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How to Prepare for a Customs Audit

HMRC carries out customs compliance checks to ensure that all matters relating to international trade and customs are correct and that the correct amount of tax has been paid. Those checks may be done at your premises and will assess your compliance levels.  

Some key areas that may be assessed are as follows: 

  1. Customs Declarations: HMRC will review customs declarations declared on your behalf and assess their accuracy including the values declares, commodity codes used, etc.  


  1. Tariff Classification: As per the above, HMRC will check the code used is correct, so the right amount of tax is applied. They might ask to see any standard operating procedures for the classification of your goods to understand who is responsible, how they are classified and how often this is reviewed.  


  1. Origin of the goods: HMRC will verify the origin declared on the customs declaration and assess the eligibility for preferential trade agreements, duty reliefs or other customs treatments. This may involve reviewing supporting evidence such as Certificates of Origin, EUR1s or declaration of origin.  


  1. Special Procedures: If you’re authorised for any special procedures such as customs warehousing or inward/outward processing relief, HMRC will do regular checks to ensure that all procedures are followed as per your authorisation.  


  1. Record Keeping: You are required to keep all international trade related records for at least 4 years. HMRC will assess you have maintained accurate and complete records of your customs activities including declarations, commercial documents, shipping documents, etc.  

This is a non-exhaustive list of areas that will be covered during a HMRC compliance checks. These can also include customs valuation, export controls, etc. Although HMRC will usually make an appointment or provide an inspection notice, they do not have to inform you about a visit in advance so it’s essential to always follow rigorous procedures to keep your compliance levels high.   

How to prepare?  

  • Subscribe to your Management Support System (MSS) data. HMRC can send you monthly reports of any import/export customs declarations completed on your behalf. These reports are a simplified way to check the accuracy of your records by seeing all your declarations in one place. See here for more information and to subscribe.  


  • Get a Customs Compliance Assessment from our team. Our customs audit service helps businesses to prepare for official audits and highlights potential areas of concerns. Following a half-day visit to your premises, we will provide a full report of key findings and recommendations. For more information and to book a free 30 minutes consultation, please see here.  

You can speak to our team by emailing or calling 0161 393 4314. 

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