VAT News

HMRC: Customs and International Trade inspections – are these a concern?


In both the corporate and Education sectors, we are helping clients prepare for and manage Customs and International Trade inspections.  These inspections are not random but are the result of information HMRC have with regards the declarations an organisation has made in relation to its imports and exports.

There are a large range of issues that HMRC are identifying which, based on the information it holds from the import and export entries the organisation, or more typically a freight or shipping agent declare on behalf of an organisation.  These issues may include incorrectly claiming one or other relief e.g. a preferential tariff, claiming an import as duty free, incorrect classification of goods resulting in the wrong duty rate being applied (both import and export) and omitting a cost or costs that should be included so that the value entered is under declared.

HMRC will provide a list of queried entries which will represent a sample of the potential errors they have identified and during the visit HMRC will review the detail of these entries.  Amongst other things, HMRC will be looking at what related documentation an organisation holds to support the tariff applied, valuation declared etc. and the procedures followed to ensure that declarations are compliant.

If HMRC confirm that errors have been made, it will look to raise an assessment that can go back three years for any VAT or duty over claimed/under paid plus there is the risk of penalties being issued if HMRC determine there has been a lack of reasonable care in the way the organisation has managed its import and export declarations.

Where you have received a letter from HMRC’s Customs International Trade & Excise team to carry out a visit, it is recommended that you seek professional advice with the aim of managing the process and mitigating the risk of assessment and penalties. Centurion can help in this regard so, if needed, please contact Andrew Norris or your usual Centurion contact on 01633 415390 or email using

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