Strong & Herd.

Frequently asked questions

FAQS

In this section, you will find answers to many frequently asked questions about International Trade.

UK EU Exit

Under HMRC scheme of delayed declarations importers in the UK bringing goods in from the EU from 1st Jan 2021 until 30 June 2021 can delay the customs full declaration, and the payment of import customs duty for up to 6 months from the date of arrival, eg arrives 30 March 2021 – full declaration by 30 September 2021. This doesn’t apply to all goods though, some goods will be controlled from 1st Jan 2021, eg firearms, animals, certain plant products, chemicals, other from 1st April 2021 like all animal and plant products and goods under import licences. This does not delay the payment of VAT though.

To use the delayed declaration simplification the importing company must use an intermediary who is CFSP approved, they must enter all the import customs information into their internal systems (called EIDR - Entry into Declarants Records) ready to complete the full declaration. At the time they complete the full declaration they should have a deferment account guarantee in place. VAT does not come under the delayed payment scheme.

Postponed VAT Accounting (PVA) means any UK VAT registered company can import goods and PVA the VAT – this is for all imports not just for arrivals from the EU. PVA means that in the financial tax period, determined by the date of arrival, the importer must calculate the amount of VAT due (based on the value of the import, freight, transit insurance, any customs duty to be paid and inland storage and transport costs) and submitted on their quarterly or monthly VAT return relevant to the arrival date. It goes in simultaneously as output/input VAT. They cannot wait until the full declaration is made to calculate or pay VAT. To handle PVA the importer must register on the UK government gateway CDS portal and download a VAT certificate – BUT, if they use the delayed declaration system with EIDR there won’t be any VAT Certificate raised during this period so they will have to work the VAT out themselves.

When the UK leaves the EU customs declarations will be required whether there is a deal or not. There was speculation initially that the UK could secure a deal that included free movement of goods but without remaining inside the Customs Union or Single Market this isn't possible. This means companies will need to ensure they have sufficient information to make the relevant declaration to customs possible.

There is a good, brief video on YouTube from HMRC summarising the key points Customs Declarations video. You can find options on learning more about customs declarations with Strong & Herd here How to Complete Customs Entries and don't forget there is a grant to help you buy the software, employ staff and undertake training HMRC Grant

No. TSP - the Transitional Simplified Procedures - was introduced in case there was a no deal exit in October 2019, along with some other simplifications such as a Temporary Tariff. All of these easements were cancelled in February 2020 and new arrangements are and have been introduced. If you did register for TSP this is not valid or necessary any more.

No. The Temporary Tariff no longer applies, it was an easement introduced in case there was a no deal exit in October 2019 but the UK moved into a transitional arrangement instead so it wasn't needed.

The new UK Global Tariff (UKGT) is the UK's new permanent tariff schedule. Customs import duties in the UKGT may differ from the duty rates in the EU Tariff so you need to check the new UK version to establish your customs duty costs.

CFSP is an existing UK Customs simplification - called Customs Freight Simplified Procedures - and permits the release of freight on arrival into the UK without a full customs declaration. 

From 1 January 2021 to 30 June 2020 companies importing goods from the EU can elect to use CFSP to move goods to their premises quickly. But yes to use CFSP you have to be authorised by HMRC. The CFSP authorisation can be held either by the importing trader or the logistics company. Also a full declaration will be needed at a later date, no more than 6 months after the date of arrival and traders must enter all relevant information into their records to ensure an accurate full customs declarations is made.

CFSP does delay the payment of import customs duty until the full declaration has been submitted to customs but VAT must be accounted for within the tax period relevant to the month of physical arrival of the goods. So, for example, goods may arrive in January 2021, so VAT must be reported to HMRC in the Jan-Mar 2021 quarter if you are on quarterly VAT returns but the full import declaration may not be made until May 2021 and that is when the duty will be paid. Some companies think this makes the use of CFSP as a simplified option too difficult to administer.

VAT is not going away. The mechanism for HMRC to collect VAT on imports will change from 1-1-2021. The change will apply to all imports not just to arrivals from the EU. Basically UK will begin allowing Postponed VAT Accounting (PVA) for UK VAT Registered businesses - which means not financial outlay of VAT at the time of arrival but your accounts must declare VAT due on imports on your monthly or quarterly VAT return in the period relevant to the date of arrival. PVA is open to all UK VAT registered traders but to use it you or your freight agent must select it this option on the import customs declaration. If you do not wish to use PVA and are clearing the goods at the time of arrival then you can pay the VAT as normal.

