New customs service to help importers and exporters with Brexit customs changes

Hillier Hopkins LLP

Chartered Accountants & Tax Advisers

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We are delighted to announce the launch of our dedicated customs declaration service aimed at SME firms needing help following Brexit.

The customs declaration service, the first to be offered by a mid-tier UK accountancy firm, will help businesses with the documentation needed to move goods to and from mainland Europe and to Northern Ireland once the UK leaves the transition arrangements on 31 December 2020. The customs declaration service will, importantly, ensure that businesses pay the right amount of VAT and duties required.

Our service will be led by our VAT and indirect tax director Ruth Corkin, who has been an adviser to the government, sitting on its Alternative Arrangements for Northern Ireland Committee and a champion for the access to HMRC’s systems for SMEs in order for them to be able to prepare customs declarations.

Ruth Corkin said: “HMRC estimates that businesses will need to make some 255 million customs declarations a year once the UK leaves the transition period on 31 December, an increase of 200 million on the 55 million currently made each year.

“There are currently serious shortcomings in the government customs systems leaving business unable to fully prepare for this change to the way we move goods in and out of Europe. Businesses face huge delays in importing and exporting goods, particularly at channel ports.

“Whilst the paperwork is relatively straightforward to complete, HMRC’s Customs Declaration Service (CDS) and its Customs Handling of Import and Export Freight (CHIEF) systems are not. CDS is not yet fully operational, difficult to access by businesses, and can take upwards of 12 months to register and secure the software needed.

“The position in Northern Ireland is particularly acute, with some 74,000 new registrations for VAT in 2019 of which 71% are SMEs employing under 50 people. They simply will not have the time or the expertise to manage the customs declarations required if they are trading with the rest of the UK.

“And that is why we have launched this new customs declaration service to help businesses continue to trade as seamlessly as possible.

Currently, most customs declarations are made by intermediaries and freight forwarders. There is, however, a chronic shortage of advisers currently operating in the market, and with gaps in the service provided. 

Ruth said: “At present, intermediaries and freight forwarders often do not keep documentation on customs declarations for more than a few months, and that can provide real challenges for businesses when making VAT and tax returns.

“That is why our customs declaration service offers a holistic approach combining both the documentation needed together with the VAT and tax supporting documents.”

The customs declaration service also includes a free to use online Customs Declaration Checker, imports and exports to help businesses determine whether or not they are required to complete declarations and highlights where they may need assistance. For more information on our customs declaration service please visit our dedicated Customs and Excise duty page or contact Ruth Corkin on

Do you need extra information?

Ruth Corkin - Prinicipal - VAT and Indirect Tax Advisory at Hillier Hopkins

Ruth has been involved with VAT for over 30 years. She started her VAT career as a Customs and Excise Officer in Essex and then moved into consultancy with a variety of well-known accountancy firms. She is well known in the VAT world and is the proud author of many articles and technical works.

Contact Ruth at or on +44 (0)1908 713860

Based at the following office - Milton Keynes, Watford and London