Released On 4th Mar 2019

What is an Importer of Record, and who is the Exporter & Consignee? 

Understand the definitions and differences between three important roles in an import transaction: the Importer of Record, the Exporter and the Consignee.

Ensuring the compliant import of goods to countries around the world, each with their own complex legislation, customs regulations and documentation, is fraught with pitfalls if you're not familiar with it. To begin with, it is vital to understand the definitions of the three most important roles involved in an import transaction, and the differences between them:

  1. The importer of record (also called the "declarant")
  2. The exporter
  3. The consignee

What is an importer of record?

Definition and role: The Importer of Record (or IOR) is a person or entity in the destination country. They are officially responsible for making sure an incoming shipment of goods complies with all the legal requirements and regulations in that country.

The Importer of Record 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 referred to as 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.

Who is 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.

Who is 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.

Importer of Record services

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. Find out more about Mouse and Bear's Importer of Record solutions.

Learn more about definitions relating to imports and exports, or contact us for advice. Please email iorsolutions@mouseandbear.com, call 01935 848526 or send the enquiry form below.

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