Change of HMRC service for advice on tariff classification

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Customs duty is usually due when goods are imported into the EU.

The rate of customs duty is based mainly on the tariff classification of the goods being imported, although the rate can sometimes be affected by where the goods originate from.

Tariff classification is the term used for identifying each specific category of goods. Two examples are sports footwear with outer soles of rubber or plastics, which have a commodity code of 6404110000, and slippers with outer soles of rubber or plastics, which have a commodity code of 6404191000.

It should usually be easy to distinguish sports footwear from slippers but there are some goods that it may be difficult to classify correctly. Getting the tariff classification wrong could result in the wrong amount of customs duty being paid and lead to customs back duty demands. HMRC may also impose penalties for incorrect classification.

The UK Trade Tariff, which has a search engine and classification guides, can be accessed on the GOV.UK website. HMRC has also provided the following sources of additional help in relation to tariff classification:

  • Written binding tariff information which provides legal certainty regarding the tariff classification of particular goods
  • Verbal non-binding advice via a tariff classification telephone helpline

On 26 November 2014 HMRC published a consultation document regarding the future of the tariff classification telephone helpline. The document stated that the “telephone service no longer fits with HMRC’s Digital Strategy so we need to explore options for providing future support for business customers that is sustainable for HMRC and which provides extra help for those customers who need it.” The consultation closed on 18 February 2015 and a consultation response document was published in July 2015. A trial of a structured email service for tariff classification advice took place in parallel with the consultation.

HMRC has announced that from 1 September 2015 the tariff classification telephone helpline will close and that requests for classification advice should be made by email to: [email protected]

The annex to Customs Information Paper 27 (2015) provides details of the information that should be provided to HMRC when submitting an email request for advice. Each email request should relate to one product only and provide a detailed description of the product including, what it is, what it is made of, what it is used for, how it functions and how it is packaged. For more information please refer to Customs Information Paper 27 (2015) on the GOV.UK website.

AAT is not aware of any plans to change the facility for obtaining written binding tariff information, which provides legal certain regarding the tariff classification of particular goods.

HMRC Notice 600 provides useful information about tariff classification and obtaining binding tariff information decisions.

The comparison report can be found here.

AAT Comment offers news and opinion on the world of business and finance from the Association of Accounting Technicians.

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