Coronavirus: Moving goods through customs

News article

Find out about moving goods and clearing customs during the coronavirus outbreak

During the coronavirus outbreak, there are changes to the way you move goods through customs.

Border functions and social distancing

To help stop the spread of coronavirus (COVID-19), customs border processes have temporarily changed. This includes transit and export procedures.

Exchanging transit and export documents

Traders, their agents and Border Force staff should exchange documents electronically. This can be by:

  • email
  • fax
  • digital photograph

The information must be legible. You do not need to print documents received in an electronic format.

Documents required by customs officials in EU member states must travel with the goods as a hard copy. These include:

  • Transit Accompanying Documents
  • proof of union status
  • Carnet documents

You should get documents requiring a wet stamp in the usual way, unless you have agreed alternate procedures.

You must provide hard copies of licenses and other documents to the appropriate importer or exporter, by post if necessary. These should be retained in the normal way.

Export Approvals

Traders may apply for permission to extend that authorisation to additional locations, if they are authorised to use:

  • Designated Export Places
  • Customs Supervised Exports
  • Local Clearance Procedures

This will allow you to request ‘permission to progress’ without first needing the goods to be located at the premises set out in your approval.

To apply, email nesauthorisations@hmrc.gov.uk. You should explain how the extension will enable you to reduce levels of physical contact. Large businesses should also provide the name of their Customer Compliance Manager.

If HMRC accept your request, you’ll be told the correct process to follow.

Transit movements starting at an office of departure

Email or telephone procedures already in place at offices of departure will continue without change.

Where traders normally enter goods to the transit procedure by presenting documents over a counter at an office of departure, traders may now request the release of the goods by contacting the relevant office.

Union goods must be at the office of departure before release to the transit procedure is requested. Non-union goods can continue to be released from approved places, such as customs warehouses.

You must provide Border Force with the:

  • declarant’s name and EORI number
  • local reference number of the transit declaration
  • office of departure referred to in the transit declaration and confirmation that goods are on site
  • master reference number of the export declaration, if needed
  • email address to which the electronic Transit Accompanying Document and master reference number should be sent

A suggested Covid-19 Proforma (PDF, 179KB, 1 page) is available.

You must not start the outward journey until you’ve received an email from Border Force with the Transit Accompanying Document and master reference number.

Before permission to progress is granted, you may need to:

  • provide further information in order to complete documentary checks
  • present the goods to a customs office

Transit movements starting at an authorised consignor

Authorised consignors may apply for permission to extend that authorisation to additional locations.

To apply, email national-simplifications.ccto@hmrc.gov.uk or the appropriate Border Force office. You should explain how the extension will enable you to reduce levels of physical contact. Large businesses should also provide the name of their Customer Compliance Manager.

If you need permission to progress for export declarations, you can request this at the same time.

If HMRC accept your request, you’ll be told the correct process to follow.

Transit movements ending at an office of destination

Email or telephone procedures already in place at offices of departure will continue without change.

Traders can now request the release of goods from the transit procedure by contacting the appropriate office after the goods have arrived.

You must provide Border Force with:

  • the declarant’s name and EORI number
  • the master reference number of the transit declaration
  • inventory reference from temporary storage facility
  • the entry number or master reference number of subsequent customs procedure, if applicable
  • confirmation that any seals listed on the transit declaration are intact

A suggested Covid-19 Proforma (PDF, 179KB, 1 page) is available.

Goods should not be unloaded until Border Force have provided permission. Traders must immediately report any discrepancies between the goods and the transit declaration to the same Border Force email address.

Transit movements ending at an authorised consignee

Authorised consignees must continue to follow their normal processes but may communicate and exchange documents with Border Force by telephone, fax or email. Goods must be at their approved premises before they request permission to unload.

View a full list of Border Force offices.

Exports less than €3000 in value

If you have a consignment that is less than €3000 in value and is not subject to prohibitions or restrictions this can be declared for export in the UK even if the exporter is established in another EU member state. You must complete a customs declaration for these goods.

If the export is to be conducted under simplified procedures, you must contact your supervising office.

Delays during transit of your goods

If you are transporting goods, the expected journey time entered on a transit declaration can reflect anticipated delays. The New Computerised Transit System will accept journey times of up to 14 days.

Completing supplementary declarations

If you’re unable to accurately calculate your supplementary declaration by your due date as a result of the coronavirus (COVID-19), you may submit an estimated figure. If your declaration includes an amount of Excise duty, you must submit a supplementary declaration as normal.

How to submit an estimated figure

To submit an estimated figure you must email Cfsp_cope@hmrc.gov.uk and provide the following:

  • company name
  • EORI number
  • deferment account number
  • estimated customs duty amount owed
  • estimated VAT owed
  • the number of supplementary declarations not submitted

You must provide a reasonable estimate of the amounts due and keep records that explain your calculation.

You should use previous supplementary declaration figures but you can factor in known seasonal variations and any impacts of the coronavirus (COVID-19) such as downturn in orders and reduction in consignment volumes.

HMRC will take a reasonable approach to compliance action but may issue civil penalties if estimated figures are significantly lower than actual amounts and your records do not justify the estimated value.

You must submit an accurate supplementary declaration as soon as you can.

You must notify the customs simplified procedures team when you have submitted your declaration, they will then credit the estimated amount back to your deferment account.


First published 8 April 2020

Also on this site