No, unless your supplier is taking on the responsibilities as the importer and going to arrange the UK import customs entry and pay the import customs duties. In other words the supply is made under Incoterms 2020 Rules - DDP (Delivered Duties Paid) - which will make the EU supplier the importer of record. All other Incoterms Rules make the buyer/ importing company responsible for the import customs formalities and payment of duties so it would be them, the UK entity, that needs the UK EORI.

No, unless you are supplying and taking on the responsibilities as the importer and to arrange the EU import customs entry and pay the import customs duties. In other words the supply is made under Incoterms 2020 Rules - DDP (Delivered Duties Paid) - which will make you the importer of record. All other Incoterms Rules make the buyer/ importing company responsible for the import customs formalities and payment of duties so it would be them, the EU entity, that needs the UEUEORI.

UK export commodity codes will not be changing to 10 digits BUT what is changing is that currently intra-EU movements only need 8 digits to identify goods for both despatches (exports) and arrivals (imports) and once the UK leaves the EU goods will have to be formally imported into the EU. As you know, the EU import commodity code needed is the 10-digit number. The change from the 8-digit export code into the 10-digit import code may be sorted out by the EU importer but it is entirely possible that they might want the supplier to quote the full EU import code on the export paperwork. If you intend to export to the EU using the Customs Transit System, then you will have to ensure that the 10-digit code is declarared into the CTS computer tracking system. Another final thing to check is, if you have only exported to companies within the EU, that you have on record the correct Harmonised System (HS) code not the simplified EU Intrastat Combined Nomenclature (ICN).
Duty will have to be paid under the easements when you do your full supplementary declaration within the 6 months’ time frame so there will be duty to be paid on controlled goods so controlled goods would need to be a full declaration at the port of arrival so let’s say Dover for example , supplementary entry can be raised by yourselves or by your agent and this is when the duty will be accounted for, I have got a note here which is, however there is no reason at present why you cannot make a full declaration at the arrival point of non-controlled goods , it is entirely up to you if you want to go with the easements, if you want to or do a full declaration at the port of arrival you can do, there is no reason why not.
Regarding the wooden pallets, they will have to be heat treated and stamped in-line with the International Standard for Phytosanitory Measures (ISPM) regulation No. 15 as all imports must be today. HM Revenue & Customs (HMRC) has provided detailed guidance on-line to cover these measures. For your wooden pallets you are looking at the regulations relating to WPM – Wood Packaging Material – that also covered the following:

• crates
• boxes
• cable drums
• spools
• dunnage

The UK authorities have said that though checks on WPM will continue to be carried out in the UK it will be on a risk-targeted basis only for shipments from the EU, so they do expect major changes as a result of Brexit.
Be aware, though, that the same will apply to UK wooden pallets and similar material being used in packing and transporting goods from the UK into the EU-27. Similar regulations will begin to apply to plants, plant products and other objects from the United Kingdom into the EU-27 governed by this Directive. All WPM moving between the UK and the EU must meet ISPM15 international standards by undergoing heat treatment and marking if there’s a no-deal Brexit and may be subject to official checks either upon or after entry to the EU.
The export procedures to Switzerland and Norway may change depending on how you physically ship the goods today. Export entry out of UK, no change, and if they go by airfreight, then no change. But if the goods are moving by road across the EU to Switzerland you will have non-Union goods from a non-EU country (UK) transiting the EU to a non-EU country so you’ll have to look at transit (NCTS). If you do road shipments, you may currently be using indirect export declarations – these will go 1.1.2021. Depending on the routing, Norway could change but if only UK/Norway involved there will not be any difference.
The other thing to consider is that you won’t be issuing EUR1 Forms and, unless the UK had a FTA with Switzerland and Norway (tricky as they can’t commit until they know UK deal with the EU as they are both in the EU Single Market and Norway in the EEA). EU Standards are extended into the EEA so if you must meet EU standards this could affect supplies and statements into these markets.
Yes – you will need an export licence to move dual-use controlled goods and technology into the EU from 1.01.2021. You can register for an Open General Export Licence (OGEL) now via the Export Control Joint Unit (ECJU) SPIRE website to permit you to do this. It is entitled Open General Export Licence (Export of Dual-Use Items to EU Member States.
Once you are registered you will be able to use it immediately from 1st January 2021. You must treat it like other OGELs and ensure it is declared on the export customs entries for physical deliveries to the EU27 of goods or technology and record any tangible transfer of technology on your technology transfer log. There are some exceptions to dual-use categories, and you must know that the goods are remaining in the EU and not being immediately shipped on without alteration. If the goods are going to be re-exported from the EU unchanged you will need an EUU and probably an Individual Licence (SIEL) though other OGELs may apply.
Product liability generally lies with the producer of the product rather than supplier. That might be:
• the manufacturer (or the producer in the case of raw materials)
• the producers of components used in the product (but not if the fault was caused by the manufacturer's design or by the specification given by the manufacturer)
• anyone else who processes the product (but not someone who simply packages it without affecting it)
but also:
• for products originating from outside the European Union (EU), the importer who first imported the goods into the EU and possibly the manufacturer's representative in the EU
• any supplier who has affected the safety of the product (for example, by reconditioning it)
• any supplier who has made it appear that they are the producer by 'own-branding' the product.
If more than one business fits these categories, they can all be jointly liable.

