Documents to archive for Customs Inspections or Audits

Archiving important documents for Customs in the right place
List of documents you need to archive for Customs inspection and audit purposes - a brief guide for all importers and exporters.

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Documents to archive for Customs Inspections or Audits   

List of documents you need to archive for Customs inspection or audit purposes – a brief guide for all importers and exporters.

No matter the size of your business or how frequently you engage in Customs activity you need to control your documents.

Its recommended that if requested you can easily present this to Customs as it will reflect your confidence in your systems in place.  Just as in the other parts of your business you need to show you are professional and serious.

What records should I keep?

I would recommend ensuring for any import or export, by any means , you have all documents archived somewhere safely.

Importers or exporters should keep a scanned copy of every document that may have been presented to Customs by their forwarder.

In this respect you should retain the documents below:

  • Commercial invoice – proof of what you paid
  • Packing list
  • Shipping bill – airwaybill, bill of lading, CMR / T1
  • E2 & C88.
  • Original preference certificates – GSP, EUR1, ATR1 etc.
  • If you have information on the original order, this will back up everything you sent with the shipment or received.

Documents to archive for Customs Inspections or Audits

Shouldn’t my forwarder have these or the import/export agent?

Yes, all freight forwarders / import agents will retain copy documents for up to 7 years. Some may keep longer if they have cloud data retention.

Customs are unlikely to audit the forwarder – they will look at you as the importer of record and demand answers.

Importers need to archive any original documents securely, especially certificates, preference documents and licences.

Customs compliance is really important whatever the size of your business.

You can find information on what UK Customs will expect any importer or exporter to archive can be found here.

You can check out our other articles about imports – Home Use / Free Circulation and what it means.


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