British businesses have been warned to prepare for more red tape when stricter custom controls between the UK and the EU come into effect on 1 January 2022.

From this Saturday, companies that import goods from EU countries will no longer benefit from the temporary grace period which allowed them to delay making import customs declarations to HM Revenue & Customs (HMRC) and postpone paying tariffs due.

They will now have to pay and make customs declarations immediately at point of import. The customs declaration has to include a country code for the country of origin and the country of dispatch.

The new customs controls will affect all goods being imported from the EU into Great Britain, except those coming from Ireland. HMRC is urging British businesses to be prepared for the extra red tape to avoid disruption.

The changes were agreed by the UK Government as part of its Brexit deal with the EU, called the Trade and Cooperation Agreement (TCA).

From 1 January, businesses will also lose the grace period for proving the goods they are importing or exporting meet the “rules of origin” if they want to use preferential tariffs. They must provide a statement declaring where any goods – imported or exported – were grown, produced or manufactured.

To benefit from the reduced rate of customs duty, they must prove that goods imported from the EU originated there and that goods exported to the EU originated in the UK. That includes all the materials, parts and ingredients used to make them.

Throughout 2021, businesses were allowed to export goods to the EU with the preferential tariff and get supplier declarations afterwards but, from 1 January, they must have supplier declarations at the time and point the goods are being exported.

The Federation of Small Businesses (FSB) has warned that full import controls for EU goods would create more “paperwork” for British businesses at a time when “a lot of small firms simply don’t have the cash or bandwidth to manage this new red tape”.

FSB national chairman Mike Cherry said: “Too little support was made possible by the first iteration of the SME Brexit Support Fund due to narrow eligibility criteria and application timeframes.

“Policymakers should learn lessons from that process and launch a new fund, with the same aim of helping existing international businesses with growing admin, and inspiring new ones, but with a truly global focus.”

The FSB welcomed the launch of the Export Support Service in October, but Cherry added that British businesses now needed an “Import Support Service to empower firms with the guidance and information they require to successfully navigate global trade as it evolves”.

From 1 January, there will also be a change to the commodity codes that are used worldwide to classify goods that are imported and exported.

They are standardised up to six-digits and reviewed by the World Customs Organisation every five years. After the latest review, the UK codes will be changing on 1 January 2022.

For more information on the changes, visit the Government’s website on Brexit guidance for businesses at