EU customers/ distributors who currently take goods from the UK don’t have product liability as they distribute goods already imported unchanged. It also brings in the issue that goods moving from the EU to the UK product liability would be the UK importer, who previously would have been a end-customer or distributor.

Import

According to UK Customs, the following seven processes may come under a duty relief regime, but remember you must understand the duty relief procedure fully as entitlement is generally dependent on certain conditions being met and the procedure followed. For further information use Volume 1 of the Tariff or the Trade Tariff on GOV.UK.

  • Re-imported goods either re-imported unaltered or after process abroad (Notices 236 and 235);
  • Temporary admission (Notice 3001+ https://www.gov.uk/guidance/temporary-admission)
  • Reliefs for goods for specified descriptions or goods imported or used in specified circumstances, eg charities, rejected imports, etc;
  • Goods relieved of customs duty unconditionally, including education, scientific and cultural materials;
  • Goods relieved from Customs duty and VAT, eg documents, printed matter, advertising material
  • Goods imported for process and re-export or release for free circulation (Notice 3001)
  • End Use Relief on certain named goods (Notice 3001)

Under the UK/EU import duty relief schemes any EORI registered company (formerly known as the VAT number) can apply for Inward processing relief (IP) at the time of arrival of the goods under the simplified procedure (called Authorisation by Customs Declaration) covered by CPC 51.00.001 and Economic Code ECO02 for repair (but the goods must not be replaced). This suspends both duty and VAT on condition that a customs guarantee is in place to cover the amount, otherwise the amount must be paid and reclaimed later. The maximum usage of this system is 3 times in a 12 month period or £500k of goods value whichever is reached first. The application request is made on the C88/SAD import entry in Box 44. This gives 6 months for the repair and on export a Bill of Discharge BOD3 must be sent to the National Import Reliefs Unit (NIRU) in Belfast showing the export entry number under CPC 31.51.000.

The FTA between the EU and Singapore FTA did come into force on 21st November 2019 and, while the UK is in the Implementation Period though we are not a full member of the EU all EU Trade Agreements apply to the UK, so no this has nothing to do with Brexit. What we often don’t appreciate is that Free Trade Agreements do not always make trade “free”, they are negotiated deals that affect each party slightly differently dependent on their own international trade policies and priorities. With regard to the agreement between the EU and Singapore there is a staged reduction of duty rates itemised in staging categories set out both in the Union's and the Singapore Schedule of Tariffs. The plan is that customs duties will be reduced over a 5-year period. On the EU Schedule clothing (Chapter 62) will become zero-duty during Stage 5 (21st November 2023). Your supplier isn’t quite right though, there has been a reduction in customs duty for clothing in year one: the standard tariff of 12% become a preference rate of 10%.

Customs

Yes. You should submit corrected data via the on line system, as described in paragraph 6.3 of the Intrastat General Guide (Notice 60). Use the on line amendment form at https://www.uktradeinfo.com/Intrastat/ElectronicSubmission/OnlineAmendments/Pages/OnlineAmendmentsForm.aspx

NB: You only need to submit a correction if the value of the error exceeds the thresholds shown in paragraph 6.3 of Notice 60.

