Brexit is now here. Arguably, however, at this point, it doesn’t really make a great deal of difference. With a COVID19 lockdown now looking to be in place until March, many businesses are being forced to halt, or at least scale back, their operations. While this is bad news it does at least give businesses a little time to catch up on what they should have done already.
Make sure you have an XI EORI number
One of the more interesting points about Brexit is that it puts Northern Ireland in a customs twilight zone. The practical point is that businesses in the UK mainland now need an XI EORI number to carry on doing business with it. Even if you don’t do business with it, it’s advisable to sign up for one anyway. It makes more sense to have one and not need it than vice versa.
Register on the Trader Support Service
This is basically a digital portal for completing the paperwork necessary to move goods between the UK mainland and Northern Ireland. Again, even if you don’t think you’re ever going to use it, it probably makes sense to sign up for it anyway. You have no idea what’s going to happen in the future so it’s advisable to do whatever you can to be prepared for the unexpected.
Make sure you have a GB EORI number
You need this to import or export anything from the EU. If you do not have one by now, then you absolutely must make it a priority to get one. In fact, as with XI EORI numbers, even if you don’t think you’re going to need one, sign up for one anyway. That way you’re covered if your circumstances change.
Sign up for a customs broker
In principle, by far the easiest way for businesses, especially small ones, to deal with Brexit is just to sign up with a customs broker. In practice, this may, itself, be something of a challenge. Customs brokers can only take on new clients if they are sure they have enough staff to handle the extra work. Right now, however, customs brokers are having serious recruitment issues.
The simple fact of the matter is that there is an overall shortage of trained and experienced customs staff. Over the long-term, this can be addressed by training. There may also be the potential for making greater use of technology. Over the short-term, however, both customs brokers and regular firms are probably going to have to make do and mend as best as they can.
Sort out your VAT/Duty arrangements
The two key points on your to-do list should be to apply for postponed VAT accounting and to apply for a duty deferment. The former allows you to incorporate the VAT on imported goods into your standard tax return. The latter allows you to pay your import duty via a monthly bill rather than every time you make an import.
It’s worth noting that, at present, HMRC has waived the need for a Customs Comprehensive Guarantee. They will also provide a monthly £10K credit limit to qualifying businesses. As with everything mentioned so far, even if you don’t think you’re going to need it, set it up anyway.
Check your commodity codes
Prior to Brexit, commodity codes didn’t really matter for intra-EU exports because it was a free-market area. Post-Brexit, they could matter a great deal. For example, certain types of goods might become subject to export/import tariffs. Alternatively, they may simply be subject to certain restrictions or at least additional checks.
This is particularly likely if goods are travelling into Northern Ireland as the EU is eager to make sure that NI does not become a back-door route for customs dodging. It could, however, apply anywhere.