Getting compliant with import and export regulations – the ‘light touch’ period is coming to an end

02 June 2021 - Elizabeth O'Hanlon

The UK’s withdrawal period from the EU ended on 31 December 2021, with the confirmation of the Trade and Co-operation Agreement to govern the trading relationship between the UK and EU which came into operation from 1 January 2021.
Whilst Exporters sending goods from the UK to the EU have had to cope with the new rules from 1 January 2021, H M Revenue and Customs (HMRC) introduced a ‘light touch’ period for UK businesses to put procedures in place regarding import declarations by 30 June 2021.
This light touch period has meant that from 1 January 2021 importers could opt to delay making their customs declarations for up to six months from the point of import.
1 July 2021 is the first date by which businesses may need to declare imports into the UK, and continue to make declarations within 175 days of the date of import, under the delayed declaration process.
The onus is therefore on the importing business to ensure imports are fully declared on time, and not the freight forwarder, customs agent or haulier.
Some importers have found that they have experienced delays in receiving documentation from freight forwarders, however they must persevere to ensure that they have proof of declaration in respect of all imports made.
The risk is that importers who have not used the light touch period to make adequate preparations for import declaration procedures, may also not realise their responsibilities in this respect, and it follows, may not be compliant.
It is important therefore that importing businesses use the period to 1 July 2021, to put import declaration procedures in place and ensure that their systems are compliant.
Training and Assistance
Realising that many UK businesses would need to undergo training and require assistance, the government have provided a Brexit Support Fund for Small and Medium Sized Enterprises and also created a Management Support System to assist businesses.
Management Support System
The Management Support System can assist importing businesses by providing data on the goods imported on which Duty has been paid, so that they can ensure they are compliant with import declarations.
This is the same data regarding imports held by H M Revenue and Customs that they will use when HMRC carry out compliance checks to ensure that importers have made full import declarations.
Brexit Support Fund for Small and Medium Enterprises
Traders can apply for up to £2,000 in total through two types of support grant, but applications must be made by 30 June 2021 for:
Grant for training for the following:

  • How to complete a Customs Declaration
  • How to manage the Customs Processes and use customs software and systems
  • Specific import and export related aspects including VAT, excise and rules of origin

Grant for professional advice for the following:

  • To meet Customs, excise, import VAT or safety and security declaration requirements

Which businesses can apply?

  • The business must be established in the UK
  • Have either been established in UK at least 12 months before making the application, or currently hold Authorised Economic Operator status
  • Not previously failed to meet tax or customs obligations
  • Have no more than 500 employees
  • Have an annual turnover of no more than £100 million
  • Be an importer and exporters of goods between Great Britain and the EU, or move goods between Great Britain and Northern Ireland only

To qualify for the grant businesses must:

  • Complete or intend to complete import or export declarations internally for its own goods or
  • Use someone else to complete import or export declarations but requires additional capability internally to effectively import or export

Note that businesses who already import or export goods to or from a non-EU country are not eligible for the grant.
How to apply:

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