Mark Siviter, Managing Director of Mails & Retail at Post Office, explores how UK small businesses are adapting to new Customs Declaration Form requirements for parcels to Europe.
It’s been almost three months since the UK left the European Union, and many small businesses across the UK are starting to feel the impact of the new regulations when doing business abroad. The last 18 months has seen a compounding set of challenges for many small businesses, owing to the pandemic, the resulting recession, and, of course, the UK formally leaving the EU.
Post Office is uniquely placed to understand the challenges small business owners face because our Postmasters interact with their small business customers on a daily basis. We recently surveyed over 500 small business decision makers to gain a better understanding of the challenges of doing business with the EU in 2021.
Perhaps unsurprisingly, over nine in ten (92%) said they will feel the effect of the UK’s exit on their business in some way, and two in five (39%) admit they aren’t clear on the new rules for posting their goods to the EU.
What’s more, one sixth (15%) aren’t even aware of the new EU posting requirements ‘ the addition of a customs declaration form when posting anywhere outside the UK ‘ that have come into force.
As a long-standing partner to small businesses across the UK, it’s vital for Post Office to do all we can to help bridge this knowledge gap. Half of small businesses post to the EU on a weekly basis, and 7 in 10 use Post Office to do this. Therefore, our Postmasters are in a privileged position to help small business owners and we want them to feel confident when sending parcels to customers abroad. Entrepreneurial small business owners are an integral part of the UK economy, but many are juggling various pressures and covering multiple roles, so we want to help make their lives easier.
With this in mind, we’ve launched online customs declaration forms so that customers can fill them in before bringing them into branch, along with lots of information to help small businesses get to grips with the changes.
To help small businesses posting abroad, here’s six steps to remember for EU-bound and beyond post:
- You can plan ahead by completing your customs declarations form before arriving in branch to make your visit as easy as possible. Just pick up some forms next time you are in your local branch or download them via the Post Office website
- Before preparing any goods for sending, remember to check whether or not the item is prohibited or restricted. There are certain restrictions on what you can send to certain individuals, organisations or countries so it’s best to check before you arrive in branch. Letters or large letters containing only correspondence, commercial invoices or shipping documentation do not require a customs declaration form.
- There are different variations of the customs declaration form, dependent on service being used and the value of the item being sent. Check which one best fits with the goods you are looking to post abroad.
- If completing the form by hand, remember to write legibly and in block capitals. This might sound simple, but the forms are scanned using optical character recognition, so it’s really important and will help to avoid delays.
- Make sure you complete all the relevant fields: senders’ details, an accurate description of the contents, weight and value, plus VAT registered businesses need to include their GB EORI or VAT registered number and HS tariff numbers ‘ missing information or incomplete forms are likely to result in the item being returned to you.
- Once completed, attach your customs form on the front of the item being posted where possible and ensure the destination address isn’t covered.