Praise for the customs coyote

Customs existence in a company is becoming more and more coyote-like. Solitary, omnivorous and not threatened with extinction. Here’s a brief overview, which may well inspire action.

The word ‘customs’ comes across as rather stuffy, outdated and unappealing. Let’s be honest – who enjoys talking about customs or having the subject explained to them?

Often, this topic is simply assigned to the logistics department, where it leads a niche existence. Whether this has to do with incomplete knowledge, a lack of processes and responsibilities, or a combination of all three remains to be seen.

The fact is, customs may not sound exciting, but we shouldn’t underestimate its importance. Customs forms the basis of all cross-border transactions. Without transactions there’s no turnover, and without turnover there are no direct taxes, no VAT, no transfer pricing and so on.

What’s more, customs even forms the basis for EU internal traffic (Intrastat) as well as export control (conversion directory for dual-use goods). Finally, many of the new environmental taxes and accounting methods (such as plastic taxes and the carbon border adjustment mechanism, or CBAM for short) are also derived from customs.  

Who should be given responsibility for all of this? The ideal person is a lone wolf, who isn’t especially affiliated to research, purchasing, production or sales. However, they definitely still need support from above (i.e. their management team).

Of course, it’s better still if the management team includes a chief trade officer (CTO). What’s needed at this level is not a customs tariff fanatic, an origin guru or a customs value professor, but rather an omnivore who understands business, can manage the various interfaces and data and, ultimately, can think laterally (new levies, trends and data analyses).

The solution – like in so many other areas – is to establish processes and accountability as the foundation, with clean data forming the superstructure; all overseen from above by the manager.

One thing’s for certain – the customs coyote is clearly not at risk of extinction.

Contact us

Simeon L. Probst

Simeon L. Probst

Partner, Customs & International Trade, PwC Switzerland

Tel: +41 58 792 53 51

Christina Haas Bruni

Christina Haas Bruni

Senior Manager, Customs & International Trade, PwC Switzerland

Tel: +41 58 792 51 24

Oliver Hulliger

Oliver Hulliger

Director, Customs & International Trade, PwC Switzerland

Tel: +41 58 792 56 96