Net mass must always be declared on customs entries, including the EU Intrastat reports. It may seem a pointless exercise, but don’t forget that for some commodities, net mass is a far more relevant measure than value. Value can depend on commercial pressures and can fluctuate wildly, whereas the weight of goods generally remains constant.

Yes Totally!! But… remember, whilst technology specialists may be able to describe goods in their terms, the classification of goods for import and export follows fairly precise rules in the UK Integrated Tariff. Whilst taking the advice of technologists, you should always consult the chapter and section notes in the Tariff and any of the number of guides to assist in classifying particular types of goods. Ultimately, the Harmonised System (HS) Explanatory Notes should be consulted. If you are still uncertain, get in touch with the Tariff Classification Team via E-Mail – classification.enquiries@hmrc.gsi.gov.uk

I’m afraid you can’t issue an EUR preference document unless the goods are physically in an EC member state. This is because of the “direct transport” rule. The EUR1 Form would, if you could issue it, allow the Mexican’s to import the goods at a lower customs duty rate. If they ask for a NAFTA (North America Free Trade Agreement) Certificate instead – you can’t do this either because the NAFTA rules says the goods must be manufactured in USA, Canada or Mexico. I’m afraid they are stuck with importing it as a standard supply and pay the customs duties and taxes. If this is a lot of money then you could consider shipping the units to the UK first and then sending them to Mexico.

Yes!! Any import with incorrect value shown on the senders’ paperwork can be amended. You must make a written declaration of correct value on your letterhead to HMRC via the freight forwarder. You must be able to justify the change in value. This is important for both higher and lower values. You can use IPR as you mentioned to suspend the duty/vat, but only the correct amount of duty/vat based upon the correct value of landed goods. Another alternative would be Returned Goods Relief (RGR) if items were exported in the last 3 years and have returned unchanged, other than them not working

Willis Hawley (congressman from Oregon) and Reed Smoot (senator from Utah) were responsible for the Tariff Act of 1930 which some economists believe helped to make the 1930’s depression what it was. The Act increased nearly 900 American Import Duties in a display of American protectionism

They are very different indeed. Arm’s length trading is an expression used in relation to the GATT Valuation rules. It is used as an expression in section 30.1 of Customs notice 252 which is the section that explains how to demonstrate that you do not get a reduced price on the goods you are valuing for customs purposes at import if you are related (in the business sense) to the party who has consigned the goods to you from overseas. ‘Distance selling’ on the other hand is a term used to describe supplies of goods from one Member State to a person in another Member State where:

  • The customer is not registered for VAT and
  • The supplier is responsible for delivery of the goods

The recipients of distance sales will mainly be private individuals. The rules are intended to transfer the place of supply to the Member State in which the customer receives the goods. The rules are intended to combat distortion of trade and unfair competition because of the lack of harmonization of VAT rates across the EU

Export

No. Your intention is to export the goods out of the EU, and you must therefore complete normal indirect export formalities for shipment of the goods from the UK to India. This means completing an Export Accompanying Document (EAD) as the partial export entry in the UK and this must accompany goods to Rotterdam. It will be used there by the Dutch authorities to complete the export entry outside the EU. You should ensure the EAD has been completed within 15 days of opening by using the Europa MRN transit database http://ec.europa.eu/taxation_customs/dds2/ecs/ecs_home.jsp?Lang=en

NB: Goods being imported into the UK from outside the territory of the EU may legally be cleared at the first EU port of call (often Rotterdam bound for the UK). The onward journey to the UK could be reported under Intrastat; however, it is preferable that the appropriate import documentation is used to cover the whole journey from the extra-EU country (e.g. India) to the UK, including transhipment in the original port of arrival in the EU. In the case where Rotterdam is the port of transhipment, the goods were never intended to be imported into Holland and clearance there, with an onward Intrastat movement to the UK, can skew Dutch trade statistics.

Several freight forwarders and the Arab-British Chamber of Commerce have been reminding exporters to the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) Countries from EU Member States that it is necessary that the actual name of the Country of Origin is written on the goods. The phrase European Community (EC) should be supplemented by the name of the actual member state. This is said to apply to: Bahrain, Kuwait, Oman, Qatar and the UAE, as well as Saudi Arabia.

