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December 15, 2020

Importing goods into the UK after 1 January 2021: a practical guide

In our last blog, we discussed the criticality of maintaining the free flow of things such as parts, products and medical equipment after the transition period ceases at the end of this year. As a company that works solely with high-performance organisations, we know that getting goods in and out of the UK smoothly – and without delay – couldn’t be more important, particularly because the consequence of failure to the end-customer is so high.

Preparing for new customs obligations will be challenging for some and this is largely because there will be a significant increase in the volume of customs declarations needing to be processed each year. A lack of experience, expertise and an absence of the right technology are all factors likely to mean that organisations will not be equipped to handle these changes, or maintain the required levels of compliance. In short – many of those organisations, previously unused to handling customs paperwork, will soon have to become specialists – and fast.

To help support organisations get ready for what’s up ahead, our Brexit Team has put together this practical guide to show you how you can get ready and continue to import goods into the UK from 1 January 2021. Read on to find out more or contact us to speak to an expert today.

Overview of changes to UK customs from 1 January 2021

PHASE 1: From 1 January 2021

  • For standard UK imports (everything from clothes to electronics) traders will need to prepare for basic customs requirements, and this includes keeping a sufficient record of all imported goods
  • Each item, depending on material composition will have a specific tariff code. Each tariff code will have an associated amount of tax to pay as dictated by the harmonised system which is maintained by the World Customs Organisation (WCO) via a deferment account.

NB. Export declarations and UK exit Safety and Security declarations will be required for all goods. Traders importing and exporting goods using the Common Transit Convention will need to follow all the transit procedures – these will not be introduced in stages.

PHASE 2: From 1 April 2021

  • All products of animal origin (POAO) and all regulated plants and plant products will require pre-notification and health documentation. Physical checks will continue to take place at the point of destination, until July 2021.

PHASE 3: From 1 July 2021

  • Eased import procedures will cease, and goods will now require full customs declarations at the point of importation and relevant tariffs will need to be paid
  • Full Safety and Security declarations will also be required (these won’t be required before July), while for commodities subject to sanitary and phytosanitary (SPS) controls, these will have to be presented to Border Control Posts (BCP, formally BIP). There will also be an increase in physical checks and the taking of samples
  • SPS checks for animals, plants and their products will take place at GB Border Control Posts and not at the destination
  • The GVMS will be in place for all imports, exports and transit movements at border locations which have chosen to introduce it.

Critical Q&As

What is a Customs Declaration?

A customs declaration is the document that provides key information about the goods being imported. We suggest appointing a customs compliance provider, as they will be able to complete and submit this on your behalf.

What’s the cost of making a Declaration?

The costs for submitting a declaration can vary. To find out the cost for Carousel acting on your behalf and submitting your declaration, email: to request an information pack.

When will an import take place?

Whenever goods enter the UK, an import will take place. If goods are subject to VAT then import VAT will also apply (at the same rate) and if goods are subject to customs duty, then this will also be payable.

How will UK exports change after 1 January 2021?

It’s important to make clear that the phased import approach (above) does not apply to exports i.e. the flow of goods from the UK to the EU, and particularly between the UK and Northern Ireland, the details of which are yet to be finalised.

While imports to the UK will have a grace period, exports, for now, will not.  This means that from 1 January organisations / logistics providers will have to comply with full customs processes for shipments leaving the UK, significantly impacting procedures both internally (for the logistics provider) and externally (for the client / organisation).

For shipments to Northern Ireland from the UK, this could also mean a transit process will need to be followed.

What is TSS and how can it help me?

The new NI Protocol will change the way goods move between Great Britain and Northern Ireland and the Trader Support Service (TSS) has been set up aimed at smoothing this transition.

It is mandatory for all organisations moving goods into Northern Ireland to register for the TSS and as such it’ll help you move goods between Great Britain and Northern Ireland, or bring goods into Northern Ireland from outside the UK. TSS is free to use and will support any changes to the way goods move between Great Britain and Northern Ireland.  TSS will provide:

  • Information to organisations on what the protocol means for them, and “the steps they need to take to comply with it.” This will include online training sessions and webinars, with information being continually updated until 1 January 2021
  • Organisations will get access to an end-to-end support package to manage import and safety and security declarations on behalf of traders
  • Guidance and training (a digital service to support declarations) as well as support from customs experts
  • Completion of declarations on your behalf.

So, if you’re a trader, intermediary or carrier moving goods in and out of Northern Ireland, TSS will help you gain access to a programme of free of charge information and training from the Northern Ireland Customs & Trade Academy.

How can Carousel help you?

Carousel continues to prepare for all eventualities, so we’re here if you need some extra support or help building a contingency plan for your supply chain.

Our Brexit Action Team is made up of experts from across our European operation and they can work with your business to build resilience, resolve supply chain challenges, and even identify real opportunities post-Brexit. To book a free consultation with one of our expert Brexit team, contact:

Critical services

We also offer a range of critical Brexit services all aimed at helping organisations prepare for the changes that will arise at the end of the transition period:

  • Appoint us as your customs broker. Our Priority Customs Clearance service is an expedited customs clearance service for prioritised consignments to provide high-performance organisations with the rapid transfer of parts and products post-Brexit. Click here to find out more.
  • Avoid short strait delays. Our owned air cargo solutions link strategic locations across the UK, Ireland and mainland Europe, providing you with a reliable gateway post-Brexit, to help you overcome potential short-strait road delays.
  • Maintain your last mile, post-Brexit. Our unrivalled suite of final mile options mean we can effectively facilitate next day deliveries to/from Europe, plus optimise stockholdings across your field engineer network, to accelerate their efficiency, even post-Brexit.

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Information correct at the time of publishing. 

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