As you use the software, you may come across terms you aren’t familiar with. That’s why we’ve put together a glossary of CustomsClear terms for your convenience.
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Accompanied goods/Unaccompanied goods
Goods can be driver accompanied; meaning a driver is with the goods at all times (including the ferry) or driver unaccompanied; where the trailer travels alone on the carrier (usually the ferry) and is picked up by another driver after it has crossed the border.
A driver remains with accompanied goods from collection to delivery, including the ferry crossing. Unaccompanied goods are delivered on a trailer to the port of departure, the trailer is carried by the ferry without a truck and then collected from the port of arrival by another driver in the destination country.
The most common type of import tariff, calculated as a percentage of the value of goods being imported.
Authorised Economic Operator (AEO) status
AEO status is an internationally recognised indication that a business has compliant and efficient customs control processes and a secure supply chain. Having AEO status could reduce a business's ‘risk score’ which may mean consignments and documentation are subject to fewer customs checks.
The application process for AEO status can take up to 4-6 months and is therefore more commonly used by larger businesses importing large volumes of goods. AEO status is generally given to businesses who have a good compliance history, including making timely payments.
Bill of lading
This is the equivalent of a consignment note for goods that have been shipped by sea. It can include information like the number of packages, gross and net weight, packaging details and shipping container numbers.
Border Control Posts (BCPs)
A BCP is an inspection post at a port or airport, designated and approved for carrying out checks on animals, plants and their products (and other goods subject to controls), arriving from abroad.
Break bulk is a system of transporting cargo as separate pieces rather than in containers, often because the goods cannot be packaged in containers together because of their large size. A good example of break bulk would be cars or heavy machinery.
Carriage and Insurance Paid To (CIP) Incoterm
When using CIP, the seller is responsible for arranging delivery of the goods to the named place (a physical location e.g., the buyer’s premises or a warehouse agreed by both parties) and for insuring the goods during transit to the named place.
The seller is responsible for making the export declaration in the country of dispatch, the buyer is responsible for making the import declaration in the country of arrival.
Certificate of Origin (COO)
The COO is a type of proof of origin and verifies the country of origin of a product or goods. This is a key piece of information as it determines whether a preferential duty rate can be claimed at import.
The COO verifies the country in which the goods were wholly obtained (farmed, fished, harvested, reared etc.) or for manufactured products, the country in which it was last substantially transformed.
HMRC also accept other types of proof of origin depending on the type of goods and the country they are being imported from or exported to.
Combined Nomenclature (CN)
A system for classifying goods when they are declared to customs in the EU. The CN determines which rate of customs duty applies to the import of goods and is used in the compilation of trade statistics to help governments understand the volume and nature of trade within their country.
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A commodity code is a unique identifier that enables HMRC to assess the duty rate to apply at import and to determine the conditions that apply to import and export (i.e., what rules and regulations need to be followed).
Identifying the commodity code for your goods will enable you to determine the documentation required for import or export and to calculate how much duty to pay on import.
The commodity code is declared as a ten-digit number for imports and an eight-digit number for exports.
Commodity code (break-down of numbers)
The first six numbers of a commodity code come from the Harmonised System (HS) which is a global nomenclature published by the World Trade Organisation. The next four digits are assigned by the customs territory of import.
As a result, the commodity codes in the EU TARIC and the UK Global Tariff may be slightly different, therefore it is important for a UK business to review the commodity code and not rely on the suppliers’ information.
Consignee and consignor
The consignee is the person or entity receiving the goods in the destination country, they may also be the importer and/or the buyer. The consignor is the person or entity sending the goods from the departure country, they may also be the exporter and/or seller.
Consignment note (or CMR)
This applies to road transport and usually comes from the haulier. The CMR includes the terms and conditions of the transport and liability, and a description of the goods and packaging. There are typically several copies of a CMR, one for the trader, one for the haulier and one that travels with the goods.
Controlled goods are treated differently to non-controlled goods when it comes to customs declarations as they involve some form of licensing and/or regulatory checks. For example, alcohol and tobacco products, and goods used for military purposes are all considered controlled goods.
This is an 8-digit number given to chemical products from the European Customs Inventory of Chemical Substance (ECICS) database and is required when exporting or importing chemicals between the UK and the EU.
These are individuals or companies that a business can use to help move goods internationally. Customs brokers, freight forwarders and clearing agents are examples of intermediaries.
The type of help they offer can include filing the customs declaration, temporarily storing goods and transporting goods cross-border.
Customs office of exit
The customs office of exit is the customs office that the goods exit from and the point where goods are placed in the export procedure and released for exit. For example, for Roll-on/Roll-off(RoRo) declarations, this is your port of departure.
