Released On 4th Mar 2019

Comparing roles: the Importer of Record / Declarant, the Exporter and the Consignee

When trying to find your way through the complex legislation involved with the customs process, it’s helpful to understand the definition of the three most important roles involved in an import transaction, and the differences between them:

  1. the importer of record / declarant
  2. the exporter
  3. the consignee

The importer of record / declarant

Definition and role: The Importer of Record (IOR) is the person or entity officially responsible for making sure a shipment of goods complies with all the legal requirements and regulations of the destination country. The IOR ensures that goods are correctly valued, that the relevant taxes and duties are paid, and files all the correct export documents and permits. The Importer of Record is sometimes also called the Declarant, and they have a very important role in customs compliance. 

Who can act as the Importer of Record / declarant?

The requirements for who can act as the Importer of Record differ between countries. In many cases, the consignee (or owner of the goods at the time of import) may act in this role. 

At other times, particularly in less straightforward transactions, it’s necessary to appoint an agent or broker, or some other legal entity in the destination country, to act as the Importer of Record on their behalf.

Appointing an Importer of Record can help to avoid confusion about who actually has ownership of the goods when a transaction involves suppliers, distributors and end-users. The IOR becomes the temporary owner of the goods until the goods have been accepted by a distribution centre or the end user has taken delivery of the goods.

The exporter

Definition and role: The exporter is the person or company that is authorised by customs and government authorities to send goods from one country into another. The exporter may or may not be the actual seller of the goods; they could be an organisation acting on their behalf.

The consignee

Definition and role: The consignee is the receiver of the shipment, and is usually the owner of the goods. Once the goods are cleared through customs, the consignee is the party who takes ownership of them. In a straightforward import/export transaction, the consignee is usually the party paying import duties and taxes.

The consignee can be a private individual consumer (ordering goods from an overseas business), or it can be another business. 

If a business has imported its own goods, either for its own internal use, for storage, or for distribution at a later date, it is both the importer and the consignee.

The different roles and responsibilities involved in customs clearance can be complex, and they vary from country to country, so it’s worth getting expert advice if you’re not familiar with the process. 

Learn more about definitions relating to imports and exports, or contact us for advice.

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