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Excise team can save you money.

Byline: By Richard Swart

Tax inspectors are not all bad and can save you money. And better control of import costs can boost export competitiveness.

There are simple measures small companies, engaged in international trade but without the specialisation of larger companies, can take to ensure an optimal cost base and these include a phone call to and/or visit from the local Customs & Excise office.

A local company has reported a very constructive meeting with an inspector from Customs and Excise in Washington, resulting in the likely return of significant sums of money paid in unnecessary duty.

The company had been importing goods from a non-EU country, which has a generalised system preference arrangement with the UK, giving favourable duty treatment for many goods imported from that state.

The following errors would not have been identified without C&E help: the import agent used the wrong currency on the customs declaration resulting in significant overpayment of duty and VAT; the import agent used the wrong international commodity code, despite the correct code being clearly stated in supplier documentation, resulting in 1.7pc duty being paid instead of 0pc duty.

Actions to take: find a new import agent; download form C285 from the C&E website to reclaim your money.

The lesson is to get your import agent as a matter of course to provide you with a copy of the customs declaration for your scrutiny.

Also, if you are sure of your transaction don't be afraid to buy currency forward. This fixes your costs, often at a favourable rate, is relatively inexpensive and simple.

Current indicators by a leading bank indicate reasonable stability. For example, the spot rate given for e50,000 was 1.4025 and 12 month forward was 1.3786, and for dollars it was 1.6321 spot and 1.6021 12 month forward. For both it was minimal variation for periods in between. Control and monitor costs like these and you win.

* Richard Swart is managing director of County Durham manufacturer Berger Closures.
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Title Annotation:Features
Publication:The Journal (Newcastle, England)
Date:Jul 4, 2003
Words:337
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