Customs duty is most frequently calculated based on the customs value of the goods being imported. The customs value should include the price paid for the goods, with some additions (including insurance and freight costs). In most cases, the customs value is the same as the statistical value of the goods.
Deferment Approval Number (DAN)
This is the unique reference number given to businesses who've successfully registered for a duty deferment account. HMRC recommends businesses who regularly trade internationally set up an account.
Delivered At Place (DAP) Incoterm
The DAP incoterm is where the seller covers the cost and the risk of the shipping. The buyer completes the import declaration. This contractual arrangement will be common now that the UK has left the EU.
Delivered Duty Paid (DDP) incoterm
The DDP incoterm is where the seller assumes all responsibility and risk for transporting the goods, including filing the import declaration for the buyer.
The most recognisable example of this is when a person pays for goods outside of Great Britain and their parcel arrives without any additional paperwork or charges. This contractual arrangement is used mostly by fast parcel operators.
Demurrage charges are incurred when goods remain at the port or terminal for longer than originally agreed. For example, a container holding goods for export can’t be unloaded onto the ship because the paperwork is incorrect.
The container will need to be stored within the terminal until the situation is resolved which may lead to demurrage charges depending on the length of the delay.
When transporting goods in shipping containers, detention charges are incurred when the empty container is returned later than agreed to the carrier / shipping line.
Dual-use goods are goods that can be used for both military and civil purposes, for example, chemicals, computers, software and technology.
Dual-use goods typically require a license for export. The Strategic Export Controls List published by HMRC can be used to determine if your goods require a license for export.
Declaration Unique Consignment Reference (DUCR)
The DUCR is the primary reference key for a customs declaration. It's a reference point for businesses to use for their own auditing purposes. The number follows a particular format:
- The last number of the year. For instance, 2021 would be: 1
- The country your business is based. In this instance: GB
- Your EORI number (12 characters)
- A dash
- Reference: Your unique set of characters (numbers, upper case characters and certain special characters)
Duties or duty is a term used to describe tax related to customs and is levied at the point the goods cross an international border.
Duty Deferment Account (DDA)
Businesses who regularly import goods and pay customs or tax charges can apply for a duty deferment account (DDA) that allows them to make a single payment each month, rather than paying duty for each individual consignment.
A DDA can reduce administrative burden by consolidating customs charges and enabling monthly direct debit payment.
HMRC recommends that businesses have a DDA to make a declaration.
Economic Operators Registration and Identification (EORI) Number
An EORI number is required for any business that moves goods between Great Britain and another country. A business cannot make a customs declaration without an EORI number. You need to apply for an EORI using the gov.uk website.
European Customs Inventory of Chemical Substances (ECICS)
This is an inventory for businesses trading chemicals (like pesticides, pharmaceuticals, and toxic chemicals) so they can easily identify their chemical, and CUS code (if they need it). This information is used to help customs quickly understand what rules and regulations the chemical goods should follow.
Ex Works (EXW) incoterm
With EXW, the seller is only responsible for making sure the goods are collected at the named place (either the seller's premises or a warehouse). The buyer is responsible for loading the goods onto the vehicle, export formalities and all import costs.
Free Carrier (FCA) incoterm
With FCA, the buyer collects the goods from the named place of delivery. While the seller completes the export declaration, it's the buyer that covers the costs and risks of transporting the goods to their destination.
If the named place of delivery is the seller's premises, it's the seller that's responsible for loading the goods onto the truck. For Roll-on/Roll-off (RoRo), the named place of delivery could also be the freight forwarder's warehouse.
This means your goods have now cleared customs and, for example, can be used and sold in Great Britain.
Free on Board (FOB) incoterm
With FOB, the seller is responsible for the costs and risks associated of goods transport up until the named port of departure. It's a contractual arrangement most associated with container shipping.
An intermediary that transports goods on behalf of the seller and/or the buyer. Freight forwarders' services may also include customs clearance and packing goods to specifications, which is important for dangerous goods.
Goods Vehicle Movement Service (GVMS)
A UK government border control IT system for co-ordinating the movement of vehicles and part of the government's measures for dealing with post-Brexit trade.
GVMS links customs declarations to the movement of goods and enables the automatic arrival/departure of goods in HMRC systems.
The system allows notifications about risking outcomes to be sent to the person in control of the goods, for example, if HMRC wishes to perform a physical inspection, the goods owner will receive a notification ensuring they know where to proceed with the goods on arrival.
Harmonised System (HS)
The Harmonised System (HS) is administered by the World Customs Organisation and defines HS codes which are the foundation for goods classification systems around the world.
Globally, the first 6 digits of an HS code is harmonised. Customs authorities add up to 4 digits to each HS code to manage national variations in tariffs, taxes and statistics collection.
In the UK, a commodity code is made up of 10 digits for imported goods, and 8 digits for exported goods, with the first 6 digits taken from the HS code.
