Summary Declaration and Customs Control

The Import Control System is an electronic system for lodging summary declaration in EU states. It is distinct from the AEP system notwithstanding that the overlap of data is considerable. The requirement for advance electronic information is part of the framework of standards to secure and facilitate global trade (SAFE). It promotes the seamless movement of goods through international supply chains. It seeks to ensure the exchange of timely and accurate information to allow customs administrations to manage risk on a more effective basis. It seeks to enable customs to detect high-risk consignments and improve its controls.

Some countries such as Norway and Switzerland are already part of the EU customs security framework system so that and ENS is not required in trade with them. In an agreed Brexit the UK may enter a similar agreement with the EU. In a hard Brexit, the UK had indicated that it would waive the  ENS for a period on movements to the UK from the EU. The EU has not indicated that it will waive the corresponding requirement in imports into the EU from the UK.

The carrier must make an entry summary declaration (as safety and security declaration) to Revenue (or HMRC) prior to the arrival of the goods. The making of this declaration can be delegated to the freight forwarder or even the trader. Ferry companies will delegate this work to the freight forwarder or trader in the post -Brexit environment.

Unlike the case with the exit summary declaration the import safety and security, the declaration is separate and cannot be incorporated in the import declaration. In practice, the data can be copied over from one to the other different revenue systems are involved. Certain other documents such as transport documents may substitute for or provide the same information as the safety and security declarations.

Every import requires an entry summary declaration and an import declaration. The entry summary declaration and import declaration must be made separately notwithstanding that the overlap of information is considerable. Different revenue computer systems (AEP and ICS) are used. Where the carrier is unable to submit all the particulars the missing element of the data can be provided by another entity involved in the process in some cases.

The ENS contains a substantial amount of overlapping data with a customs declaration but relate principally to the physical movement of the goods. It does not, for example, include details on valuation and computation of the duties. In the absence of an import declaration, it may act as an initial summary declaration to temporary storage for customs purposes, pending a later fuller declaration releasing the goods to free circulation.

The ENS records information on the movement of cargo and undertakes common safety and security risk analysis. It notifies the office of subsequent entry within the EU, i.e. the member state of destination. It allows entry or rejects entry of the goods.

A notice must be given in advance of entry. It is submitted for acceptance at the office of first entry into the EU. It must be entered there irrespective of the final destination within the EU. Customs give a reference number and instructions as to entry in response.

The prior notice of movements allows control to commence prior to arrival in domestic ports. It may allow customs to screen a cargo or container prior to arrival. The advance electronic information allows the identification of high-risk containers for cargoes.

The Irish ferry companies indicated prior to the 2019 Brexit dates that they would not undertake the safety and security returns for unaccompanied containers and require importers to prove that they have done so before being allowed onto a ferry from the UK. An importer into Ireland or its logistics provider must make the relevant return and produce a master (movement) reference number (MRN) before being accepted. Carriers/drivers of accompanied consignments are obliged to ensure that this has been done. They would be required to prove that they have done so.

Electronic manifest

An electronic manifest is required for all goods on the aircraft ship or ferry and must be communicated electronically to the revenue authorities in the country of import. It effectively assembles much of the safety and security declaration information about the goods on board.

The obligation does not apply in respect of most shipping between EU countries such as that between Ireland and the UK. However, it is likely to apply post-Brexit in the absence of special arrangements otherwise. Where the obligation to have a manifest applies it applies to both EU and non-EU goods. The manifest interfaces with the Revenues arrival system which contains details of the arrival of all ships and aircraft. It is processed at the time the goods arrived.

The electronic manifest is compiled from information and declarations made relating to the goods on board. It effectively references earlier customs declarations and entry summary declaration is and compiles them. It uses data compiled from the various transport companies and freight forwarders.

The manifest must be lodged a certain period prior to the arrival of the ship or aircraft. The safety and security declarations and electronic manifest are processed automatically by revenue systems.

Need for Importer and Exporter of Record

On every export from the GB and import into Ireland (and vice versa) there needs to be an exporter of record and an importer of record. Depending on circumstances the scenarios could range from

  • the GB supplier being both exporter of record in Great Britain and its branch or subsidiary being the importer of record in Ireland.
  • The Irish trader ‘s branch or subsidiary being an exporter of record in Great Britain and being the importer of record in Ireland or
  • the GB supplier being an exporter of record in Great Britain while the trader is the importer of record in Ireland.

The above possibilities would apply in reverse in the case of exports from Ireland and imports into GB. Accordingly, the  arrangements could be

  • the Irish supplier being both exporter of record in Ireland and its branch or subsidiary being the importer of record in GB;
  • The GB trader ‘s branch or subsidiary being an exporter of record in Ireland and being the importer of record in GB; or
  • the Irish supplier being an exporter of record in Ireland and the GB importer is the importer of record in GB.

A company or other establishment is usually required in order to undertake customs declarations, in each of the EU and the UK. This is the minimum requirement, which is reflected in the EU Customs Code and the new UK legislation. It may require the establishment of a presence or entity in the UK in order to complete UK imports, where the buyer is not willing to make the import declaration. Equally, although less likely in practice, it may be necessary to establish a UK entity to make export declarations, where the supplier/seller is unwilling or unable to do so.

An alternative is the appointment of an indirect customs representative who has liability for the trader’s customs duties and obligations as either importer or exporter as the case may be in Great Britain. Commercial customs agents and freight forwarders and other agents do not usually want to be an indirect representative as they would have liability for customs duties in the declarations made. They do not usually have visibility on the underlying information which they usually rely on the importer or exporter as the case may be. They generally wish to act as a direct representative only,  so that the liability for VAT and import dues remains with the trader/client only.

There are special arrangements for postal consignments, which are dealt with separately. Similarly, parcel couriers may be willing to act as indirect representatives for smaller and lower value consignments. They may also enjoy significant simplifications.

UK exports

What is set out in relation in the sections in relation to exports is likely to apply equally to exports from Great Britain to Ireland. The UK has passed legislation and has already made detailed rules under that legislation effectively replicating EU customs law in almost identical terms. The UK export obligations and declarations must be undertaken by an exporter of record established in the United Kingdom (or possibly Great Britain).

The issues mentioned about having an importer of record in the United Kingdom for an Irish export apply equally to having an exporter of record in the United Kingdom in the case of an Irish import. The seller may be more willing and insistent that it undertake export declarations than import declarations. The seller/exporter might wish to complete the export declarations in order to have clear proof of export so that the sale can be zero-rated for UK VAT purposes. Exports are usually intrinsically less risky and onerous than import declarations and in particular, don’t usually involve the collection of import duties and VAT.

If the Irish importer was also to act through a subsidiary or agent as UK exporter it would require a local sale in which the UK vendors charged UK VAT to the Irish exporter’s UK  subsidiary/group company paying that VAT and then undertaking a zero-rated export from the United Kingdom.

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