Retailers including Cath Kidston, Reiss and Boden are using an outside company to deliver HMRC cost and performance improvements while protecting themselves from non-compliance penalties.

It might be reasonable to expect an editorial that appears here to gently usher you in and hold your hand through some finer points concerning the seemingly ever-changing landscape of HMRC law. This is not it. This is far more serious.

Cath Kidston

Cath Kidston has employed the services of an outside company to deliver HMRC performance improvements

You do not need me or anyone else to pontificate on the parlous state of the pound. In case you don’t know, it’s the worst it’s been for 30 years. What you do know is how much more your imports are costing. And you probably don’t need telling how it’s effecting your trading position either.

Just look at your profit and loss account.

What you might need could be a few useful pointers when it comes to keeping customs-related supply chain costs firmly nailed down.

Here are my two-minute observations:

1. Most retailers use a freight forwarding company or a logistics company that is possibly more interested in looking after it’s own margin than fussing over yours.

On point 1, the giant Hanjin is in the throes of going bust. So it’s goodbye to cheap freighting. Carriers costs will boom. Look for savings wherever you can. Consider using an independent advisor.

When handing operations over to a freight forwarder be aware of what that means for customs declarations

2. HMRC are overworked and happily pigeonhole you in the category closest to what they think you do. They want to shift the onus on to you to manage your own online declarations.

If you hand the task over to your freight forwarder, remember they are not legally responsible for the accuracy of any declarations they make on your behalf. If they make mistakes it is you who will pay for them. Heavily.

Some freight forwarders prefer to make life easier by opting to use an outside specialist themselves.

On point 2, have some fun – read Lloyd’s Loading lists. See the fraud – sorry, unfortunate mistakes – cases. One company was fined for declaring expensive coconut oil as cheap-as-chip oil. Consider using an independent and stay legal.

You can get best advice on change from someone who has to have their finger on the pulse. An independent

Alan Tilby

3. European trade laws were just in the throes of change when Brexit hit the fan. How close we end up to the current status quo is uncertain. There are things you can do while we wait for Mrs May in March.

On point 3, the good news is you can get best advice on change from someone who has to have their finger on the pulse. An independent.

4. Think seriously about getting AEO status under the current European regime or you’ll be stumping up largish financial guarantees for the full value of all warehousing.

On point 4, the good news is you can get help. You know where.

Help is at hand

Britannia Bureau Ltd is a rare company that specialises in the tedious task of identifying HMRC legal wrinkles. You could be saving thousands on the declarations you make. Honestly, thousands. It already works for the major retailers you see above and plenty more.

Managing director Mark Taylor says: “We believe every client has individual trading practices that can be re-assessed to their advantage. We create a new profile and make changes to the way they make declarations that result in considerable savings. The idea is that we remain aware of the prevailing legalities while thinking outside the box.”

A company can be looking at as much as a 25% reduction in their ongoing month-on-month liability

Mark Taylor, Britannia Bureau

Even the trainees at Britannia Bureau are put on a degree-level HMRC training course at the same time as following the company’s creative ethos. Compliance is key.

“Full analysis of client details on occasion has actually led to new legal precedents being set. Without going to that extreme, the success rate of claims for retrospective refunds is generally high. Additionally, a company can be looking at as much as a 25% reduction in their ongoing month-on-month liability as well,” Taylor says.

Major retailers are also finding that they are cutting out dysfunctional practices and improving cash flow by using the approved customs warehousing scheme set up by the company. One real bonus is that simplified online declarations fast-track your goods to market ahead of your rivals.

So there you have it. A positive approach for once.

Britannia Bureau will give you an absolutely free HMRC health check showing where and by how much you can improve your bottom line. You should be biting his hand off. Find out more here.



Alan Tilby, freelance creative director and planner

Alan Tilby