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UK Northern Ireland Brexit customs Trader Support Service

  • Aug 7, 2020 | Richard Asquith

The UK government has today launched a digital customs declarations service, ‘Trader Support Service’ for businesses moving goods from Northern Ireland (NI) to the rest of the UK (Great Britain or GB). This will help produce much of the paperwork required following the UK leaving the EU Customs Union on 31 December 2020. The Northern Ireland Brexit VAT regime will be different, too, as it takes up a dual position in the UK and EU VAT systems post-Brexit.

Only partial customs automation on GB to NI

The service will only be partially digital, self-help automated customs system. It will serve as an interface with HMRC's CHIEF / CDS customs declarations systems. It will be able to collect, refine and scan data supplied to help identify key information for the customs declarations. There will also be a call centre help service.

The UK investment will ease concerns for businesses, many of whom have never had to complete customs paperwork prior to Brexit. But it only covers one-side of the border – EU controls are still to be clarified. And even with this free service, businesses will have to devout time to upskilling on the requirements. It does not cover the rest of the world requirements.

Timing will be a challenge. This new Service is promised for September; a huge ask for a major IT project. UK government officials do not expect to publish full details of how Northern Ireland's borders will work until the autumn, once they have been agreed with the EU.

Northern Ireland Trader Support Service

The free-to-use Trader Support Service (TSS) will be a complete custom import and safety and security declarations online portal. This will help businesses having to complete paperwork on the movements between GB and NI (see below). The UK government has stated there will be no new paperwork on movements of goods from NI to GB by NI businesses. Businesses still face costly paperwork to move animal and plant goods across the Irish Sea.

Northern Ireland to GB customs requirements

The latest details of customs requirements on goods movements are as follows:

  • GB to NI: Under the Brexit Northern Ireland Protocol, there will be small changes to movements on goods from GB to NI. NI Traders will be able to use the new Trader Support Service. The Protocol means that UK authorities apply EU customs rules to goods entering Northern Ireland. In particular new electronic import declaration requirements, and safety and security information, for goods entering Northern Ireland from the rest of the UK. These are needed to make sure that tariffs are not paid on trade within the UK and that goods going to Ireland pay tariffs when they should.
  • NI businesses moving good to GB: there will be no additional process, paperwork, or restrictions on Northern Ireland goods moving to Great Britain, delivering unfettered access. Businesses in Ireland will need to follow the normal process for importing goods into the United Kingdom, including submitting customs declarations and paying any tariff duties that are due. 
  • NI to / from EU 27 There will be no change for the movement of goods covered by the Protocol between Northern Ireland and EU Member States, including Ireland. That means there will be no new paperwork; no tariffs, quotas or checks on rules of origin; nor any barriers to movement within the EU Single Market for goods in free circulation in Northern Ireland. The overall process for trading between Northern Ireland and non-EU countries will continue broadly as it does today. 

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VP Global Indirect Tax
Richard Asquith
VP Global Indirect Tax Richard Asquith
Richard Asquith is VP Global Indirect Tax at Avalara, helping businesses understand their compliance obligations as they grow globally. He can be contacted at: richard.asquith@avalara.com. He is part of the European leadership team which won International Tax Review's 2020 Tax Technology Firm of the Year. Richard trained as an accountant with KPMG in the UK, and went on to work in Hungary, Russia and France with EY.
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