Wednesday, July 29, 2020

Furloughed and Other Freight Forwarding Staff Should Apply Today for Government Training Grants

With EU Customs Entries Looming Now is the Time to Claim Generous Assistance
Shipping News Feature

UK – From today (29 July 2020) the latest tranche of government funding for customs intermediaries has become available to increase their capacity to make declarations ahead of 2021. HM Revenue and Customs (HMRC), which is running the scheme in partnership with PricewaterhouseCoopers (PwC), is encouraging anyone, such as brokers, freight forwarders and express parcel operators, who makes such declarations to take advantage of the funding now.

The latest round of grants equates to £50 million and this is additional to the £34 million already supplied to bolster the intermediary sector, which was taken up very quickly. In addition to the funds now available to support businesses with recruitment, training and supplying IT equipment to handle customs declarations, the government also intends to change rules which will remove the financial liability from intermediaries operating on behalf of their clients, plus allow parcel operators to continue declaring multiple consignments in a single customs declaration.

The original £34 million supported more than 20,000 training courses, nearly 15,000 units of IT and the recruitment of over 600 new customs agents, but many more are likely to be needed when the UK actually breaks away from the EU completely, and Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster, Michael Gove, said:

”After the UK transition period with the EU ends on December 31, intermediaries will play a vital role in helping UK businesses trade and seize new opportunities around the world. This funding and support will increase capacity as we get ready for the UK’s new start next year. Applying for this funding is simple and I urge the intermediary sector and businesses to take advantage of the help on offer now.”

The offer is particularly interesting to the community of freight forwarding agents, represented in large by the British International Freight Association (BIFA), whose Director General, Robert Keen was quick to encourage its members to increase their capacity to make declarations ahead of 2021, saying:

“Whilst we welcome the additional funding, as we did when the first two rounds of funding were announced, we can only keep our fingers crossed that it produces the thousands of additional customs experts that the government agrees will be needed come January 1st 2021.

“Along with HM Revenue and Customs (HMRC), which is running the scheme, we will be encouraging our members to take advantage of the funding, which could be used to support a business that is extending and taking on new staff, or to help train an existing employee to become competent in completing customs declarations.

“As one of the country’s largest providers of Customs-related training courses, BIFA decided to replicate almost its entire course range and deliver it via video conferencing, due to the Covid-19 crisis preventing face-to-face training.

“Government guidance allows furloughed employees to engage in training, provided that whilst undertaking the training the employee does not provide service to, or generate revenue for, or on behalf of their organisation.

“Hence, we are encouraging members that have furloughed employees to take advantage of the additional funding that has been made available by applying for it to finance some of BIFA's online Customs training opportunities for those employees, as well as employees that have not been furloughed. “

Potential applicants can check exactly what they are eligible for HERE, and with up to €200,000 available to each applicant, including up to 100% of IT improvement and external training costs, plus up to £12,000 for salary costs for each new or redeployed employee, it would be wise to get those applications in early.