To answer your first question first, you cannot change the origin of goods by repacking. For goods to change origin you must do more than handling, they must undergo a process that is substantial enough to change the product, components or raw materials imported and add value. Origin rules (note: we do not mean preference, nothing to do with filling in EUR1 Forms) are governed by the Department for International Trade but you can receive guidance from most Chambers of Commerce.

The second question is answered simply with a yes. You can issue an EC Certificate of Origin (CofO) even if the goods are not EC Origin. To expand on this, the EU in the title of the form means this form, in the same style, is used in all the member states of the EU – it does not mean that goods mentioned on it must be of EU origin. To apply for a certificate of origin you must present the completed EU CofO with your shipping invoice and, because you are not the manufacturer and the origin is not UK, you must provide evidence of USA origin. This can either be a copy of the purchase order, the original supplier’s invoice or, in some cases Chambers will accept a statement from the manufacturer confirming origin.

As you are aware, a Carnet (French for book of tickets) is for temporary movement of goods only. If anything goes wrong then it will cause some problems. Our advice is to notify the issuing Chamber of Commerce in the UK as soon as possible so they can guide you through the cancellation procedure.

Cancellation of a Carnet has to be negotiated with customs in the overseas country where the goods are to remain. The temporary import entry that has been made against the carnet voucher needs to be amended to a permanent import with full payment of import duties and taxes.

You will need assistance from your new Malaysian client to succeed. On payment of full duty/tax a "Duty receipt docket" should be issue by Malaysian Customs along with a stamped declaration of import. The re-export voucher of the carnet will not be irrelevant but ask Malaysian customs to duly stamped and endorse it as “cancelled/ duties paid”. The carnet should then be returned to the UK and submitted to the issuing chamber with a letter of explanation.

You could be charged a fine or penalised in some way for this “mis-use”, eg the chamber may refuse to grant further carnet to the company or hold on to your guarantee for the full 33 months.

Legalised means the document in question must be stamped by the Embassy of the overseas country. This is standard practice for countries in the Arab League, like Saudi, but generally only is only requested for invoices and certificates of origin. You can get your contract legalised by sending it through the Chamber of Commerce for endorsement or by using a Consular Service. There will be a legalisation fee chargeable.

The “importer of record” is a legal status giving responsibilities under US law to the party named on the import declaration. Normally this party is resident in the USA and has placed power of attorney (POA) with a US customs broker to make declaration on their behalf.

A company not resident in the USA can also give power of attorney to a US customs broker. If you have done this your company is the “importer of record” but the customs broker (forwarder) is the Principal Party in Interest – in other words they are the resident party who would receive any queries/ fines from US Customs.

If you have never signed a power of attorney (POA) then one of the following might have happened:

You are using a fast parcel operator, e.g. Fedex/UPS/DHL and because the goods are below their accepted threshold they are acting as the broker under their own rights to make the customs declarations or; Although you are paying the customs duty and tax into the USA when the declaration is submitted to US customs the broker is using another company’s POA and IRS (Inland Revenue Service reference) – perhaps your customer’s. This would make the customer the “importer of record” with charges billed back to the UK.

I’m afraid you may have to contact the customs broker in the US to find out what they are doing. You have probably grasped the fact that the “importer of record” has the legal responsibility for the import consignment which would include compliance with the USA chemical regulations. Hope this gives you something to work on.

It is possible that the tariff number you quote on your invoice does not correspond to codes used in Brazil. Although Brazil use the same basis for their tariff (Harmonised System) and will have the same first 4-digits in their tariff they do not use exactly the same 8 digits as the EU. If Brazilian Customs cannot relate the code you quote to their regulations this could delay import and potentially lead to problems and increased duty charges being levied. It is not a legal requirement to have the tariff number on the invoice at export so remove it, but ensure you still notify the freight forwarder in writing of the correct code so they can complete the export declaration correctly. This situation may apply to other countries outside the EC. You can view most countries’ tariff codes and duty rates by accessing the EU Market Access Database web-site (http://mkaccdb.eu.int); it is not on the worldwide web as access is restricted to EU companies only.

Incoterms 2020 Rules

When showing an Incoterms® rule in a contract or on a shipping invoice you must show the applicable year and it is recommended to show the registered trademark but the ICC seem to have softened their stance on this for companies so don’t worry if you can’t show the ® sign. The ® is aimed at companies like us who do training, prepare documents and write about the terms for the general public to make sure we let people know registered by the ICC.

