by Richard Buckley, Editor, Business Eye

With only 40 days until the end of the Brexit transition period, businesses in Northern Ireland are being urged to use available information and supports to get ready for the new trading environment that they will face from 1 January 2021. There is still time for businesses in Northern Ireland to implement vital steps to prepare, according to Chartered Accountants Ireland.

A recent survey of accounting professionals in Northern Ireland conducted by Chartered Accountants Ireland, showed that only 2 percent of businesses say they are fully prepared for the changes Brexit will bring in the New Year, with 46 percent saying that they have some measures in place but are in need of more guidance.

Commenting, Chair of Chartered Accountants Ireland’s Northern Ireland Tax Committee Alan Gourley said:

“Businesses in Northern Ireland will be confronted with a starkly different trading landscape come 1 January. The Protocol on Northern Ireland/Ireland gives businesses some degree of certainty as to the customs controls they will face next year. Businesses must prepare for these changes by enhancing their own customs knowledge and registering for the Trader Support Service which will provide guidance and support for customs processes that will arise for goods moving between GB and NI. We are urging businesses to use all government support available. The UK government has issued practical information to cope with the end of the transition period across a wide range of sectors.”

The UK government is encouraging traders, particularly those who have never had to deal with customs formalities, to sign up for the Trader Support Service (TSS) now in order to access guidance and practical support. Chartered Accountants Ireland’s survey showed that 80 per cent of respondents are now aware of the TSS, a significant increase on its last survey (60 per cent) and 30 per cent of respondents are now registered for the scheme, up from a low base of 18 per cent. Despite that, only 38 per cent plan to use the TSS in ensuring their customs preparedness.

Chair of Chartered Accountants Ireland’s Ulster Society Maeve Hunt said:

“Now is the time for businesses to act to ensure that they fully understand the implications of Brexit for their business. I appreciate that there are still some important matters to be agreed by the UK government and the EU, and guidance is evolving, but now is the time for businesses to be speaking to customers, suppliers and logistics providers about how trade is going to work from 1 January. There are other important areas, such as data transfer, trade in services and supply chain issues that are not yet subject to an agreement and could also greatly impact the way business currently trades across the border. Businesses need to become fully comfortable on how all these issues might impact their business.”

Even though many businesses remain in a holding pattern, it is encouraging to see that there is intention on the part of the large majority to act soon with 92 per cent intending to upskill and enhance their customs expertise, and a further 22 per cent intend to register for the TSS in addition to those that have already done so since October.

While clarity is still desired on a range of matters, there are things that businesses can do now to ensure they are prepared, regardless of the outcome of the UK / EU trade discussions. These include:

Critically examine your supply chain and consider your reliance on EU markets for goods and services provision.
Contact your suppliers and logistics providers about the continuity of goods and services you need for trade.
Register for the Trader Support Service to access all the latest guidance and obtain practical assistance with Customs declarations (if required).
Get an EORI number and seek out a customs agent or enhance in-house customs knowledge if required.
If you buy from / sell to Great Britain, you will need to identify the commodity codes for the goods you buy or sell.
Check whether your current certifications, licences, insurance policies or authorisations will be valid post-Brexit.
Companies operating in regulated sectors (such as financial services) may need to take steps such as contacting the relevant regulator.

Understand where your data is hosted and how you transfer data across to the EU and whether you can continue to do so.

Consider the status of your workers, and how you can recruit or move staff within the framework of the new immigration rules of the UK.

Seek out government supports available.

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Maeve Hunt, Chair of Chartered Accountants Ireland's Ulster Society


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