The aim of the new procedures is to cut costs and reduce red tape by using traders’ records and systems to verify import records.
Customs & Excise audit teams are being instructed to document key controls and weaknesses in trading companies’ importing systems before allowing them to speed goods through ports.
The orders follow a National Audit Office report, which found that Custom’s staff was uncertain about the depth to which they should be carrying out checks on traders prior to approving them to use simplified import procedures.
Before giving permission for companies to use their own systems, Custom’s audit teams first have to weed out companies with poor compliance records, whose imports require to be checked physically on entry before being cleared.
The NAO said the practice at one Customs office of not carrying out detailed examinations first, before approving traders’ importing systems, risked inaccurate import declarations.
According to the report Regulating Freight Imports from Outside the European Community, from 1996 to 2000 the value of imports that went undetected by Customs increased by 275%, from Pounds 131m to Pounds 495m, but since 1998 the number of irregularities found per 1,000 declarations checked has fallen by 20%.
From 1999 to 2000 Customs collected revenue of Pounds 20.6bn from freight imports from outside the European Community. These accounted for around 48% of the total value of goods brought into the UK, and were valued at some Pounds 97bn. In total, Customs processed some 7.1 million individual import declarations during the year.
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