Incoterms® 2020 Rules is still following the usual rules that FOB, along with FAS, CFR and CIF are only appropriate for conventional sea freight. This isn’t new. The introduction to the new set of term says that “the FOB rule is not appropriate where goods are handed over to the carrier before they are on board the vessel.” This means that if the goods are handed over to a carrier at a container terminal, for loading into a container prior to that being loaded on a ship FOB is inappropriate and the FCA will be more appropriate..

YYes, under DDP the seller is responsible for all customs duties and taxes applicable to the goods on arrival into the country; if a customs authorities charges VAT at import then the seller has to pay it – unless the contract states specifically that the delivery term is “DDP named place of destination local taxes (VAT) excluded Incoterms® 2020”. The use of DDP as a delivery term has never been recommended and we are beginning to see some new problems for traders using this term. To sell correctly under DDP terms the seller must be able to be the importer of record in the destination country; to do this they must be registered as an importer with the customs authorities, be registered to pay local taxes and apply with the increased cargo security regulations. Where, in the past, many freight companies got around this in one way or another – sometimes incorrectly using the buyer’s registrations to get things cleared through customs, perhaps without the buyer knowing they were – the emphasis on security controls and customs liabilities is making this harder for them to do.

Incoterms 2010 and DAT terms have not become obsolete from 1/1/2020. 1st January 2020 is the date the new set of International Commercial Terms (Incoterms® 2020 Rules) became effected. Contracts remain covered by Incoterms 2010 until the contracts have been formally amended to be covered by Incoterms 2020 – this happened with the 2000 set and earlier sets; in fact, old Incoterms® never die. If a company decides to continue using Incoterms 2010 indefinitely then they are still recognisable terms worldwide and though, in time, they will appear old fashioned (like the 1980 Incoterm FOT does) the definitions will remain in the legal statute books. Customs have nothing to do with the Incoterms® Rules – they have to accept whichever term is used whether old or new. The Incoterms® contract terms are essentially the term agreed between the seller and buyer.

Under FCA it is the seller’s responsibility to load the container. Once safely stowed get a signature from the driver declaring there is no damage and this is the end of the seller’s risk. You do need to ensure an export customs declaration is completed in your name and obtain and permits or licences that allow the goods to leave the UK so there may be additional costs to consider.
How and when you get paid has nothing to do with the Incoterms ® Rules, and never has. Within the introduction to the Incoterms® 2020 rules, Section II covers “What Incoterms® Rules do not do”. Point 7. 3rd bullet state that Incoterms® rule do not establish: “the time, place, method or currency of payment of the price”. The Incoterms ® Rules only define the point of legal delivery of the goods and when the risk of loss or damage passes from the seller to the buyer and costs related to these actions.

Export Strategy

I think that at the point of deciding whether to enter a market, there are three main questions to consider:

i. Are there any legal or other barriers that make this market either impossible or not worth considering right now? It saves an awful lot of time and effort if we can get to a firm ‘no’ or ‘not yet’ quickly. For less experienced exporters, the most effective strategy is to concentrate on the markets that look like giving the quickest and most reliable return. So as well as discounting anywhere that may be inaccessible through export controls or local import restrictions, always aim to identify the obvious factors that are going to make it too expensive or difficult. This might include language issues, or technical/cultural norms and standards. Another typical knock-out factor is the extent of competition in the market. Very strong, dominant competitors are often the biggest barrier of all to smaller exporters.

ii. Having decided not to rule the market out, my next question would be ‘how’? This is going to involve finding out how my products are distributed in the target country, where people buy them, how the sector operates and any special factors that might need me to vary the product, the packaging or the mode of delivery. This is often a question of identifying the end point, such as the physical point of sale where I would need my product to be and working back from there. This can be the most detailed question of all. This stage of researching the market means looking at what target customers actually do, as well as understanding the competition and any legal, cultural or technical questions. Seeking answers to the question of ‘how’ will help to answer the third question…

iii. Who? Most typically, this is about the sort of representation (if any) I will be looking for. For many exporting companies, this may be almost a given, and is unlikely to vary between markets. Some types of products, such as low value consumer goods are often most effectively introduced to the market via distributors, people who buy the products themselves and re-sell them to retailers or other outlets. For other products, for example high value, bespoke capital items, the most effective representation might be a commission agent. It’s helpful to bear in mind that there are no absolute rules about the sort of route to market, in fact for smaller companies this is often a question of who can we find who is sufficiently interested and motivated to take the product on. Personally, I would never rule out a potential representative just because their method of working didn’t necessarily fit my preconceived ideas. But I’d urge caution on this. The choice of local representative is invariably the biggest single success factor in any international market.

