Accountants unveil new customs declaration service ahead of UK transition deadline

Oct 19, 2020

A DEDICATED customs declaration service aimed at SME businesses needing help after the UK’s exit from the European Union is completed has ben launched by an accountancy firm based in Milton Keynes.

The service developed by Hillier Hopkins is the first to be offered by a mid-tier UK accountancy firm. It aims to 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 December 31. 

The customs declaration service will, importantly, ensure that businesses pay the right amount of VAT and duties required.

It will be led by Hillier Hopkins 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 is a champion for the access to HMRC’s systems for SMEs in order for them to be able to prepare customs declarations.

Ruth Corkin

HMRC estimates that businesses will need to make around 255 million customs declarations a year once the UK leaves the transition period, an increase of 200 million on the 55 million currently made each year.

Ms Corkin said: “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.”

The paperwork is relatively straightforward to complete, she added, but HMRC’s Customs Declaration Service and its Customs Handling of Import and Export Freight 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, Ms Corkin said, 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.”


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

Ms Corkin 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 the Hillier Hopkins customs declaration service offers a holistic approach combining both the documentation needed together with the VAT and tax supporting documents.”

For more information on Hillier Hopkins customs declaration service visit

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