Declaration Assessment

Although the import declaration may be made in advance, the final acceptance of the declarations takes place only when the goods arrive in the EU(or the UK’s border in the reverse scenario). The goods are declared to customs through an import declaration. At this point, the shipment may be subject to EU (or the UK post-Brexit in the reverse scenario) customs duties and possible import VAT.

Revenue and customs authorities use the information declared for the purpose of risk assessment to consider whether to permit the movement (green routing)  to make a documentary check (orange routing) or make a physical check of the goods (red routing).

The assessment is made by computer program analysis based on input from revenue and other authorities throughout Europe. The risk issues depend on the nature of the goods, the traders, the carrier and the circumstances of the movement. These factors may make a documentary or physical check more or less likely in the circumstances.

Apart from checks arising from risk factors based on the information returned, Revenue is obliged to make a certain amount of random checks for basic enforcement and confirmation purposes. There is the risk that the returns made may not be accurate or complete. There is the risk that consignments may include other undeclared or wrongly declared goods. The goods must demonstrably conform to the return,

Revenue indicates that the outcome of an import declaration return will be notified about 20 minutes prior to exit from the ferry. It is at this point that a prior declaration is accepted and becomes live. Subject to the proper completion of the return/document,  the vast majority of declarations are given green routing so that they may move freely from the port. Revenue has indicated that drivers of accompanied loads may login to an online system using the registration number or trailer number to confirm green, orange or red routing.

Where there is orange or red routing trucks and consignments will be directed to a central compound in the port for physical and documentary checking. Orange routing may be satisfied remotely in most cases.

Brought to Customs Unless otherwise Permitted

Goods are subject to customs control on entry into the EU. The default procedure, in the absence of a complete declaration and payment or accounting for duties, is that the goods are declared to temporary storage which implies that they remain at the place of import under Revenue control. In this case, the goods may be unloaded with the permission of the customs authority only. The ferry companies have indicated that they will not allow trucks to board unless a prior declaration has been made.

Customs obligations arise when the goods become subject to a procedure. A customs declaration must declare the goods to a particular procedure. The default is temporary storage. The procedure is typically a declaration to free circulation which involves paying or accounting for customs duty on import VAT.

Other types of customs procedures are available. The customs declaration may involve the goods being placed in a customs warehouse procedure. The same goods may be later the subject of other declarations such as outward processing by which they leave the country to have works done and re-enter duty suspended. Ultimately the goods may be declared to free circulation with the duty and import VAT paid or accounted for. The goods remain under supervision until the custom status is changed or ultimately discharged.

The declarant is the person primarily responsible for the customs obligation. Other persons such as the transport operator who assumes responsibility for the carriage of goods after they enter the customs territory of the EU (or the UK post-Brexit in the reverse scenario) are also subject to obligations under customs law

Goods are channelled through the approved entry points, generally approved ports and airports and the permitted places within them for loading and unloading goods. They may be brought to a free zone in some limited cases where such exists

Where goods enter by road, there is an obligation on the driver to declare all goods being conveyed. This includes goods that are concealed even those of which they are unaware. The place of introduction into the customs territory of the EU, in the case of goods which are carried overland, is the place where the first customs office is situated.

Presentation of Goods

Historically goods were always presented physically. Now presentation is defined to refer to either physical presentation or notification by way of completion and acceptance of a prior import declaration of release for free storage. Physical inspection is always a possibility.

In almost all cases and almost certainly in most  UK Irish trade post Brexit, it is likely to be required that the import declaration, as well as the safety and security declarations, must be given in advance. The ferry operators have said that they will not accept goods for transport if they have not been pre-cleared.

In most cases, the goods are “green” routed by customs so that physical inspection is not required. This is more likely where the traders or agents are established and trustworthy so that customs authority is satisfied from a risk management perspective, that the goods are usually green routed. Random and systematic checks by way of policing and verification are required by EU law and as a matter of common-sense risk management.

When goods are not cleared for free circulation duties and VAT they may be declared to or may default to the temporary storage customs procedure / The importer must within a reasonable time declare which of the authorised customs approved treatment it wishes to assign the goods to, if this has not been done in advance.

Checking and Interventions

In addition to undertaking the tax returns on each occasion that goods move across the border, to both Irish Revenue and UK HMRC basic customs policing requires that a percentage of all goods are checked to see that what is declared corresponds with what is moved over the border. Even in an environment where Revenue and HMRC fully trust most traders, a percentage of all cases must be checked on a random or risk-assessed basis.

