Customs jargon: A dictionary of common customs terminology and acronyms

This information explains some frequently used customs terminology and considers what the most common acronyms stand for.

Anti-Dumping Duty (ADD): Anti-Dumping Duty (ADD) is a type of duty charged in addition to regular customs duty on certain products. ADD is designed to protect domestic industry by restricting the ability of lower cost imports from a specific market to be imported.

ADD applies to imports of specific types of goods with a specific country of origin. Businesses in both Northern Ireland and Ireland can check if ADD applies to their imports by using the Northern Ireland online tariff tool.

ATA Carnet: An ATA Carnet is a customs document which enables the temporary duty and declaration free export of a product for a period of up to one year. ATA Carnets can be used in both the UK and the EU and are usually issued by a chambers of commerce.

Binding Tariff Information (BTI): A Binding Tariff Information (BTI) decision is a written tariff classification of your goods. Whilst not a legal requirement to obtain, a BTI provides legal certainty over the choice of commodity code. A BTI is typically valid for a period of three years. More information including how to apply for a BTI can be found in the links below:

Border Target Operating Model (BTOM): The name given to the document which sets out the processes for importing into Great Britain. This includes both customs and Sanitary and Phytosanitary requirements (SPS). For more information about the Border Target Operating Model please see the following article:  Article: The Border Target Operating Model.

Customs Handling of Import and Export Freight (CHIEF): CHIEF is a UK government run system which has been used to administer UK imports and exports. This system is currently being phased out and is scheduled to be closed on 30th March 2024. It is being replaced by The Customs Declaration Service (CDS).

Common External Tariff (CET): The Common External Tariff is the default tariff rate charged on any products imported into the EU in the absence of a trade deal with a specific nation. The applicable CET for a product will depend on the commodity code used.

Commercial Invoice: This is a key document in international trade. In addition to regular invoice information a commercial invoice is used to provide key information to support with customs valuation and duty determination.

Commodity/Tariff/HS Code: This is a key part of any customs declaration. A Commodity Code, also known as a Tariff or HS (Harmonized System) Code, is a piece of information used by customs authorities to identify a specific product. This code contains all the information regarding any import or export restrictions a product might face.

Whilst there can be some variation between Commodity Codes in different international markets there is no variation in Commodity Codes when operating cross-border between Northern Ireland and Ireland.

We have more information in our full article about Commodity Codes.

Country of Origin  (COO): The Country of Origin refers to the country where the last substantial economic transformation of a product took place. This is a key piece of information when it comes to requirements involved in import and export. It is important to remember that the Country of Origin is not necessarily the country from which it was imported or even the country where an item was manufactured.

More information about origin, including how to determine the origin of a product and supporting documentation requirements can be found in our full article about Rules of Origin.

Consignee: A consignee is the final recipient of the shipment. A consignee will typically be the Importer of Record.

Consignor: A consignor is the entity that originally ships a product.

Controlled Goods: These are goods which are for either military and dual use and which are subject to additional requirements when trading internationally.

Construction Products Regulation (CPR): The Construction Products Regulation (CPR) is European Union (EU) legislation that sets out rules for the marketing of construction products in the EU. It is aimed at reducing technical barriers to trade and ensuring the free movement of certain construction products within the EU.

Customs Comprehensive Guarantee (CCG): This is an agreement backed by a financial institution to cover the cost of customs duty / VAT. Typically a guarantee will be required when using customs procedures such as Inward Processing / customs warehousing or when moving goods in transit.

Customs Declaration: A legal document detailing the goods which are being imported / exported. Whilst there is no requirement for customs declarations on goods moving between Northern Ireland and Ireland, businesses located in Northern Ireland will be required to complete import customs declarations on goods being imported from GB. Businesses located in Ireland will be required to complete import and export customs declarations when moving goods between Ireland and GB.

Customs Declaration Service (CDS): CDS is a system run by HMRC which is designed to oversee all UK import and export declarations.

Businesses in Northern Ireland can use the Trader Support Service to complete certain declarations on CDS.

Businesses in Ireland who are trading with the UK will either need software which is compatible with CDS or have an arrangement with a customs agent who has the capability to submit declarations through this system.

Customs Waiver: Eligible businesses importing goods into Northern Ireland may be able use a customs waiver, which means that they will not have to pay tariffs on goods deemed to be "At Risk" upon entry into Northern Ireland. Businesses in Ireland are not currently able to use a customs waiver.

GOV.UK has more information about how to check if you can claim a waiver for goods brought into Northern Ireland.

Customs Warehousing: This is a customs special procedure where imported goods are stored under the control of customs, and the payment of associated duties and taxes has been suspended. GOV.UK has more information, including how to gain authorisation to use a customs warehouse, in this guidance: Apply to operate a customs warehouse.

De Minimis Aid: De Minimis Aid is a term used to describe certain amounts of state aid to businesses which are deemed too small to provide an advantage to the business.

De Minimis Aid is particularly relevant for businesses in Northern Ireland who are claiming a customs waiver to help overcome of the cost of tariffs on goods which are deemed as being "At Risk" upon entry into Northern Ireland.

Economic Operator Registration and Identification number (EORI): This is a number used by customs authorities to identify the business involved in importing or exporting.

