Choosing a customs clearance agency - how to choose?

Update date:
01 Dec 2023
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Date of publication:
05 Jul 2023
Reading time: 5 minutes

What is a customs agency? 

A customs agency is a private company that provides an intermediary service between the client and the office when carrying out imports, exports or other activities. A customs agency is not the customs office with which it is often confused. The agency's role is to represent the client before customs. It is not compulsory to use a customs agency, but it is advisable to use an agency so that you can be sure that everything has been done in accordance with the law. Agencies have hundreds of clients and carry out a number of customs clearances and other activities every day, so you can be sure that everything will be done in accordance with the rules and regulations. 

When importing or exporting goods, we will have to carry out a number of actions, declarations, filling in of documents, which often require knowledge of the subject. A customs agency can do this for us and it does not have to involve high costs. 

Often it is not worth it to go it alone because of the time it can take. For example, declaring a cargo for customs clearance costs approx. PLN 200. It may take some time to complete the declaration yourself and, in my opinion, it is better to have a company that specialises in this. 

The customs agency will also represent us before the customs authorities so that it can always help or advise us in the event of unforeseen situations, inspections, etc. 

What should I consider when choosing a customs agency? 

It is best to find an agency that is trustworthy, the first thing we can check is the AEO (Authorised Economic Operator) certificate, this is defined as an 'authorised economic operator' with greater reliability. In practice, it can mean fewer documentary checks as well as customs revisions and priority treatment of shipments if they are selected for inspection. The process of obtaining such a certificate is quite time-consuming and is a kind of verification that a particular customs agency is trustworthy. 

When choosing a customs agency, the time in which they clear customs is important, larger agencies can have their hands full and treat the customer 'en masse'. These agencies can be quite picky when it comes to smaller customers, and can sometimes turn their noses up when things don't go their way. Personally, we would recommend a slightly smaller agency that will take an individual approach and provide help and support in case of problems. It is extremely important that a customs agency is willing and open to giving advice and solving customer problems. This will help us to grow our business in the future, as an expert customs service is an invaluable asset for any importer or exporter. It is advisable to have experienced people in the customs agency who have been through more than one situation and know how to deal with it. When importing various types of goods, we may encounter problems with documentation, customs searches, inspections and other unforeseen situations. For this reason, it is a good idea to work with an agency that will make every effort to resolve such situations. It is also a good idea for the agency to be very familiar with customs law and regulations within the European Union. 

So it's worth contacting a few agencies and having a casual chat and seeing what their approach to the client is. At this stage I think we can tell quite quickly where there is better contact and more openness. 

Also, there is nothing to prevent us from having a signed authorisation at several agencies. This will help us choose which one we work best with. 

What does it look like to work with a customs agency? 

Usually, once the contract is signed, the customs agency is ready to represent our case at customs. For example, in the case of imports, once the goods have arrived at the rail terminal, we contact the customs agency to make a customs declaration. They will ask us to send the necessary documents and information so that they can complete the declaration. Once the clearance has been completed, we will receive the information along with the customs duties that will be payable. Once the customs and tax duties have been paid, we will be able to take delivery of the goods. This is how the cooperation will work in a nutshell. 

What documents do I need to complete to work with a customs agency ? 

In order to work with a customs agency, it is necessary to sign a contract and an authorisation of representation. You only need to sign two documents and you can start working with the agency. 

Customs agency and verification of certificates and documents needed for importation

Agency customs importation goods will ask us for the necessary documents for customs clearance, in the case of some products also the CE certificate and the declaration of conformity. However, there is no obligation to know 100 % which documents will be required for the importation of a particular good. If you find a good customs agency, they can often help you determine which documents may be needed, but it is worth pointing out that this is more a matter of their goodwill than their duty. 

Services provided by the customs agency: 

  • preparing customs declarations
  • registration of EORI number 
  • Issue of document T1, T2 
  • Preparation of certificates of origin 
  • Calculation of duties and taxes to be paid on imports and other
  • cargo handling and storage
  • assistance with customs searches 
  • advisory services related to customs clearance, etc. 
  • completion of documents for customs clearance 
  • TIR carnet 
  • AES export procedures 
  • INSTRASTAT declaration or other excise-related documents
  • customs clearance under a simplified procedure 
  • may file appeals with the authority on behalf of the client 
  • declaration of temporary storage 
  • Notification to WIJHARS / SANEPID

In summary, the customs agency will represent our company before customs, make declarations, receive information on clearance, etc. Businessmen are free to choose the customs agency they like best. It is worthwhile to shop around for a customs agency that fully meets our expectations. 

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