Two in five UK small businesses at risk of not successfully fulfilling EU-bound orders, warns Post Office

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Two in five UK small businesses at risk of not successfully fulfilling EU-bound orders, warns Post Office

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· Two in five small businesses admit they aren’t clear on the new rules for posting their goods to the EU, despite 70% being confident their business can navigate the impact of the UK’s exit from the EU

· Half of all small businesses with under 50 employees post to the EU on at least a weekly basis and 70% use Post Office services to get them there

· Post Office launches online customs declarations forms that can be completed before visiting a branch

Two in five (39%) small businesses admit they aren’t clear on the new rules for posting their goods to the EU1 since the UK’s exit from the European Union, equating up to a million UK small businesses, according to new research by Post Office.2

Of the small business decision makers surveyed, over nine in ten (92%) said the UK’s exit from the EU will affect their business in some way, even though 70% said they are confident their business can navigate the impact of this.

While one sixth (15%) aren’t even aware of the new EU posting requirements that have come into force, those who are remain confused, as almost one in five (19%) small businesses admit they don’t understand the new rules and have experienced problems trying to post their goods abroad since the 1st January.

When posting anywhere outside the UK from England, Scotland or Wales, all goods or gifts must now have a customs declaration form attached. For customers posting from Northern Ireland, customs forms are only required for gifts or goods being sent to non-EU destinations. Critically, the customs declaration form must have all relevant fields completed in order for gifts and goods to pass through customs and avoid being returned.

Half (50%) of small businesses with less than 50 employees post to the EU on at least a weekly basis and 7 in 10 (70%) use Post Office branch services to get them there. Over two fifths (43%) of these small businesses think the customs declaration form will take a while to get used to, while the same number (43%) think completing the form may slow things down for businesses.

Customs declaration forms are available in every Post Office branch, to fill out on the day or to take away for later use. There are different customs forms depending on the postage service being used and value of the items being sent. All Post Office branches can help with selecting the right form and completing it correctly, but this week Post Office has also launched a comprehensive guide to getting it right, and made some of the forms available to complete online, print out and attach before visiting a branch.

Mark Siviter, Managing Director of Mails & Retail at Post Office said:

“Many small businesses are already facing challenges this year owing to the pandemic and that’s why we’re providing as much support as possible to ensure they can easily navigate the new rules for posting abroad. We’ve launched customs forms and new supporting information online, which means that customers can fill them in at home or work, before bringing them into branch. Taking the time to complete these forms fully and correctly is the best way to avoid the risk of goods being sent back.

“Our Postmasters are always on hand in branch to guide customers through this process and to help ensure that small businesses can continue to get parcels to their customers worldwide.”

Harlie Briggs, 27, is up-and-coming North London based artist and owner of Harlie Briggs Art. She sells to customers all over the world and uses her local Post Office in Islington to ensure her pieces reach her customers safely, she says:

“I took the plunge and made the decision to pursue my art career full time last year, it was so exciting, but the admin that comes with owning a business was a completely new concept to me and one that’s taken me a while to get my head around. One thing I wanted to ensure from the outset was that my pieces were beautifully packaged and reached my customers safely. I’ve always used my local Post Office to send my packages, both to destinations in the UK and internationally. When the new rules came in for posting to Europe, I didn’t actually know about them until I went into branch, but the staff were so helpful and made the process easy for me. It’s important to get it right so I can build my customer base in the EU.

“To any other small businesses out there posting parcels to customers week in and out, my advice would be to utilise the services offered by Post Office, the staff have a wealth of information available and you can find a lot on the website too.”

Customs declaration forms, as well as help and guidance, can be found online tips for small businesses who are posting goods abroad:

1. You can complete your customs declarations form before arriving in branch to make your visit as easy as possible. Just pick up some forms next time you are in your local branch or download them via the Post Office website.

2. Before preparing any goods for sending, remember to check whether or not the item is prohibited or restricted. There are certain restrictions on what you can send to certain individuals, organisations or countries so it’s best check before you arrive in branch. Letters or large letters containing only correspondence, commercial invoices or shipping documentation do not require a customs declaration form.

3. There are different variations of the customs declaration form, dependent on service being used and the value of the item being sent. More information is available in branch or on our website.

4. If completing the form by hand, remember to write legibly and in block capitals. The forms are scanned by optical character recognition, so this is important to avoid delays.

5. Make sure you complete all the relevant fields, including senders details, an accurate description of the contents, weight and value, plus VAT registered businesses need to include their GB EORI or VAT registered number and HS tariff numbers – missing or incomplete forms are likely to result in the item being returned to you.

6. Once completed, attach your customs form on the front of the item being posted, where possible and ensure the destination address isn’t covered
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