The true scale of the challenge presented to Irish exporters and importers by Brexit is brought home by the fact that almost as many customs declarations were made during the month of January as would normally be made in a whole year. And that was a quiet month.
With Revenue forecasting the number of customs declarations made annually to rise from 1.8 million to over 20 million, an acute shortage of experienced customs agents has emerged, and the Irish International Freight Association has claimed that 3,000 new agents will be required to meet the shortfall.
This left a large number of companies in the position where they simply couldn’t find the required customs expertise in the run-up to January 1st, 2021.
Declaron is a new service backed jointly by BDO and Fexco and is filling that gap for many businesses. A highly automated solution, it allows companies to create, submit and track their own customs declarations online, with the comfort of having the support of the Declaron team of experienced customs agents available to help them with issues that may arise during the process. Very importantly, Declaron also features a comprehensive training suite to help users get to grips with the customs declaration process.
The new solution was developed in response to market demand. "BDO has been involved in international trade for the past 20 years and its one of our core specialisms," explains Declaron director and BDO partner Carol Lynch. "As the product developed, we identified a need for scalability and to have audit traceability and compliance built directly into the product." The end result? An AEO certified solution, eight weeks into Brexit and a flexibly priced plan that suits all sizes of Irish companies.
The solution isn’t a standalone self-service software package, as the companies using it wouldn’t have the expertise required. “We joined forces with Fexco to combine our customs and technical expertise to develop the solution,” Lynch says.
Declaron customer success manager Patrick Devlin says the scale of the challenge facing companies trading with the UK is even greater than it was in the days before the Single Market. “There was no just in time (JIT) back then,” he notes. “But even a couple of hours delay at ports is a big problem now. Companies have been getting a bit of a shock with deliveries being delayed.”
Your customs checklist
According to Devlin, if a business completes the following checklist, they will greatly reduce the potential for delays at ports.
- Have you agreed INCO terms between you and your customer or supplier in the UK? These legally govern who is responsible for making and managing declarations and when? Watch the Declaron webinar for an explanation
- Do you have an EORI number set up? You should check the European Commission EORI Number Validator to ascertain if you already have an EORI number. The default option will be "IE" followed by your VAT number
- Do you plan to use a cash upfront (TAN account) or a deferred account method for payment of your duties? Find out more about TAN numbers
- Are you set-up for VAT deferment? Find out more about VAT deferment
- Have you appointed someone as your customs agent to act on your behalf with Revenue? Your business is required to register an agent officially by Revenue. You will need to email this form to email@example.com in order to have an agent such as Declaron, represent you. This is required in order to make any declaration submission, and comes into play when sorting out red or orange routing issues
- Do you know the correct tariff classifications for your goods? Check the EU and UK lists. Declaron also has a webinar on tariffs. Registered Declaron customers have access to a built-in tariff code finder and a more detailed webinar.
The Declaron system simplifies the whole declaration process and includes a number of tools and feature to ease the path for users. These include a feature which allows users to quickly look up the customs code (TARIC) for their goods.
We hold hands as much as we can with customers to help them make their first declarations
“We have also reimagined the process for completing the traditional Single Administrative Document (SAD),” Devlin adds. “This can run to dozens of pages and can be hell. With Declaron, we logically group the information and once the user has done it the first time it can then be largely a copy-and-paste process. They just have to update the shipping details and any other points of difference. We are taking the pain out of the process – once the customer completes the declaration, we take it from there. We look after all the dealings with Revenue for the routing 24/7.”
The customer onboarding process is critically important. “We hold hands as much as we can with customers to help them make their first declarations. It gets easier with each declaration and we now have customers who are doing import declarations in less than 30 minutes and exports in 20 minutes.”
The training piece is absolutely critical, according to Devlin. “People need to understand what they are putting into the declaration. It’s a tax declaration to Revenue and it needs to be 100 per cent accurate. If not, you will get hold ups at ports or worse. Declaron do a lot of webinars for clients and issued advice to them on how best to take advantage of the trade deal following its agreement on December 24th, 2020. We also have a test environment on the system which allows clients to do simulated customs declarations. It’s all about enabling companies to take control of their own customs declarations.”
Case study: Campbell Carriers
With hundreds of companies already on board, market reaction to Declaron has been very positive. One of those customers is Sligo-based Campbell Carriers which has been delivering products between Ireland, the UK and Europe for the past 38 years.
“It’s very user friendly and works 24/7,” says transport manager Monika Orth. “We are not depending on a customs agent to lift the phone at night or over the weekend. It’s a great system and the Declaron team is always there if you need them.”
The team is very helpful and the system is very easy and user friendly once you get the hang of it
Managing director Bosco Campbell is amazed at the lack of preparation he has witnessed in the market. “I wonder what they were thinking, maybe they thought it would all just go away, or something. Even big logistics companies in England had nothing in place for January 1st. We have a fleet of 25 trucks doing UK and European runs on a weekly basis and Declaron is the only customs agent we use.”
Campbell Carriers chose Declaron on the recommendation of the Freight Transport Association. “We signed up at the end of November,” says Orth. “We had tried a lot of customs agents, but we didn’t even get a reply to our calls. We took part in a number of webinars and they showed us how to do it. The test facility on the website is very good as well. If you still have problems, the helpline is there to take you through it. The team is very helpful and the system is very easy and user friendly once you get the hang of it. We have no problem as long as the Revenue page is working. Even Revenue has had some problems as a result of Brexit.”
The Declaron service will continue to be updated and upgraded over the coming months. “Our initial focus was on imports into Ireland and exports out of the country,” says Devlin. “We will shortly be adding UK import and export declarations and we will continue to invest in new product updates as time goes on.”