With the country – and indeed, the world – taken over by the Covid-19 pandemic, Brexit has taken a backseat in many people’s minds. But Brexit has already happened – the UK left the European Union on 31st January 2020, and their transition period will end on 31st December 2020.
This means that Irish companies continuing to trade with the UK after this date will need to be ready to complete customs formalities in order to move their goods to, from and through the UK, excluding Northern Ireland, from 1st January onwards.
The message from Revenue is stark – if you have not yet begun preparing to deal with customs in 2021, you must act now. “If a business hasn’t registered for customs, they won’t be able to move their goods after the end of the year – it’s that simple,” says Raphael Ryan, Assistant Principal at Revenue. “Equally if businesses don’t have a nominated person(s) making their customs declarations, they won’t be able to move their goods, as you need to make a customs declaration to move goods in or out of the EU.”
There are a number of steps businesses should take in order to become customs-ready, as well as some simplifications that should make their customs formalities more straightforward and easier to manage. Some steps take longer than others, but getting started is relatively straightforward.
Step One: Register for customs
“The first step is to register for customs and apply for an Economic Operators’ Registration and Identification (EORI) number,,” says Raphael. “Once this is done, you can move on to decide who is going to look after the customs declarations. These are the two basic steps that every business must do as soon as possible.”
“Registering is very straightforward. Once you’re registered for our Revenue Online (ROS) service, it will only take a few minutes to register for customs, and there is guidance online to help you through the process. You then apply for your EORI number.”
Step Two: Decide who will make the declarations
The first steps are easy, but bearing in mind that many businesses have never dealt with customs as they have always operated within the EU, the process can seem daunting.
“If you look at the process as a whole, there is a lot of information to take in and it can seem overwhelming,” says Raphael. “I would advise businesses to focus on each step that you can do to get yourself ready; every business should be able to register for customs and then take on the next step – deciding who will be doing the declarations.
“If you are going to make customs declarations yourself, then you need time to look at the software needed and to educate yourself on making a customs declaration. If you are employing an agent to make customs declarations on your behalf, then you must look at what data they need from you, such as invoicing or commodity codes. If you are a retail store, for example, there could be a lot of commodity codes you need to use and this can seem daunting – but there is a lot of guidance online through Revenue.ie to help you.”
Step Three: Decide how you are going to pay customs charges
A third vital step that must be considered as soon as possible is how you are going to pay your customs charges. “Payments can be made through a cash account, but that means having the money upfront, which may not be possible for many businesses,” explains Raphael. “You can set up a deferred account, where you pay the charges a month later, but this is linked to a guarantee, which is usually a cash guarantee or – more typically – a guarantee from a financial institution, and this can take some time to set up. Again, if you are thinking of this, you should apply to Revenue as soon as possible, so you can start the process of setting this up.”
Following on from this, there are a number of other steps to consider, such as understanding the impact of customs on your supply chain and logistics, getting any necessary certification or licencing for your goods, and considering the impact on VAT and excise.
“There is a lot of information on Revenue.ie and we’re updating it constantly with step-by-step explainers and more aids. My advice is to start the process now and educate yourself as much as possible through the resources online,” ends Raphael.