Customs intermediaries and traders completing customs declarations can now apply for grants to support training and IT under a one-off £8m investment from government.

Funding could be available to a businesses or sole trader that completes customs declarations including freight forwarders, fast parcel operators and independent customs brokers – to better understand the challenges they face in supporting existing and new clients. Consequently, HM Treasury and HMRC have announced the £8m to support broker training and increased automation in September, which will help increase capacity of the sector ahead of March 2019.

£3m of the investment is ear-marked by HMRC to increase training provision in this area and develop new courses to support customs broker training. Learning service provider Knowledge Pool is engaged with training providers to increase the number of courses available in the short term.

The remaining £5 million is available to help businesses, based in, or with a branch in, the UK to meet the costs of employee training and IT improvements. Businesses who will benefit from the funding are encouraged to apply early. Applications will close on 5 April 2019, or earlier once all the funding is allocated.

Businesses can apply for one or both grants:

  • £2m is available to fund training for intermediaries and traders completing customs declarations (or intending to complete customs declarations in the future). The grant will provide funding for up to 50% of the cost of training staff.
  • £3 m is available in IT improvement funding, available to small and medium sized employers in the customs intermediaries sector currently completing customs declarations on behalf of importers and exporters. The grant will fund investment in packaged software that increases the automation and productivity of completing customs declarations.

To apply for a training grant customs intermediaries or trades must either:

  • complete customs declarations for themselves or someone else (or intend to in the future) import from, or
  • export to the EU and complete customs declarations (or intend to complete customs declarations in the future).

To apply for IT improvement grants, customs intermediaries must:

  • currently complete customs declarations on behalf of importers and exporters, and
  • have 250 employees or less, and
  • have an annual turnover of £50 million or less.

The funding must be used towards upfront training costs for the training grant and/or buying software for the IT improvements grant.

For training the grant will provide funding for up to 50% of the cost of training that provides your employees with skills to: complete customs declarations; facilitate other businesses to use import and export procedures; and carry out the technical processes of customs procedures. The training does not have to lead to a formal qualification and funding cannot be used towards the existing costs of current training or for other unrelated training.

For IT improvements the funding must be used to buy software that’s a packaged solution and is used to increase the automation or productivity of the applicant’s business in completing customs declarations. The funding can also be used:

  • to buy hardware that’s needed for the software to run; to install and configure the software and hardware;
  • for the first year license; and for training employees to use the software.

Financial Secretary to the Treasury, Mel Stride, said: “Following extensive engagement with the customs intermediaries sector, we have listened to their concerns about how they will satisfy the extra demand for customs broker services. I’m really pleased we are investing £8m to support the sector and help them expand their capacity as we prepare to leave the EU on 29 March 2019.”

PwC is administering the grants on behalf of HMRC as an accredited grant administrator. Businesses who wish to apply for funding can apply on online on GOV.UK.