Where goods are required to be physically presented, they may be examined, detained for examination or assignment to a customs-approved treatment or use. Customs authorities may require goods to be unloaded and unpacked. The examination takes place only in a very small proportion of cases.

Goods were formerly placed in transit sheds imports pending inspection. The modern EU customs code status is the temporary storage procedure.

Once under customs control, goods must be unloaded or transhipped from a means of transport solely with the permission of customs authorities in places designated or approved by the customs authorities. Permission is not required in the event of imminent danger necessitating immediate unloading.

Customs Examination

A certain amount of random or systematic checking is required by way of verification and policing.

Customs authorities are obliged to conduct a customs examination when it is clearly called for. The person declaring the goods is responsible for transporting and producing the documents to customs for examination. Some documents may be mailed or submitted via ROS.

It is presumed that a partial examination is representative of all of the goods presented. The person presenting the goods may request a further examination if he considers that it is not valid as regards the remainder of the goods.

There are practical limitations to the process. If suitable examination facilities are not available, customs may not be in a position to undertake a thorough examination. The costs may be prohibitive of undertaking examinations and samplings that might theoretically be justified. In effect, an examination of the good’s apparent condition is undertaken in most cases where there is an examination.

The customs authorities are obliged to take measures to identify the goods. Identification is required in order to ensure compliance with conditions applicable to the particular customs procedure which has been declared. The means of identification affixed to the goods may be removed and destroyed only with the custom’s authority, with their permission or as a result of unforeseeable circumstances. This is to prevent substitution and interference.

Non-Customs Checks

The risks relate not only to Revenue issues of the collection of the customs duty (if any) but also to regulatory compliance issues in relation to the goods. In this regard, Revenue acts as agents for other bodies of government most notably the Department of Agriculture Food and the Marine. There are specific rules in the areas of agriculture and food which require checks in almost all cases in the case of many animals plants and a significant amount of designated foods. In such cases, most or all products need to be subject to a documentary and/or physical inspection.

Revenue and HMRC are also agents for a variety of other departments and agencies in relation to such things as product standards dangerous goods, chemicals and a range of other goods and products that are subject to particular controls and regulations. Intervention may be required for policing of regulation and compliance.

There is specific legislation in relation to particular unusual classes of goods which is administered by various departments and agencies, which may make checks and controls necessary or more likely. In particular the import and/or export of certain types of goods requires a licence,  in  Ireland and sometimes in the corresponding state of import or export.

Other sections of this website deal in detail with these requirements. They cover such diverse matters as goods and materials with potential use as weapons, diamonds and protected species.

Controls may also be instituted where there is an intellectual property alert in relation to counterfeit goods

The existing EU single systems in certain areas such as dangerous goods hazardous goods and chemically goods would cease to apply to the United Kingdom so that more complicated processes will arise. Individual consent may be required from the authorities in the UK for movement of goods that were not formerly required but issued on a single EU wide basis.

A further significant complication would arise in obtaining certification of proof of the origin of goods in order to take advantage of the zero tariffs under the EU UK trade agreement. It is likely that the REX system of manufacturer certification of origin will be widely used. Apart from this,  there are some simplifications based on a rational risk management basis. The default provision is that certification must be applied for either on an ongoing basis or frequently form a governmental authority or trade body, based on evidence furnished for a certificate. This may require a specific or repeated application.

Food and Agriculture

Much higher tariff rates apply to imports of agricultural goods. For example, the third country rate on EU imports is between 20 and 60% on various types of dairy products, with an average of 22% on cereals, 18%, and animal products. The tariff rates on many foods are between 10 and 18%.

The UK temporary tariff regime reduced these rates to some extent for imports into the UK, but relatively high rates continue to apply in some cases. The tariff calculations are complex as many agricultural products are subject to quotas and weight-based tariffs.

In the case of agriculture and food documentary checks and physical checks are required in a very high percentage of cases. The percentage depends on the particular animal or food type with 100% documentary checks required in many cases. These checks are to take place at border inspection points. The physical checks are certain to cause significant delays.


There are a number of special customs processes that may relieve the immediate payment of VAT and customs duties which are set out in detail in other parts of this website. They may allow VAT and duty to be suspended for a period, e.g. until goods are removed from a Customs warehouse or for duty to be charged only on value-added abroad et cetera.

The customs warehouse procedure allows imported goods to be moved to a customs-approved warehouse with duty (and VAT) suspended. The obligations to make a customs declaration declaring the goods to free circulation with payment of the duty may be postponed until the goods are released from the customs warehouse. This aids cash flow as well as facilitating free movement through the port to the warehouse.

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