Public Notice 989 (Visits by Customs & Excise Officers) was cancelled on 1 May 2013 and replaced by guidance on it’s website. The website guidance refers only to VAT officers and not International Trade (customs) officers but the structure and process is virtually identical.
It is often useful to ask the officer for a list of import or export transactions they would like to see so the necessary paperwork can be gathered and ready for presentation in good time.
You will note that the guidance includes the following statement on professional advisors:
“If you have a professional adviser who helps with your business, then you need to decide whether they should be present during a visit. If they are the best person to explain your business accounts, or deal with a difficult problem, then it would be helpful if they could be present. They may charge you for attending.”
Most businesses outsource the making of customs declarations to freight forwarders who act as direct representatives, which means they are regarded by HMRC in the same way as the importers employees. A number of business departments will feed in to the customs process, including:
· Finance recording the costs, reconciling duty deferment accounts, dealing with tax authorities, recording tooling costs sent to suppliers etc.
· Shipping & Logistics dealing with the freight forwarders and arranging for transport and receipt of the goods etc.
· Purchasing negotiating contract terms, raising Purchase Orders, arranging for provision of materials to the supplier in some instances etc.
· Sales negotiating contracts with overseas customers, issuing invoices etc.
We are often asked to assist clients subject to a visit by pulling together the various business strands, ensuring all the required information is made available to HMRC to minimise any disruption to the business and the time spent on site by the officer.
We can also carry out pre-audit analysis to identify any potential compliance issues and propose a way to address and disclose these to HMRC.
Please call us to discuss what to expect from an audit and how we can help.