20.01.2022 | Reading time: 0 minutes

The future of customs audits – it doesn’t always need an external view

A status quo of the customs and export control relevant processes in the company is important for an effective internal control system (ICS) as well as for your own "clarity". We know from our experience that processes in the customs area often remain unchanged for a long time and have "grown historically". As a result, potential savings, especially in the area of digitalisation, are often not recognised.

It doesn’t matter if you have been working in the company for a while and know the weak points, or if you are new and want to get an overview first. A status quo of the customs and export control relevant processes in the company is important for an effective internal control system (ICS) as well as for your own “clarity”.

Often, the common way today is to hire a customs consultancy. Depending on the focus, lawyers, tax consultants or management consultants are hired for a customs audit. An external customs audit provides a report, depending on the agreement, on where there are still gaps in the area of compliance or where there is potential for optimisation in the processes. If you already have experience with such audits, you know that they can quickly run into a few thousand euros, depending on the scope of the project and the audited areas and locations.

Read our article to find out what the future of customs audits could look like. It doesn’t always have to be external consultants who examine your processes. First, with the right approach, you can audit your customs and export control processes yourself for compliance, cost and innovation. Secondly, these processes offer opportunities for digitisation. Documents that are checked for inconsistencies or missing information could also be taken over by systems in the future.


Planning and conducting a customs audit – this is how it works

It is important that you determine the focal points and identify the relevant areas and persons. To get a better overview, you can start by depicting your company. Perhaps with a kind of organisation chart. Here you can see at a glance how your company is set up and where your focal points lie. Define these areas in more detail – who and what is integrated and affected here, who has what responsibilities, etc. Now, in further steps, you can summarise and evaluate all the information you have gathered. Only after these important and detailed points can further procedures take place. Whether and which suggestions for improvement exist, and how these can be implemented in current or new processes and responsibilities, which optimisation or reduction is needed, and whether legal requirements are met.

Another important point to consider is the necessary documentation. A document list can help you to always make the most important arrangements to have all documents present and complete. In this list, you should include the most important documents, such as sales contracts, invoices and delivery notes, stocks, all licences, notifications, export documents, annual financial statements, regular training courses, etc. In the next step, you work out a questionnaire with which you and all those involved can then compile all your work instructions and example cases. Here you can see whether all the sample cases are conclusive for you and your staff, or whether there are still questions.

The aim is that after an audit your customs processes are clearly structured and the responsibilities and tasks are allocated in a meaningful way. The associated coordination and control tasks are prepared accordingly so that they can be integrated into your compliance system without much effort. This allows you to minimise risks and take full advantage of the opportunities presented.


Documentation of your project

In order to be able to track the results and sources at a later time, we would recommend creating at least one folder on your drive where the audits get their own “place”. For example, a folder structure Internal Control System – Audits – Audit Feb. 2022 would be possible; all information would then be neatly filed under this folder. We have a folder for each audit with the structure, data collection, research and results.


Sustainable ICS – a customs audit plan

The goal is to create a plan for you and your company that checks and evaluates the internal processes in a comprehensible, but also sustainable manner. On the basis of this audit, the current status can be presented, which you can compare with the past status and adapt to future requirements. Especially when your company grows, necessary changes and adaptations arise, which on the one hand result from a dynamic development of the legal framework and on the other hand from changed requirements in your company.


Customs audits at regular intervals

Many areas of your customs clearance are subject to strict laws and rules that you and your company must comply with, which on the one hand offer you many advantages and opportunities, but on the other hand are also associated with risks. At the latest during your next customs audit, you will realise that a regular review and adjustment of all your processes is an absolute must. Structured risk and impact analyses, as well as monitoring tools, have become best practice approaches for internationally operating companies. Due to regulatory requirements, compliance expectations of business partners and customers, as well as the risks associated with the topic of export control, it is only a matter of time before these standards become established.


Digitising audits in the future

To go one step further and not just handle customs audits yourself: What if we digitised here too?

Documents that are still checked for possible errors by experts today could be read out by machines and searched for irregularities. Master data records could also be queried and checked via certain rules. Annual sensitisations could be sent to the employees concerned via e-learning, according to a fixed schedule.

So there are countless possibilities to digitise cleverly in the area of audits as well.

You must first have a plan for yourself, which areas will be audited and how, and what the result should be. On this basis, you can then digitise the customs audits step by step.


Become an internal customs auditor yourself, we will help you!

We would like to support you in carrying out your own customs audits and setting up a digital internal control system. For this purpose, we offer you our accompanied inventory and training as a customs auditor. You will receive a toolkit, which we will use to carry out inventories. Over a period of six months, you will have the opportunity to ask your questions about inventories and the implementation of your project twice a week.

Using our tools and templates, we will show you how to develop your own structure and a systematic approach. We will accompany you for several weeks and help you to carry out your analysis in your company. Simply contact us for a non-binding discussion!

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