Methodology changes to trade in goods statistics from March 2022

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This article covers data relating to January 2022 onwards.

Changes to the way HMRC collects statistics

HM Revenue & Customs' (HMRC) Trade in Goods Statistics (TIGS) are a detailed dataset covering the UK's trade in goods at country and product level. They are published monthly from trade declarations, providing access to both aggregated and detailed data for over 9,500 commodities and c200 partner countries.

UK imports from the EU

Since 1 January 2022, Intrastat only applies to movements of goods between Northern Ireland and the European Union (EU). Imports into Great Britain (GB) (England, Scotland and Wales) from the EU are no longer covered by Intrastat.

Customs declarations are used for imports of goods into GB from the EU and for imports into the UK from non-EU countries. This information is used in combination with Intrastat data on imports into Northern Ireland from the EU, to create the overall UK’s imports dataset.  

GB imports from Ireland

As announced in the Borders Control Statement (UIN HLWS473), on 15 December 2021, the Government extended the current arrangements for moving goods from the island of Ireland to GB for as long as discussions on the Protocol are ongoing.

These temporary arrangements enable Irish traders to continue relying on staged customs controls for the foreseeable future. While these measures are in place, import statistics for trade into GB from Ireland are reported as declared and may not reflect the period in which the goods have been traded.

UK exports to the EU

From 1 January 2022, the Goods Vehicle Movement Service (GVMS) was introduced for all exports to the EU, allowing the pre-lodgement of declarations to make vehicle flow at the ports as burden-free as possible. When the goods actually leave the UK, notification of departure is legally required within 15 days of the goods export. If no further notification is sent within 15 days of lodging the declaration, the Customs Handling of Import and Export Freight (CHIEF) system will automatically assume the goods have departed.

In January 2021 the timing of the automatic departure on CHIEF was reduced to 5 days for some locations, to reflect the new export procedures at that time. However, following the introduction of GVMS, to support trade at the border and bring harmonisation across all ports, the assumed departure date was increased back to 15 days with effect from 21 January 2022.

Under the TIGS methodology, all exports are recorded from the departure date. Although many declarations are not affected by this change as the departure date is known, there is a proportion of declarations that wait for the assumed departure date.

Missing Trader Intra Community (MTIC) VAT fraud (MTIC) methodology

Missing Trader Intra Community VAT fraud (MTIC) is a systematic criminal attack on the VAT system which has been detected in many EU Member States. In essence, businesses obtain a VAT registration to acquire goods VAT free from other Member States. They then sell on the goods at VAT inclusive prices and disappear without paying over the VAT paid by their customers to the tax authorities. A consequence of this is that the respective arrivals declarations to HMRC are usually not submitted, resulting in an under-recording of the value of goods imported into the UK from the EU.

From January 2022 account, MTIC estimates will no longer be included in the Overseas Trade in Goods Statistics (OTS). There are two main drivers for this, firstly, the implementation of full customs controls for all EU imports coming into GB, following the ending of staged customs controls.  Secondly, MTIC and VAT Supply Chain Fraud has evolved, the complexities of the Modus Operandi used are not purely EU-centric. Consequently, it is no longer appropriate to estimate mis-declaration by comparing exports and imports in supply chains.

A full methodology document is available on GOV.UK, the updated version incorporating these changes will be published alongside the Overseas Trade in Goods January 2022 release on 11 March 2022.

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