Showing posts from tagged with: Free Trade Agreement

What now for Customs and Brexit?

Theresa May ran a Conservative campaign based on “Brexit means Brexit” which for May meant a Hard Brexit. In May’s vision of the future of the UK this meant leaving the Customs Union and leaving the Single Market.

For Irish Traders this meant the imposition of customs duties on trade with the UK, the imposition of border controls and potential complications for importing UK goods in terms of conformity with EU standards.

For the Agri-Food industry an additional nightmare would be the need for agricultural products to be imported from EU approved plants and the requirement for import licenses.

What Brexit means is still unclear

Brexit might still mean departure from the Single Market and Customs Union as planned by Theresa May and re-confirmed by the UK Chancellor of the Exchequer, Philip Hammond in an interview with the BBC on the 18th June.

However there may still be a Free Trade Agreement concluded which will minimise the impact of customs duties and tariffs.

Finally, with the DUP now entering a confidence and supply arrangement with May the views of Northern Ireland businesses will have to come front and centre in the negotiations. Arlene Foster has made it very clear that the DUP is against a hard border with the Republic of Ireland. For the border this can only mean good news and a focus on what will be good for business trading North to South (which equally impacts positively on South-North trade).

What steps should Exporters be taking at this point?

Essentially this has not changed from the advice provided in previous newsletters.

Firstly review the supply chain and determine the information and other requirements which will be necessary to enable you to complete Import/Export Declarations and minimise any delays at customs.

Secondly review your products and determine the best, likely and worst case scenario in terms of additional duty rates.

Thirdly upskill and train staff to understand and implement the new requirements.
 

What could a “practical” Brexit look like in trade terms and how should business now look to plan ahead for March 2019?

1. Trade Agreements and Tariffs

The first question often asked is whether or not customs duties will apply on imports into the UK from Ireland or on import into Ireland from the UK.  At this point there is no answer to this question as it will depend on the type of agreement the UK and EU conclude and the scope of that agreement (most agreements have limited applicability to agricultural products).

When people refer to a Hard Brexit or a Soft Brexit it generally refers to the UK being outside the EU/Customs Union/Single Market (Hard Brexit) or remaining part of the Single Market or Customs Union.

In the former case this would mean the UK being treated as a third country subject to standard MFN (WTO) rates. This can range up to 10% for industrial products and up to 50% for agricultural products.

In the case of a soft Brexit however any of the following scenarios could apply:

  • The UK and EU agree a Customs Union with the EU – similar to the current arrangement for Turkey. Under the Turkey Customs Union, Turkey agree to adopt the EU’s common external tariffs on third-country imports, as well as all EU preferential trade agreements concluded with third countries. However, Turkey does not have a say in the negotiations of EU Free Trade Agreements with third countries (despite being bound by them in relation to imports). This would mean therefore that the UK apply the EU’s Customs Tariff to all imports into the UK. Goods subsequently imported into the UK or EU would not be subject to an additional duty payment on movement to the other’s territory (subject to an ATR cert to confirm the status of the goods). The UK would be subject to EU Free Trade Agreements (FTA’s) and would have to allow FTA countries preferential access to the UK market (It is to be presumed that they would also easily agree UK access to the FTA countries market).
  • EEA (Norway, Iceland, and Lichtenstein)/EFTA (Switzerland) type arrangement.
    The EEA countries have full access to the Single Market in the same way as current EU Member states on the basis that all EU single market legislation is fully implemented in their countries. In addition they must apply the four freedoms. EEA countries do not however have a say in the EU decision-making process on relevant EU legislation and policies.Goods can move without customs duties where goods qualify as “originating products” (subject to a EUR1 document to prove originating status).
  • Preferential Trade Agreements – The EU has concluded a myriad of trade agreements such as the Canada Trade Agreement and South Korea Trade Agreement. Each agreement is specific to the party and what they agree to. In general however these agreements provide for preferential duty access to each other’s market subject to goods qualifying as “originating” – as per the EEA/EFTA agreements above.

 

2. Border Controls

Regardless of the type of agreement concluded, once the UK becomes a non-EU country a customs declaration will still be required on export from the EU and import into the EU. In addition some form of Border control will have to apply.

Even with imports from Turkey, which has a Customs Union with the EU, a SAD is required to be lodged along with an ATR document to prove that goods are in free circulation in the Union.

Similarly with the Norway- Sweden border there are customs controls and the requirement for customs declarations. On the Norway-Sweden border for example there are 10 customs checkpoints with HGVs required to travel via one of these road border crossing points.

However, with an EEA/EFTA type arrangement or a Customs Union then the possibility of an electronic border and customs facilitation stations, as envisaged by Revenue, becomes more likely. While this would simplify the position on the North-South border in terms of movement of goods it does not negate the need for customs compliance and declarations to be submitted to Customs to account for the movement of those goods.

For more information about our partnership with BDO Ireland click here.

BDO Ireland | | 2 comments

Customs Classification – the What? Why? & How?

