Tuesday, June 16, 2020

Extra Funding for Training of Brexit Ready Customs Entry Staff Made Available by HMRC

Freight Forwarders Welcome News Together With Facility for Multiple Declarations
Shipping News Feature

UK – When the government announced last week that it was refusing to extend the Brexit transition period but delaying import controls until July 2021, there was an additional statement from HMRC which passed by with little comment, but one which is of great interest to a large section of the cargo community, particularly freight forwarders and parcel carriers.

The authorities had previously detailed three forms of assistance worth £8 million for the sector as long ago as September 2018 when companies were advised they could receive grants for training and hiring staff and improve IT facilities to facilitate Customs processes, a bundle that grew to £34 million to support the training of 20,000 people and go toward the cost of 15,000 pieces of IT equipment and software. 

Now that figure has been topped up with an additional £50 million to support the customs intermediary sector and HMRC will also be changing the rules which will remove the financial liability from intermediaries operating on behalf of their clients, and also allow parcel operators to continue declaring multiple consignments in a single customs declaration, rather than, as had been feared, separate entry documents for every individual shipment carried.

Applications for the new funding will be open from July and HMRC says it will unveil more details in due course but the news received an immediate, but qualified, thumbs up from the freight forwarding community in the form of comments from Director General of the British International Freight Association (BIFA), Robert Keen, who said:

“Whilst we welcome the additional funding, as we did when the first two rounds of funding were announced, we can only keep our fingers crossed that it produces the thousands of additional customs experts that the government agrees will be needed come January 1st 2021. During our regular meetings with both HMRC and HM Treasury, BIFA has highlighted the concerns of our members regarding the capability of the Customs brokerage sector to increase capacity, at a time when that sector already faces a huge shortage of staff of suitable quality.

”We have regularly emphasised that it could take up to a year to train staff to be fully conversant to prepare a range of basic Customs declarations, even if there was a sufficient number of trainers to train those staff, as well as relevant courses for them to attend. Clearly the Government is finally getting the message that increased capacity in this sector will be important whatever our future relationship with the EU.”

Training to support a business that is extending and taking on new staff, or to help train an existing employee to start completing customs declarations can be delivered by an external provider, or an in-house trainer and, as one of the largest providers of Customs-related training courses, BIFA recently decided to replicate almost its entire course range and deliver it via video conferencing, due to the Covid-19 crisis preventing face-to-face training. Keen concludes:

“Government guidance allows furloughed employees to engage in training, provided that whilst undertaking the training the employee does not provide service to, or generate revenue for, or on behalf of, their organisation.

“Hence, we are encouraging members that have furloughed employees to take advantage of the additional funding that has been made available by applying for it to finance some of BIFA's online Customs training opportunities for those employees, as well as employees that have not been furloughed.”