More information about how to apply for an EORI number businesses can be found in the following links:

Entry in the Declarant’s Records (EIDR): Entry in the Declarant’s Records (EIDR) is a simplified procedure. Under this procedure, an economic operator may be authorised to enter certain goods to the customs import procedure at their premises or another approved location.

Entry Summary Declaration (ENS): Submitted by the transporter prior to arrival at the port of departure this declaration is used by customs authorities to determine the level of risk posed by the goods entering their territory.

If you import goods into either Northern Ireland or Ireland from the UK or from outside the EU, then an ENS declaration will be required.

If importing into Northern Ireland an ENS declaration can be submitted through the Trader Support Service.

If importing into Ireland an ENS declaration will need to be submitted through the import control system (ICS). have more information about the Import Control System.

Export Accompanying Document (EAD): An Export Accompanying Document is a document issued by customs authorities following the completion of all export declarations and any customs inspections to signify that an export is admissible. For more information on the requirements faced when exporting please use the links below:

Export Health Certificate (EHC): An export health certificate (EHC) is an official document that confirms your export meets the health requirements of the destination country. An EHC is commonly required when exporting:

  • Live Animals
  • Animal products

For more information including how to obtain an EHC please use the links below:

Exporter of Record: A term used to describe the party that is legally responsible for all export requirements. This includes obtaining any necessary licences or permits to export goods.

Goods Movement Reference (GMR): This is a unique reference number issued to transporters via GVMS upon successful completion of all pre-import declaration.

Goods Vehicle Movement System (GVMS): The Goods Vehicle Movement System is used primarily by transport companies to submit customs declarations prior to arrival at the port of departure. This system links declaration references together meaning they can be automatically arrived and departed in HMRC systems in near-real-time. As a result, the person moving goods only needs to present one reference at the frontier to prove that their goods have pre-lodged declarations.

GOV.UK has more information about how to register for GVMS.

Import Control System (ICS): The 'Import Control System' is an EU wide system designed to facilitate the completion of ENS declarations and for managing communications between the European Commission, national customs administrations, and traders. has more information about the Import Control System.

Importer of Record: A term used to describe the party that is legally responsible for the completion of all import customs formalities including if applicable the payment of any tariffs.

Incoterms: These are the terms and conditions of trade between a buyer and seller. They are a set of eleven terms which set out which party is responsible for areas such as transport, delivery, and customs clearance.

More information on Incoterms, including a breakdown of each term along with what they do and do not cover, can be found in this Cross-Border Trade Hub guide.

Inward Processing Relief: Inward Processing Relief is a customs procedure which enables eligible businesses to suspend import customs duty, VAT and excise duty on goods imported for the purpose of commercial processing. If these goods are subsequently re-exported outside of the EU, there will be no requirement to pay the duty. If the goods are released into free circulation within the EU, then duty will become payable.

Inward Processing Relief can be used by businesses in both Northern Ireland and Ireland.

Movement Reference Number  (MRN): A Movement Reference Number is a unique identification number that is automatically generated each time a customs declaration is submitted.

The New Computerised Transit System (NCTS): The NCTS is a European-wide system, based upon electronic declaration and processing, designed to provide better management and control of CT (Community Transit). It is used in the UK, all EU member states, common transit countries and Andorra.

Returned Goods Relief: Another type of customs special procedure which allows businesses to reimport goods which they have previously exported without paying customs duty and VAT.

Simplified Frontier Declaration (SFD): A Simplified Frontier Declaration is a form of customs declaration which contains the minimum required information to allow for the goods to clear the port. This will be followed up by a Supplementary Declaration to be completed within a set time. This is commonly used when importing goods into Northern Ireland from GB via the Trader Support Service.

Tariff Rate Quota (TRQ): Tariff Rate Quotas are limited amounts of specific goods that you can import during specified periods at reduced or zero rates as against normal customs duties.

To determine if a product is subject to a Tariff Rate Quota businesses should check the requirements for their chosen commodity code by using the Northern Ireland Online Tariff tool.

Transit Accompanying Document (TAD): Although the NCTS is a largely paperless system, a covering document known as the TAD must accompany the goods during transit and be presented, together with the goods, at any office of transit en route and at the office of destination.

Trade Routes: The journey of your product, i.e., where it leaves and where it travels to, considering all jurisdictions or customs territories along the way.

Trader Support Service (TSS): The Trader Support Service is a UK government run service designed to support businesses in Northern Ireland in the completion of customs declarations primarily when trading with the GB market. Going forward this service will continue to perform a key role in facilitating trade with GB.

Visit GOV.UK to sign up for the Trader Support Service.

UK Global Tariff (UKGT): The UK Global Tariff is the default tariff rate for import into the UK from countries with whom the UK does not have a trade deal. This will be relevant in certain circumstances for businesses in Northern Ireland who are importing goods directly from non-UK/EU countries. This is also important for any Northern Ireland or Ireland based businesses who have operations within GB.

As with the EU’s CET tariff, the applicable rate will depend on the choice of commodity code. More information on how to identify the correct commodity code and applicable tariff rate can be found in our guide to commodity codes.

World Trade Organisation (WTO): The World Trade Organisation is an intergovernmental organisation concerned with the regulation of international trade between nations. The WTO key aims include:

  • Improving people’s lives
  • Maintaining open trade
  • Negotiating trade rules
  • Overseeing WTO rules
  • Settling Disputes

More information about their role can be found on the World Trade Organisation website.


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