UK businesses and consumers have paid 42% more in customs duties on goods since Brexit came into force on 1 January 2021.
The jump to £2.2bn in customs duties from January to July 2021 is a new record and is up from £1.6bn in the same period last year.
These increased costs are due to new tariffs which have arisen as a result of leaving the EU. The main increase in customs costs comes from the rule of origin tariff, which applies to goods imported from the EU which were originally made, or contain components made, outside of the EU.
The increased cost of customs duties places further burden on UK businesses who have already been hit hard by the pandemic and increased staffing costs caused by the change in Brexit immigration rules.
Importing goods from the EU has also become far more complicated and time-consuming for UK businesses due to the bureaucracy involved. In some cases, hauliers have needed to supply documentation of up to 700 pages long at borders, causing significant delays.
‘UK businesses weren’t given enough time or help to prepare for the cost of Brexit or the masses of paperwork.
‘The result is that the cost of tariffs and extra paperwork is now causing serious difficulties for many businesses who are already struggling to stay profitable in the face of mounting pandemic-induced costs.’
Businesses are set to face further issues from 1 October, when a new import ban on EU products of animal origin is being implemented for goods such as chilled mincemeat. This new ban will likely cause longer queues at borders, leaving businesses with increased disruption and costs.
The UK government has unveiled a £20 million Brexit support package to help small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) with changes to customs and tax rules when trading with the EU.
The SME Brexit Support Fund aims to help businesses prepare for the implementation of further import controls which come into force later this year.
Businesses who trade only with the EU and are therefore new to importing and exporting processes will be encouraged to apply for grants of up to £2,000 for each trader to pay for practical support, including training and professional advice, to ensure they can continue trading effectively.
Businesses must meet certain criteria, including having been established in the UK for at least 12 months, having fewer than 500 employees and no more than £100 million in turnover.
The closing date for applications is 30 June. HMRC states that the fund may close for applications earlier if the full £20 million is allocated.
Mike Cherry, National Chairman of the Federation of Small Businesses (FSB), said:
‘We have been asking for proper financial assistance of this scale so that a cash-strapped small business can afford to buy-in expertise, training and practical support. The new fund will make a significant difference.’
It is time to prepare for the end of the Brexit transitional period.
Whilst the United Kingdom officially left the European Union (EU) on 31 January 2020, this prompted the start of an 11-month transitional period during which time the UK remains part of the Single Market, the EU Customs Union and the VAT Territory. The UK will leave the EU VAT Territory on 31 December 2020. After this date, Great Britain (England, Wales and Scotland) will not be subject to EU VAT legislation. Northern Ireland will remain subject to EU VAT legislation in respect of transactions involving goods, but not for services.
Acquisitions (purchases of goods from EU member states) will be treated as imports. A new system, Postponed Accounting, will be introduced and will apply to imports received from all over the world, with some exceptions such as low-value consignments. The system is intended to mitigate the cashflow disadvantage posed by paying import VAT upfront and waiting to reclaim it in a later VAT return. Under the new system, import VAT can be deferred and declared to HMRC in the VAT return for the period of importation. The VAT can be reclaimed in the same return subject to the normal rules for reclaiming input tax.
Dispatches (zero-rated sales of goods to business customers in EU member states) will be treated as exports. Exports are zero-rated, provided certain conditions are met.
Distance sales (sales of goods to non-business persons in the EU) will also be treated as exports. The EU distance-selling regime and thresholds will no longer apply to UK suppliers.
When the UK leaves the EU Customs Union on 1 January 2021 the UK will operate a full, external border with the EU. New border controls on imports from the EU to Great Britain will be introduced in stages, with customs declarations for goods which are not controlled being delayed until 30 June 2021.
From 1 January 2021, there will be new rates of Customs Duty for imports – called the UK Global Tariff. To check the tariffs that will apply to different categories of imported goods, please see https://www.gov.uk/guidance/uk-tariffs-from-1-january-2021.
It is important to be ready for these changes. Some practical actions to take now include:
- Obtaining an Economic Operator Registration and Identification (EORI) number, which will be required when trading with the EU post Brexit. It is free to obtain an EORI number and you can do so by visiting https://www.gov.uk/eori.
- Deciding whether to use an agent freight forwarder to help with making customs declarations. The following guidance outlines the services they can provide: https://www.gov.uk/guidance/appoint-someone-to-deal-with-customs-on-your-behalf
- If you buy goods from the EU, checking whether those goods are ‘controlled’. Ascertaining which declarations are required and when they will need to be made. For more information please see https://www.gov.uk/guidance/list-of-goods-imported-into-great-britain-from-the-eu-that-are-controlled.
- Checking the UK Global tariff to see the rate of Customs Duty that is likely to apply to the goods you import.
- Deciding whether to use the Postponed Accounting system (https://www.gov.uk/guidance/check-when-you-can-account-for-import-vat-on-your-vat-return) to defer import VAT and familiarising yourself with the procedure for declaring the deferred import VAT on the VAT return.
If you require more information please contact us to discuss how we can help you move smoothly into 2021.
Internet link: GOV.UK transition campaign
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From 1 January 2021, the UK will operate a full external border with the EU, which will entail major changes for imports and exports to and from the trading bloc. From 1 January 2021, declarations will be needed to import or export specific (limited) goods categorised as ‘controlled’.
However, for non-controlled goods brought from the EU to GB, import controls apply in three stages: January, April and July 2021. Some changes will apply to all goods movements, and will involve customs declarations, customs duties and VAT on imports, and safety and security declarations. ‘Additional requirements’ come in, but only affect certain specific goods movements, such as foodstuffs.
Action points to consider now include:
Economic Operators Registration and Identification (EORI) numbers: from 1 January 2021, an EORI number with the prefix ‘GB’ is needed to move goods between the UK and the EU, unless you only move goods between Northern Ireland and Ireland.
Remember that from January 2021, it will be important to think about both the UK and EU sides of the equation: to comply with EU requirements, you will, for example, need an EU EORI number if your business makes customs declarations or gets a customs decision in the EU.
Using a customs intermediary: given the complexity of UK and EU customs declarations, you may want to engage a customs intermediary to deal on your behalf.
Postponed VAT accounting for goods imported from the EU: from 1 January 2021, import VAT applies to imports from the EU. Using ‘postponed VAT accounting’ from 1 January 2021 lets you account for import VAT on your VAT return, giving the potential to declare and recover import VAT on the same return.
Delaying customs declarations and payment of tariffs: when the UK’s full suite of border controls are in place in July 2021, full customs declarations and payment of customs duties, as set out in the new UK Global Tariff (or as specified in any trade deal with the EU) must take place when goods are imported from the EU. But from 1 January 2021 to 30 June 2021, most traders with a good compliance record can defer declaration and payment for up to six months on imports of standard goods from the EU.
This is only a summary outline of some of the issues involved. Gov.uk provides an online checker tool to use in your own circumstances. Do talk to us where further advice is needed.
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