Traders who import or export goods into or out of the EU and following Brexit, the UK are required to provide a classification code for the customs clearance of each of their goods being shipped. When asked to supply a classification code by a clearance agent a number of questions arise, namely;

  • What are customs classification codes?
  • Why do traders need to be aware of them?
  • How do you classify goods for customs declarations?
  • What to do if there is uncertainty regarding the correct classification?

So what are customs classification codes?

Customs classification codes are often referred to as HS / HTS Codes, commodity codes or tariff codes. They consist of a 10 digit code for imports or an 8 digit code for exports. There is a worldwide Harmonised System which around 180 countries apply, which aims to harmonise the first 6 digits of the code across these countries. However, the interpretation of the legislation can differ between countries, so if a US supplier has a HS code on the commercial invoice it may be dangerous to assume that this code will also apply when importing into the EU.

Why do traders need to be aware of them?

Traders need to be aware of the correct classification of their products for a number of reasons;

  • Determines Rates of duty and other taxes at import – the classification of an imported good drives the customs duty rate for the imported goods. The duty rates can vary between 0% up to 25% for certain food items.

The classification of the good also determines if anti-dumping duty or agricultural levies will apply.

  • Origin requirements/benefits for preferential trade – this is particularly important when considering the post BREXIT era. Many traders believe that if a Free Trade Agreement (FTA) is in place then customs duties and declarations will no longer apply. However, the reduction of customs duties in a FTA are conditional, with the condition rules differing between classification headings. Therefore, it is required that the imported goods are correctly classified and a customs declaration is lodged even when a FTA exists.
  • Whether goods are subject to restrictions at import or export
  • Avoid delays or seizures
  • To avoid penalties and post-entry audit issues

The Importer is responsible for correctly classifying their goods on import and export.

Many traders rely on their clearance agent or HTS codes on the supplier invoice to classify their products. However, as an international trader you should be aware of the significance of the data on the customs clearance declaration or the Single Administrative Document (SAD). In the event of a post clearance check some of the more obvious information that a customs official may look out for is consistency of the information provided in the SAD. Take for instance a manufacturing company which imports plastic pipes as part of its operations. In box 31 of the SAD the product description is “Pvc plastic piping 50mm” then the Revenue officer would expect to see a tariff heading 3917 …., In box 33 of the SAD indicting that the product is “tubes, pipes and hoses of plastic”. However, if it is found that the tariff code provided is 4006 …., which covers “tubes … of rubber” this would be a red flag and could result in a post clearance customs audit.

Taking the above example, tariff heading 4006 which the importer has been using, attracts a 0% duty rate upon import into the EU. The correct tariff heading 3917 attracts 6.5%, so if Revenue go back 3 years (further in cases of suspected fraud) then 6.5% of the total shipments of plastic piping could mount up to a significant unbudgeted expense.

Regardless of how the error occurred, it is the importer who will be assessed for this duty which is generally not recoverable, so is a dead cost to the business. Furthermore, if the importer had been aware that the import of this product would have a duty impact prior to commencing importation, they may have been about to avail of customs economic (or special) procedures to suspend or eliminate the duty on import.

How do you classify goods for customs declarations?

The legal document which is used for classification in the EU is called the Combined Nomenclature (CN);

It is made up of:

-21 Sections

-99 Chapters

-960 pages

-Approximately 5,000 headings and subheadings

Classification is determined according to the terms of the headings and is subject to the Section and Chapter notes which are legally binding.

When classifying the product it is important to understand; the make-up of the product, its function, how it is presented at import, if it is an unassembled or unfinished product and the essential character of the product.

There are also guides to assist with the classification process such as the WCO Explanatory Notes and databases such as the eBTI database and TARIC in the EU and CROSS rulings in the US.

What to do if there is uncertainty regarding the correct classification?

There may be times when the classification of a good could fall between two or more headings. In other cases the risk of getting the classification incorrect could be too great in terms of extra customs duty or if one heading applied anti-dumping duty whilst another did not. Additionally, diverging codes could lead to falling foul of import/export restrictions if the classification of a product was deemed incorrect post clearance.

As the penalties for non-compliance can be severe in both financial and reputational terms, certainty is required by traders. The solution in these instances is to obtain a decision from revenue which is known as a Binding Tariff Information (BTI).

A BTI is legally binding on the holder and on all customs administrations within the European Union. Therefore, it provides legal certainty for its validity period of 3 years. The processing time for a BTI can be up to 120 days, so it is important to plan ahead before shipping materials.

Following the introduction of the Union Customs Code, the right to be heard has been removed for BTI applications. Therefore, if a trader submits a complete application to Revenue, Revenue can issue the BTI to an alternative heading without engaging in a further consultation process with the applicant. Whilst the option to appeal the decision remains, whilst the appeal is ongoing the BTI issued will be legally binding on the applicant. We would therefore advise that professional advice is sought prior to submitting an application, to allow the best chance of a satisfactory outcome.

 

For more information about our partnership with BDO Ireland click here.

BDO Ireland | | 0 comments