This is an excellent question, because it acknowledges something that small businesses sometimes overlook, that pricing is a valuable strategic tool, and that we actually have some degree of choice in how we set our prices.

Determining strategy always has to be preceded by identifying objectives. We can’t decide how we’re going to do something until we know what it is we are trying to do, can we? And our decisions about pricing should always reflect what we are hoping to achieve.

Although it’s an unfashionable thing to say, and will probably be frowned upon by marketing professionals, I would always start by looking at my costs. There’s no point in developing new business at home or abroad unless it’s going to make me some money. At least, that’s how we operate! Costs can sometimes mount up in exporting, and it’s important to take care that we cover any additional costs in servicing export customers, so that we can be sure of the price level below which we should not go. Export sales potentially involve a number of costs that don’t really apply in our own country. These include freight (which also covers clearance, documentation and insurance), packaging, which is often quite different when delivering products abroad, cost of converting foreign payments to the home currency and the knock on cost of slower payments if applicable and the risk of currency fluctuations. Care needs to be taken on all of these aspects and more. Understanding how they affect our bottom line makes the difference between being successful exporters and busy fools.

So the ‘true’ cost of an export sale, including the lowest margin that is sensible to the business model, can be seen as the ‘bottom line’. We shouldn’t usually go any lower than this, although we may well go much higher. This is where the strategy comes in. The most obvious question when deciding pricing strategy is “what does everyone else do?” Taking a look at competitors’ prices should give an idea of what buyers expect to pay, and this should have a bearing on the price levels chosen. Unfortunately, this is not always as easy as it sounds. Even if competitors have been kind enough to publish their prices on their website or in a catalogue, these may not be the ‘true’ prices, just as the asking prices of houses or second-hand cars that we see in newspapers are not necessarily going to bear much relation to the ultimate selling price. In lots of sectors, exporters need to maintain a flexible approach to pricing, and trust their sales team or representatives to negotiate a sensible price.

If the strategy is to market the product as superior to alternatives, then it would be usual for the price to reflect that. Alternatively, if the strategy is to offer a low-cost alternative to the current offering, then the ultimate price will need to be sufficiently low to entice buyers. There are a number of recognised pricing strategies that an exporter can adopt, and a separate article from Tutor2u explains some of the most popular ones. Adopting the ‘right’ strategy requires a thorough understanding of the local market and a clear setting of objectives.

Finance

An IBAN is the International Bank Account Number used as an international bank identifier for client accounts. It is to secure smooth payment and prompt processing of foreign payments by banks overseas. It is not unusual for overseas customers to request this number. If you do not know your IBAN speak to you finance team or contact your bank.

Generally letters of credit are paid by the bank at sight of compliant documents. A usance credit is not paid at sight but either against acceptance of a bill of exchange payable at a future date to be calculated, eg 30 days from bill of lading date or by a deferred payment term within the letter of credit, eg 45 days from invoice date. Be careful to establish a payment date that is calculable and indisputable, you can even put a specific payment date (eg 4 August 2009), so you are not in dispute with your customer or bank over when payment is due. If you agree to a usance credit you can always negotiate early payment with the bank but they will take a negotiation fee. If you have never dealt with a letter of credit before, ensure you get someone to help you understand how important it is to present documents that are 100% accurate.

A. There are, inevitably, occasions when despite all an importer’s efforts to ensure that a letter of credit is workable and despite all the beneficiary’s efforts to comply with its requirements, documents are presented which the banks feel are not in conformity with their terms. Sometimes the reasons given may appear trivial but the banks involved in a letter of credit are in an unenviable position in such circumstances. If your bank (the issuing bank) receives a fax, email or telex message from another bank responsible for payment under the credit your bank is likely to contact you by telephone or fax advising of the discrepancies and asking you for a decision, ie will you accept the discrepancies. Of course your decision will depend on what the discrepancies are. If they are deemed irrelevant you should be completely safe in authorising the bank to ignore them. If they appear important then refuse to accept the discrepancies without further details – if you are not comfortable with the errors you can refuse acceptance, this will of course mean goods will arrive in the UK without paperwork, leading to potential delays and storage charges. You could talk to the bank about accepting the discrepancies “under reserve”, which means the paperwork is forwarded to you, the beneficiary is paid but if you have serious problems or concerns then the “under reserve” option permits the bank to recover the money from the beneficiary. Ensure that this guarantee or reserve is extended to the issuing bank and yourself and is not just applicable to the bank outlaying payment. Alternatively, the seller could take the risk of acceptance by instructing the bank to “send the documents forward on collection”. This actually means that the beneficiary has opted to set aside the letter of credit. With the letter of credit closed the only obligation left for the importer is to settle any outstanding bank charges. Paperwork will arrive in the UK and you will be asked to accept the errors or not; payment is not made to the beneficiary until so instructed by the importer.

