£8m fund for post-Brexit customs support

Ahead of the UK leaving the EU next March, HMRC and the Treasury have announced an £8m funding scheme for customs intermediaries and traders towards the cost of training and IT improvements required to handle imports and exports post-Brexit

Jon Thompson, CEO at HMRC, which is itself developing a new customs declaration service (CDS), has repeatedly warned MPs of the difficulties some companies will face in handling trade with the EU after the UK’s departure, particularly if there is either a ‘no deal’ scenario or a requirement to collect VAT at an earlier point in the sales cycle.

The one-off £8m investment is intended to increase capacity in the sector ahead of March 2019. It includes £3m HMRC is investing to increase training provision in this area.

The department has worked with learning service provider Knowledge Pool who are engaging with training providers to increase the number of courses available in the short term, as well as investing in the development of new courses which will be available over the coming months to support customs broker training.

Mel Stride, financial secretary to the Treasury, said: ‘Following extensive engagement with the customs intermediaries sector, we have listened to their concerns about how they will satisfy the extra demand for customs broker services.’

As part of this investment, £5m in funding is now available to help businesses, based in, or with a branch in, the UK to meet the costs of employee training and IT improvements. Businesses who will benefit from the funding are encouraged to apply early. Applications will close on 5 April 2019, or earlier once all the funding is allocated.

Businesses can apply for one or both grants. To qualify, they need to be businesses or a sole trader that completes customs declarations, this includes customs brokers, freight forwarders and fast parcel operators. Customs intermediaries or sole traders need to meet certain requirements, depending on which grant is being applied for, and they must be based in, or have a branch in the UK.

One grant offers £2m to fund training for intermediaries and traders completing customs declarations (or intending to complete customs declarations in the future). The grant will provide funding for up to 50% of the cost of training staff.

In addition, there is £3m available in IT improvement funding, available to small and medium sized employers in the customs intermediaries sector currently completing customs declarations on behalf of importers and exporters. The grant will fund investment in packaged software that increases the automation and productivity of completing customs declarations.

PwC is administering the grants on behalf of HMRC as an accredited grant administrator. Businesses who wish to apply for funding should not contact HMRC and can apply on online. More information, and a link to the online application page are available on gov.uk.

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