UK businesses overpay millions in customs duty each year through errors on their declarations. During my time at HMRC, I processed thousands of claims for duty repayments for various reasons, and these were just the ones that were noticed.
From my own experience, I have counted down the top 5 most common errors that are made that result in an overpayment of duty.

5. Tariff suspensions not claimed for
Keeping an eye on commodity codes is a given, however, when the duty is “suspended” to 0%, this isn’t always picked up by CHIEF and it can still charge you the original higher amount of duty.

4. Quotas not applied for
Claiming for quota is an easy way to reduce the amount of duty you are paying if it is available. A lot of importers miss these quotas, and it is important to remember that the quota amounts reduce and if you don’t claim these quickly enough, you may miss out as these are on a first come first served basis.

3. Preference not claimed
As with a quota, claiming preference is a great way to pay less duty. Of course, there can sometimes be problems with getting a preference document and this then must be presented at a later date, but a lot of people fail to claim for a preferential rate. There are time limits to retrospectively claiming preference on a customs entry and you also need to consider the period of validity for the document itself. These time limits are only waived for instances of “force majeure” and misplacing documents or being busy does not fall into this category.

2. Incorrect commodity code
Using the incorrect commodity code can result in a wide range of problems (including fines from HMRC), however this is another example of overpaying duty. As we know, different commodity codes attract different rates of duty, and it is imperative to check that you are using the correct code. If in doubt, you can always contact HMRC’s tariff team and check!

And, at number 1:

1. Incorrect invoice value
Without a doubt, this is the most common error I came across. Whether it was an incorrect decimal point, or completely the wrong invoice used (I have seen them all) this is not only the most common mistake but can also have a huge impact on the amount of duty that you pay.

I have mentioned five common errors that result in the overpayment of duty; however, they all have one thing in common… If you have someone checking your declarations, this should be identified and corrected. A huge number of businesses do not carry out audits on their declarations, or if they do, it can be too late.

Remember there is a time limit of three years to claim back overpaid duty!

Do contact us at Langdon Systems if you want to have a chat about how to avoid errors and save money. Visit for more information.

Johnny Evans – Customs Consultant