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International & Customs

International & Customs

Harwood Hutton can help you get to grips with the VAT rules as they affect the business of importing and exporting goods and services.

There has been much uncertainty surrounding the landscape for international traders. We can help you stay across the latest regulations and guidance on VAT emerging from HMRC. As ever, our focus will be on providing the certainty you need to trade with maximum efficiency and without fear of fines and financial penalties.

We can also advise on customs duty, which is a separate and additional tax based on the value of imported goods. The amount of duty varies and depends on the country of origin and the type of product. Certain countries enjoy a preferential rate of duty.

If you plan to re-export goods after processing them, we can steer you through the process of applying for Inward Processing Relief, which would allow you to process goods in the UK without having to pay import VAT or duty when the goods are imported.

If you import regularly, you might consider a Deferment Account, where you settle import charges on a monthly basis. We can help you set up Deferment Account, which is free of charge to operate, but you do need to provide a bank guarantee to HMRC for the charges due on importation. The advantage is you can put off payment for an average of 30 days and your goods will normally be cleared for release more quickly. Terms and conditions apply to deferment accounts, and we can check to see if your business is eligible.

Another step you might wish to consider if you import regularly is to apply for Authorised Economic Operator (AEO) status. This is essentially a ‘kitemark’ which confirms you have sound customs procedures in place and a good compliance history with HMRC. Having AEO status means your goods should be less likely to be held up at the border and will also mean that applications for other customs procedures will be simpler.

If you export services from the UK, we can assist by provide guidance on the evidence that you would need not to charge VAT on your services, as UK VAT may still be due depending on the substance your customer has outside the UK as well as the nature of the service supplied.

Similarly, receiving service from outside the UK will have a UK VAT implication and may make you liable to register for UK VAT if you are not already registered. HMRC conducts regular exercises looking at non VAT-registered businesses that buy in services from outside the UK, so you are well advised to understand the position.

Abacus: The world at your feet

Harwood Hutton is one of only two UK accountancy firms which is affiliated to the Abacus Worldwide network, giving us access to 115 legal and accounting firms in 225 offices spanning 50 countries. For clients with ambitious international growth plans, we can leverage the local expertise that is essential to help you get established and trading effectively and compliantly.


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    Client Testimonials
    • I always get quick, clear and definitive responses from the Harwood Hutton tax team – commercial answers to commercial issues.

      Robin Berry – Morgan Management
    • Right from the outset Harwood Hutton gave us direction and great advice – and that advice has evolved over the years as we’ve grown. We’re both medium-sized companies providing a bespoke service – one furniture, one accountancy – and the relationship works.

      Andy McCarron, McCarron and Co
    • I’m deeply impressed with Harwood Hutton’s extensive knowledge of tax arrangements for residential and commercial property landlords.

      Qadeer Ahmed, MD, ABA Finance
    • They really took their time to understand what was important to us and our business and the expertise we required. Whoever we speak to at HH, we get the same fantastic response and technical input. It’s a real partnership.

      Edward Finch, group MD, MRIB insurance brokers
    • I have worked with the directors at Harwood Hutton on a number of mutual client matters over many years. The reassurance of their clear, commercial and focussed advice is one of the main reasons I regard this as one of my most valuable professional relationships.

      Frank Wessely, Partner, Quantuma LLP
    • Harwood Hutton never seem to rest on their laurels. They are always seeking out new avenues and ways to improve their offering. A very forward-thinking company with staff who are always well briefed and who approach each task with drive.

      Karl Austen, MD, Surefoot Communications
    • We have engaged Harwood Hutton in several areas of structuring, including VAT issues, decoupling an SPV from a group structure and HMRC clearance for a transaction. The team have exceeded all expectations by being proactive, measured and very thorough.

      Adam Fawsitt, Director, FHT Limited
    • We moved to Harwood Hutton as they delivered a succinct and professional proposal. If anything, we have been more impressed post-move. They are a fantastic company to work with. They do truly differentiate. They have the skills and capabilities of a mega firm but with a personal service.

      Edward Finch, group MD, MRIB insurance brokers
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