UK customs clearance can be complicated at the best of times. It’s why importers, big and small, trust customs brokers to deliver a stress-free experience. But are customs brokers really necessary, and what exactly do they do?
In this guide, we’ll explain the important role UK customs brokers play and how they help businesses import goods into the UK. We’ll also help you decide whether working with one is the best choice for you.
A customs broker, also known as an import broker, facilitates the smooth clearance of goods through UK customs. These individuals or businesses are experts in cross-border trade, have decades of experience and a far-reaching network of contacts. They keep on top of the latest trade regulations and file all necessary paperwork so their clients don’t have to.
While you can hire a specialist customs broker, many freight forwarders fulfil the role as part of their service offering. If you’re also looking to hire a freight forwarder, it is worth asking if they can act as your customs broker, too.
A UK customs broker will handle the entire process of clearing UK customs when importing goods from the far east. This includes:
Nothing is stopping any business from submitting their own customs declarations. But there are several benefits to using a customs broker.
Customs clearance is far from straightforward. If you’re a large importer and you want to handle the process yourself, you’ll need to hire at least one full-time staff member. It’s far more cost-effective to trust an experienced customs broker who can help you navigate ever-changing customs regulations and complete much of the process on your behalf.
You’ll also get peace of mind knowing that an expert is handling the process, rather than worrying about it yourself or spending time training a member of staff to do the job.
Customs brokers can also help businesses avoid many of the administrative headaches that come with UK customs clearance. For instance, businesses must electronically register clearance documentation with HMRC using CHIEF. Businesses will be required to learn how to use the system and purchase additional software unless they work with a customs broker.
Finally, a customs broker will significantly reduce the risk of delays and the associated costs. By having their finger on the pulse of the industry, a good broker will be able to anticipate issues and plan how to avoid them ahead of time. They can also submit declarations in advance so that your goods spend as little time sitting in customs clearance as possible.
This all depends on how prepared you are. With the right broker, clearing UK customs is achieved in a matter of minutes. If something is wrong, however, the process can take hours, days or even weeks. Incorrect paperwork and a lack of communication are two of the most common reasons why customs clearance is delayed — both of which can be avoided by working with a broker.
A freight forwarder arranges for goods to be transported from one country to another. They are responsible for everything associated with logistics. As a result, many also act as customs brokers since it is a key part of the process.
It’s important to be aware of the rules in your country of origin, however. Some countries require customs brokers to be licensed professionals. Therefore, you’ll need to choose a freight forwarder licensed to operate as a customs broker in that country.
There is no difference between a customs broker and a customs clearance agent. The two terms can be used interchangeably when talking about people responsible for helping your goods clear customs.
A common myth is that customs brokers don’t complete customs declarations or T1 transit documents in-house and outsource them to third parties. While some may, this is not the case for most UK customs brokers.
It’s important to note that a customs broker is not just a middleman in this case. Unlike professional service sectors where brokers simply get you the best deal, customs brokers actively complete work on your behalf without outsourcing it to third parties.
It’s not hard to find a company offering a customs broker service in the UK, but it can be difficult to find a good one. We recommend looking for the following characteristics:
Given the complicated nature of UK customs, it’s not surprising most importers choose to work with a UK customs broker – with many of them trusting DG International. We are an experienced UK customs broker that takes a proactive approach to customs clearance.
By filing all paperwork two weeks in advance, we give your goods the best chance of leaving customs as quickly as they arrive. It also helps us to avoid any issues that could see your goods stuck in port. And because we offer customs brokerage alongside our industry-leading freight forwarder service, you only need to speak to a single contact from the moment your goods leave your supplier in the far east to the day they arrive in the UK.
Speak to one of our consultants for more information on how DG can help you clear UK customs or start building a bespoke quote today.