A collection of eleven rules published by the International Chamber of Commerce that define the responsibilities of sellers and buyers in cross-border goods transactions.
Incoterms set clear parameters of responsibility around who is required to make customs declarations and who should cover the costs of insurance and delivery.
Any goods that do not appear on HMRC’s controlled goods list. These are not usually subject to additional controls, including requirements for permits, licenses or certificates.
Loose bulk refers to goods that can't be packaged because of their nature, for example grain, ore and bulk petroleum products.
This is a paper document that normally travels with the goods describing what's inside each package and should include information like weights and types of packaging.
On a customs declaration, parties are the different people involved in making the declaration. The parties involved include: the declarant (the person making the declaration in their name and thereby taking responsibility for information being correct and paying any customs duties); the exporter (consignor); the person or organisation receiving the goods (the consignee); and the buyer and seller (if they're different to the exporter and importer).
Permission to Progress (P2P)
P2P is an HMRC term related to exports. After a business has completed an export declaration, they'll receive a notification from HMRC letting them know if they can proceed to the port with their goods. Hauliers require businesses to have a P2P prior to picking up the goods to prevent customs delays.
Postponed VAT accounting (PVA)
If a business is registered for VAT and has import VAT to pay, they can choose to use PVA, which allows them to delay paying VAT at the point of import (i.e., when the declaration was made).
The import VAT is accounted for and recovered on the VAT return that relates to the period when the import took place.
This is a process strongly encouraged by HMRC to help businesses who import or export goods reduce delays at the border. By submitting a declaration before the goods have crossed Great Britain's border, HMRC have the time to assess the risk and regulations of the goods being delivered.
This is especially important for imports as HMRC can work out how much duties and taxes must be paid. Once a business has paid the charges, the goods are back in their control.
Roll-on/Roll-off(RoRo) is one of the most common modes of transport for trade with the EU. RoRo freight travels by truck and crosses the border either on a ferry or via the Eurotunnel.
This is usually a metal seal applied to a container for either added security of high-value goods or to protect a container being opened mid-transit (where the container is passing through another country to reach its end destination). If a container has a seal, the identity number may be asked for in a declaration.
Self-representation is where the trader completes and submits the customs declaration themselves without engaging an intermediary, such as a customs broker.
Under self-representation, the trader takes full responsibility for the accuracy of information given and the payment of any customs taxes and charges.
Shipping marks are usually found on the outside of a package and include information like handling instructions (e.g., “Fragile” or “This way up”, weight, country of origin, country of departure and country of destination).
Also known as a full frontier declaration (FFD), a standard declaration requires the full completion of your declaration to HMRC upfront, before your goods are cleared for release. For imports, tax and duty are levied when the goods arrive at the border. This type of declaration requires no further action from the trader after the goods have cleared.
This is the price a business has paid for the goods including any freight, insurance, transport costs or any other costs that are associated with bringing it across the border. For instance, a business may have to pay for the actual cost of the packaging, as well as the goods. Some of these costs can be found on a commercial invoice or export/import documentation.
HRMC treat this information as a statistic, which forms part of a bigger picture on the state of trading in the UK, what's being traded, the costs, etc.
A tariff is assigned at a goods level and outlines the rules and regulations, as well as duties to be paid. In addition to the EU having their set of tariffs, the UK also has their own tariffs for businesses to follow, as outlined by the DIT (Department of International Trade).
HMRC ask for a commodity code in a declaration so they can quickly work out which tariffs apply to the goods; both within the UK and the EU. The last two digits of a commodity code hold information around the UK tariffs the goods need to follow.
Before Brexit, countries outside of the United Kingdom and the EU were third countries (i.e., Australia, China and the United States of America).
Now, the UK considers all EU countries third countries and vice-versa, as the UK is no longer in the single market.
Union Customs Code (UCC)
This is a code created by the European Parliament of the EU, and is a set of rules and procedures for importing, exporting and storing or processing of goods. There are over 700 articles with rules around the customs value, origin and guarantees for payment of charges.
Overall, the aim of the UCC is to make trading between the countries of the EU smoother by having one common framework for everyone to work around.
The other focus is digitising the customs process, thereby cutting down the need for paperwork. Despite the UK leaving the EU, it shares the same commitment to improving this process through technology.
United Nations dangerous goods
Goods that the United Nations specify as dangerous are grouped into nine categories:
- Flammable liquids
- Flammable solids
- Radioactive materials
- Toxic and infectious substances
- Oxidising substances and organic pesticides
- Substances that are dangerous to transport.
Businesses can export or import these goods, as long as they follow the rules and regulations around how they're moved.
United Nations dangerous goods code
This is a 4-digit code the United Nations assigns to dangerous goods like explosive chemicals, devices and weapons. It can be found on a packing or invoice.