In international trade, it is very common for overseas buyers to insist on the issuance of a bond or guarantee in their favour as a means of securing the terms of a contract and / or covering the obligations assumed by the seller. The Bond or Guarantee provides the buyer with an element of financial security in the event of failure of the seller to meet their obligations under the contract, thus effectively financially compensating the buyer. Common types of bond or guarantee include:

  • Tender Guarantees (or ‘Bid Bonds)
  • Advance Payment Guarantees
  • Performance Bonds
  • Warranty or Maintenance Guarantees

It is more beneficial to the seller if they arrange for the bond or guarantee to be issued directly to the beneficiary by the UK bank subject to English or Scottish Law. The wording will thus include a clear expiry date following which any claims received will be considered ‘null and void’ and / or the bond / guarantee will have no further effect. It is often the case however, that the national law of certain countries determine that bonds or guarantees must be issued by a local bank and be subject to the law of the country concerned. In this case, the seller’s bank will provide a counter-indemnity to the local bank (which may be the beneficiary’s own bank), instructing them to issue the bond or guarantee in the form required. In some countries, the provision of local law may override a specified date of termination referred to within the bond or guarantee, in which case beneficiaries may be able to claim long after expiry. For this reason, UK banks are very cautious in releasing sellers from liability until they have received a firm confirmation from the overseas bank that the beneficiary has either returned the guarantee for cancellation or has indicated that the seller has fulfilled all obligations and may therefore be released from their liability. Until such a confirmation has been received, the bank will continue to record the value of a bond or guarantee within the seller’s facilities and will also continue to levy the periodic charge (usually quarterly). Sellers are therefore advised to track the status of all bonds and guarantees issued subject to overseas law and press the beneficiary for return or confirmation to the bank as soon as possible after expiry.

A Standby Letter of Credit could, in theory, work well for you, in that in essence a Standby is a guarantee (of payment). Where a Standby differs from a standard Documentary Letter of Credit is that whereas in the case of a Documentary Letter of Credit, payment is made by the issuing bank against delivery of conforming shipping documents (eg: invoices, bills of lading, certificates etc) in the case of a Standby, the bank issuing the Standby Letter of Credit undertakes to pay the beneficiary upon presentation of a document (or a very few documents) which is effectively a demand for payment. The main issue for the applicant (the buyer) is that it is almost impossible to create a Standby Letter of Credit, which affords any protection to the buyer, against an unfair claim. In most instances the only requirements made by the Issuing bank as stated within the terms of the Standby are that the claim must be made within a stipulated date (the expiry date) and the claim must be accompanied by a bill of exchange, a copy of the (unpaid) invoice or invoices and a simple statement that payment has not been received. It is entirely likely that the buyers in the Far East are not comfortable with the risk associated with Standbys and there is also the cost element, as the issuing bank will levy an issuance/risk charge.

VAT

If you are looking for import duty rates then you should access the Integrated Tariff in either paper form, the CD-Rom, HMRC website or the Europa website TARIC. You will need the commodity code (also know as tariff classification number) for the goods to do this. Other taxes can be found in a website recently launched by the European Commission - 'Taxes in Europe'. This on-line database provides information on the main taxes in force in the Member States. As with the TARIC, access is free for all users. The system contains information on around 500 taxes, as provided to the European Commission by the national authorities, including all main taxes in revenue terms (eg personal income taxes, corporate income taxes, VAT, excise duties), the main social security contributions but does not cover customs duties and tariff issues. The link is: http://ec.europa.eu/taxation_customs/taxation/gen_info/info_docs/tax_inventory/index_en.htm

 

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