Exporting: Customs Duties and Documentation
The first question you need to ask is who is paying for the costs of duties?
You or the client? Being clear on this from the start could save a lot of conflict further down the line.
The Importer (person buying / receiving the work) is usually responsible for customs clearance, duties and taxes but you need to be clear on this and make the process as straightforward as possible for your client.
Getting your export documentation right takes time - so don’t leave it to the last minute.
- You will need to understand Tariff Commodity Codes (system of names and numbers to classify traded products and the value of duty required) HMRC will support you in tariff classification and have an online checklist for different types of product. www.gov.uk/trade-tariff.
- Once you have identified your correct Commodity Codes these will be used for your documentation wherever you ship your work.
- Different use for products mean different levels of duty to pay – for example the duties levied on ceramic functional tableware may be different than for a one of a kind ceramic artwork.
- Original, handmade works of art can be tariff free in some countries – this means unique, sculptural objects or items of historic interest, this won’t be the case for batch-produced items or multiples. If you think this applies to your work it is a good idea to include an artists statement / C.V. when sending items deemed to be works of art.
- Sensitive materials (e.g. wood, seed pods, animal products such as horsehair or beeswax) may need separate declaration: clearly list all the materials used and sign and date the document.
If you are attending an exhibition where the work is not for sale, or a trade event where you are hoping to take orders on sample pieces of work, you can take them into the country under temporary import bond. You need to ensure that all the items leave the country as if they are inspected on re-entry back in.
The export documents you need
A commercial invoice is simply a bill for the goods from the seller to the buyer. It is used to determine the true value of goods when assessing customs duties. It should list all the items in the shipment, how many of them and their value. It should state who is the importer and who is the exporter and it should have the name, address and contact for both. Some countries, especially in the Middle East require the commercial invoice to be stamped with a company stamp.
This is a more detailed list of the contents of the shipment. An export packing list includes the seller, buyer, shipper, invoice number, date of shipment, mode of transport, carrier, and itemizes quantity, description, the type of package, such as a box, crate, drum, or carton, the quantity of packages, total net and gross weight (in kilograms), package marks, and dimensions, if appropriate. How you describe your work can have an impact on the customs tariff – ensure
that you have described your work correctly. If possible include a low resolution image of each item to make identification really clear.
Foreign customs officials may use the packing list to check the cargo. It is really important that all details are accurate. Don’t estimate weights for example. It may hold up your shipment if the weights you put on the document don’t match the actual items.
A proforma invoice is an invoice prepared by the exporter before shipping the goods, informing the buyer of the goods to be sent, their value, and other key specifications. It also can be used as an offering of sale or price quotation.
Certificate of origin
A Certificate of Origin (CofO) is required by some countries for all or only certain products. In many cases, a statement of origin printed on company letterhead will suffice. The exporter should verify whether a CO is required with the buyer and/or an experienced shipper/freight forwarder. Note: Some countries (i.e. numerous Middle Eastern countries) require that the Certificate of Origin be notarised by the local chamber of commerce and legalised by the commercial section of the consulate of the destination country. Check well in advance if this is required as it will add time and cost to your shipment.
To move goods into or out of the EU you need an Economic Operator Registration and Identification (EORI) number. Her Majesty’s Revenue and Customs (HMRC) uses this number to identify you and collect duty on your goods. You may have increased costs and delays if you do not get an EORI number. For example, if HMRC cannot clear your goods you may have to pay storage fees for your goods. Shippers and courier companies will have their own EORI number and will use their number if you use their services. It only takes 10 minutes to apply online for an EORI number and you may get one immediately but it could take up to three days if HMRC needs to make more checks. For more information visit: www.gov.uk/eori
British Chambers of Commerce are accredited to issue trade and export documents and are a useful source of information if you get stuck with your documentation. www.britishchambers.org.uk/page/trade-support-export-documentation.
‘Know your market: Working internationally requires plenty of advance research and organisation skills. Culture, etiquette and brand awareness are all important in developing successful business relations for export markets.’ Liz Clay, felted textiles