HMRC Moves To Counter The Furore Over EORI and TSP

British import/export businesses are playing a dangerous waiting game over Brexit, according to sources ranging from the BBC to the British Chamber of Commerce (BCC).

Research by the BBC’s Newsnight in May programme found less than ten per cent of the UK’s overseas traders had applied for the necessary formalities, such as EORI, as of 26 May. Some commentators have put this down to a reluctance to commit themselves to actions before the full story emerges.

However, it appears that traders are being confounded by a more worrying hazard - mixed messages from the very bodies that should be clarifying the issues for them. Even Her Majesty’s Revenue and Customers (HMRC) has been accused of back-tracking on its advice. Some traders have alleged that sections of advice that appeared on the HMRC web site have now disappeared.

Figures showed that only 17,800 firms had applied for the Transitional Simplified Procedures (TSP) by 26 May. That's less than 10% of the total of 240,000 firms estimated to require the status by 31 October, when the UK's latest Article 50 extension is due to expire.

"We're far, far away from being no-deal-Brexit ready - it's a very low number," said Mike Spicer from the British Chambers of Commerce.

Matt Griffith of the Bristol Chamber of Commerce described the data on the Transitional Simplified Procedures (TSP) scheme - launched by HMRC to ease imports if Britain left the customs union and single market abruptly - as ‘terrible’.

According to Jayne Mezulis of Export & Import Consultancy Services, companies can register now for TSP via the website - https://www.gov.uk/guidance/register-for-simplified-import-procedures-if-the-uk-leaves-the-eu-without-a-deal. However, those companies who import from both the EU and non-EU countries should not register, as they are supposed to already understand how import customs declarations work. TSP is only for those companies who import from the EU only. It is not mandatory but intended to give importers from the EU some breathing space until they DO understand what is involved in making a Customs entry.

Another problem is that the EU’s importers of UK goods also need to familiarise themselves with the EORI and import procedures. These are our first line of support on the other side, and essential for trader readiness at the Calais or Coquelles new facilities. It is they who will check and waive through cross Channel traffic. Furthermore, questions have been raised about whether UK businesses will be able to apply for an EU EORI number after Exit.

HMRC has clarified its guidance on the question of which companies in the import/export supply chain will need to apply for an EORI number. The initial advice offered by HMRC has been amended, and the original bulletins deleted.

According to Jayne Mezulis, businesses that buy or sell from or to the EU WILL need a UK EORI number and shouldn’t leave this but register for one now. Mezulis added that for those businesses that need an EU EORI number, these won’t become available until after 31st October. A source from HMRC reportedly stated that exporters will automatically be advised of their EU EORI number at the point where they make an export entry after 31st October 2019.

Meanwhile some confusion has spread among the Haulage Sectors as operators in both the UK and Europe are beginning to question how they can ensure they always select EORI numbers appropriately for each shipment, given the variety of circumstances for the origin and destination of both goods and the participants in the trades. See Road Haulage Association story (below) for more details.  

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HMRC Moves To Counter The Furore Over EORI and TSP

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