negotiated agreements with the EU, Japan, China, the USA and Switzerland, and are working towards having agreements in place with other global partners.

What should you expect from an Authorised Economic Operator / customs broker?

To hold AEO status a business must be part of the international supply chain and pass a series of checks by HMRC, including site visits.

The checks cover tax and customs compliance, customs record keeping, financial solvency, practical standards of competence or professional qualifications, security and safety, and recruitment.

A reputable firm with AEO status should be able to offer you the following:

  • A simple explanation of what requirements are expected of your business.
  • A personalised, competitive, fast and efficient service tailored to your needs.
  • Support across all modes of transport including air, rail, land and sea.
  • Provide onward transport services.

Ultimately, the aim is to seamlessly ship your cargo from A to B around the world by overcoming the complexities of border controls and customs regulations on both sides of the transaction.

If you want to work with us to streamline your customs clearance process

At Peel Ports Logistics our global team of Authorised Economic Operator accredited experts can help your business meet the ongoing challenges of Brexit and help resolve many of the practical difficulties following custom clearance changes as of 1st January 2022 and the customs clearance process overall.

We are customs qualified with CILT/ BIFA in customs clearance compliance. We also work closely with Borderforce, BIFA, HMRC, DEFRA and DEARA.

Whatever your cargo, our experienced customs teams can guide you through the necessary declarations for import, export or transhipment.

We also have our own dedicated transport team who are adept to deliver your cargo anywhere within the UK.

Keep up-to-date with our latest case studies, and the results we have achieved for our clients.

Contact Sales.

We would love to talk about how we could work together.

Keep up-to-date with our latest case studies, and the results we have achieved for our clients.

Contact Sales.

We would love to talk about how we could work together.

Keep up-to-date with our latest case studies, and the results we have achieved for our clients.

Contact Sales.

We would love to talk about how we could work together.