Swift and Smooth Customs Clearance

6 Oct

Clearing customs is a complex process, fraught with many challenges. Get something wrong, and it could consume hours and hours of your time, or result in your goods being held up, or worse still, it could cost you money that you don’t need to spend!

You may think it’s a simple matter, but by the time you realise there’s a problem, it could easily be too late to back-track and ask for advice.
(1) When arranging for collection and delivery – be prepared

When you ask us to arrange things, we will need the following information, for both collection and delivery addresses:

Full address including postcode/zip code
Telephone number and contact name
An email address for both the collect-from and deliver-to addresses
A short description of your commodity, its value, the size of the package(s) and approximate weight(s)

(2) Insurance is a must-have

It is often taken for granted by the originator of your consignment that the courier or forwarder will be insuring the goods – but in this world, take nothing for granted. We often hear of people setting out on holiday without adequate coverage and of the awful consequences when they need emergency medical treatment and there’s no insurance to cover the costs. In the same way that it is practical to buy travel insurance when you travel, so you should purchase insurance for your consignments. Click here for one insurance option, or look for your own alternatives – but don’t go without.

(3) Be aware of the implications of currency conversion and exchange rates

When making a purchase from another country, make sure you know the current conversion rate into Pounds Sterling. If you have to pay any import duty or VAT, your charges will be calculated in Pounds Sterling, converted at the currency rate of exchange at the time of import.

(4) Know what you’re being charged for

Handling costs are overheads and can make a big difference when you’re trying to run a business. Before you accept a quote for shipping, make sure you fully understand what’s included, for example:

Weight – are they calculating based on actual weight or dimensional weight?
Pick up – is it door-to-door, door-to-airport, airport-to-door, airport-to-airport, etc?
Import and customs clearance charges – are they included or excluded?
Handling and storage charges – included or extra?
Import duty and VAT – included or additional?
Any other administration costs – get them itemised

(5) Get the weights right

On forwarding distribution, try to keep your packages below a maximum weight of 30kgs each, to ensure you get the most advantageous service and pricing structure.

(6) Don’t forget to allow for time zones and differences

When arranging for a collection or delivery, don’t forget to allow for time differences. For example, east coast America is usually 5 hours behind the UK, the west coast usually 9 hours, the Far East is 7 hours ahead, the Middle East 3 hours ahead and the rest of Europe normally 1 hour ahead.

(7) It’s a Gift! But receiving presents from overseas can cost you

Depending on how a gift has been sent, there may be a customs charge. Usually there is no charge when:

The declared value is below £36.00
The declaration is correctly completed
The gift is sent from a private person outside the EU to a private person inside the EU
The gift is for use only by you or a family member
There is no commercial element
You did not pay for the goods either directly or indirectly
The gift is of an occasional nature only – eg, birthday, anniversary

(8) Receiving personal effects left behind in another country

Just because they are already your own things, doesn’t mean the process will be free of paperwork! There will be documents to complete and you will be required to sign a declaration in respect of your incoming items.

(9) Know your allowances

Beware – on receiving personal effects left behind or gifts being sent to you, there may be a customs charge if you exceed the following allowances:

Tobacco Products:

50 cigarettes; or
25 cigarillos (cigars with a maximum individual weight of 3g); or
10 cigars; or
50g of tobacco; or
a proportional assortment of different products


1 litre of distilled beverages and spirits over 22% volume; or
1 litre of fortified or sparkling wine, and some liqueurs of 22% volume or less; or
a proportional assortment of the different products; and
2 litres of still wines

(10) Keep track of where things are – let us track your consignment

You may know that the shipper has sent your consignment or package, but nobody in the UK has yet contacted you to advise whether it has arrived or not. Do you have an air waybill number or tracking number? If you do, that’s great, as we can track your consignment and even clear it through customs on your behalf.

We are happy to handle importation, customs clearance, storage and distribution or onward shipping for all types of personal and commercial consignments. Contact us with any questions, or to discuss your requirements. If yours is a particularly complex scenario, we may recommend a short consultancy exercise but often we can simply advise over the phone, and pick up the job from there.

%d bloggers like this: