Clearing Customs

International trade can be confusing at first. If you don’t know your commodity codes from your HS codes and are struggling with customs documentation then don’t worry, you’ll find all the answers here.

Just like when you go abroad and you need to pass through Customs, your goods and products will need to do the same. The main roles and responsibilities of Customs:

  • Collecting duties and taxes
  • Counter-terrorism
  • Enabling trade agreements
  • Enabling duty relief schemes
  • Enforcing embargos
  • Protecting against illegal substances
  • Protecting against counterfeiting
  • Collecting trade statistics

DHL can also help you to cut through the administration and quickly help make sure you are customs compliant. We have a dedicated customs department located centrally at East Midlands Airport where our experienced team are able to service all your import, export and customs requirements.

  • DHL Express is an Authorised Economic Operator (AEO certified) for both customs and security
  • More than 120,000 formal import customs declarations are processed each month
  • DHL Express employs more than 100 customs declarants to handle the complexity of customs clearance for its customers
  • We also complete over 40,000 formal export declarations each month

Customs Requirements 

There are a number of considerations to make in order to be compliant with Customs.


Deferment numbers enable HMRC to charge duty and taxes on account. Although most carriers will process your imported items under their own deferment number, they will charge for this service.

For many importers, having a deferment account speeds up the clearance process and minimizes any additional carrier charges, whilst avoiding the need for immediate payment of Customs Duty and VAT.

Obtaining a deferment number through HMRC is straightforward and costs nothing, but you will need a guarantee which you can get from your bank. Click here to apply for your deferment numbers. Remember to authorize your shipping agent to use your Deferment Approval Number (DAN) for each of your imports to keep your shipments moving and avoid delays.

Customs Duty

Customs Duty is charged at the place of importation and is calculated as a percentage of the total value of the goods. It is usually paid by the buyer or importer, unless you agree to do so yourself under the appropriate Incoterm®. There is one exception to this rule: for Common Agricultural Policy (CAP) goods (agricultural produce in the form of raw materials or processed goods), duty can be levied at the place of export.

Excise Duty

Excise Duty is a national charge levied on the importation of certain categories of goods such as alcohol and tobacco. As with Import Duty, Excise Duty is collected by Customs authorities in the destination country, and can vary from one country to the next according to national policy. Payment is generally the responsibility of your customer unless you are contracted to pay it under the sales contract.


All exports of goods to countries outside the EU are excluded from VAT in the UK. It is important that you retain commercial evidence (such as a certificate of shipment from your carrier, or a departure message from HM Revenue & Customs’ electronic export system) that your goods have been sent from the UK. The evidence must be sufficient to identify your goods and show that they left the UK. If you fail to obtain or keep satisfactory evidence that the goods have left the UK, the sale will not be eligible to be zero-rated as an export, and will therefore be liable to UK VAT.

Sectors: Construction, Logistics, Manufacturing, Technology, and Wholesale & Retail
Countries: United Kingdom
Topics: Getting Started, Legislation & Regulation, and Transport & Logistics
Export Action Plan