Brexit-related customs considerations for businesses in Northern Ireland

Brexit-related customs considerations for businesses

Businesses trading with Northern Ireland will need to have processes in place to deal with customs procedures and formalities, regardless of whether or not a Brexit tariff-free trade agreement is reached.


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Certain key actions relating to customs and value added tax (VAT) required of businesses before the end of 2020 include the following:

  • Understand the potential impact on the supply chain: Review the supply chain to understand the potential impact of a customs and VAT frontier on the movement of goods.
  • Contracts: Assess whether the terms of contracts with suppliers and customers meet the post-transition needs, in particular who is responsible for import clearance and any duties arising. 
  • Obtain an EORI number: To operate within a customs regime, importers and exporters of goods need to be customs registered. If not already registered, consider filing an application with HM Revenue & Customs to obtain an XI EORI (Customs) number for trading goods. If registered with the Trader Support Service (TSS), an XI EORI is to be issued automatically.
  • Customs classification and origin: The rate of customs duty arising on goods depends on their customs classification and origin. Confirm the commodity codes and origin for all goods moving into Northern Ireland.
  • Register for the Trader Support Service (TSS) and for the UK Trader Scheme: In considering how to file customs declarations for the import of goods, register for the TSS which will assist with declaration submission. Also consider registering for the newly announced UK trusted trader scheme before 31 December 2020 which is available to businesses with an Northern Ireland establishment that may be able to declare that the goods it receives are not “at risk” of moving into the EU so that an EU tariff is not payable.
  • Export and import controls: Understand whether any additional controls will apply to goods such as licensing requirements, sanitary and phytosanitary (SPS) controls or advance notification requirement (e.g., for agricultural products).
  • Use of customs relief and simplifications: Be aware of the relief and simplifications available such as customs warehousing, inward processing relief, and transit that could mitigate the impact of Brexit on the business. 
  • Impact on ERP and finance system: Because customs declarations will now be required, this will have consequences for enterprise resource planning (ERP) / finance systems. Assess what changes may be required to ERP or finance systems.
  • Great Britain will become a third country for VAT purposes: The VAT rules for trading goods on the island of Ireland will remain the same, but the rules for trade in goods will change, with Northern Ireland following UK VAT rules for services and the rules for the supply of certain services.

Read a December 2020 report prepared by the KPMG member firm in Ireland

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