HMRC enrols traders for ‘no deal’ simplified imports

HMRC has ramped up its planning to minimise potential post-Brexit disruption to trade, by automatically registering 95,000 businesses for its simplified import procedures which will be put in place should the UK leave the EU without an agreement at the end of the month


The scheme, known as transitional simplified procedures (TSP), is intended to make importing after Brexit on 31 October much simpler, particularly for businesses who would be completing customs processes for the first time.

TSP allow most businesses up to six months to send in customs declarations and pay any customs duties to HMRC after importing goods from the EU. The department says this will prevent congestion at the border when goods enter the UK.

Up to now, businesses have had to apply to use the scheme, but with only 25,000 registering, HMRC has taken action to extend its reach to some 95,000 operators.

The government says it has chosen to automatically enrol VAT-registered businesses who import from the EU into the TSP scheme as it is the best option for businesses who are new to customs processes and have not yet appointed a customs agent. Businesses who are not registered for VAT should apply for the scheme if it would benefit them.

Jim Harra, HMRC interim CEO, said: ‘We are doing everything we can to help businesses get ready for Brexit on 31 October.

‘This move will support the trade of thousands of businesses and is part of our longstanding policy of making sure we continue to keep trade flowing.’

Under TSP, traders can choose to delay making declarations until 6 May 2020, giving them more time to get used to new processes. If they choose to delay making declarations until 6 May 2020, payment for the duties they owe will be taken by direct debit on 15 May 2020. Traders should prepare to account for the import VAT on imports on their normal VAT return.

Non-VAT registered traders who import goods from the EU are also encouraged to register for TSP. HMRC is developing a new online service which will let them report and pay import VAT on a quarterly import VAT return if they choose to delay making declarations until 6 May 2020. This service will be available to sign up for after Brexit.

Dr Adam Marshall, director general of the British Chambers of Commerce (BCC) said: ‘Automatically registering companies for TSP at the border means one less immediate demand on traders’ limited time and resources in the unwanted event of a no-deal exit.

‘In particular, it would help the thousands of UK firms who import from the EU but have little experience of dealing with customs processes. We are pleased that ministers have again listened to BCC’s calls to reduce the number of administrative hoops businesses will need to jump through as they navigate major changes to the way they trade across borders.’

Businesses registered for TSP today are UK-based traders who HMRC has a record of having imported goods from the EU in 2018.

HMRC has sent letters to these traders with further details of their TSP registration, and they need to take a few extra steps – such as checking if their goods attract tariffs, and getting a duty deferment account if they do – to make sure that they are ready for 31 October.

Importers do not have to use TSP: they still also have the option to use full import processes instead. However, HMRC strongly advises traders new to dealing with customs to take advantage of the benefits of TSP.

Details of the transitional simplified procedures are here.

By Pat Sweet

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