Customs Audit and Now What?

Lilla Zsitnyanszky

7. Juni 2023

German Version

What is a Customs Audit?

A customs audit is an examination conducted by customs authorities to determine if a company has complied with applicable customs regulations. During this process, the company's accounts and records, including all customs documents, are reviewed. Any company importing goods from a non-EU country (third country) or exporting to such a country can undergo a customs or external audit.

In general, a customs administration audit lasts up to one week, depending on the nature and extent of operations as well as their complexity. In some cases, customs audit can be completed in a matter of hours. However, for larger companies, the audit can extend up to a month.

Audit Notification

Has your company received an audit notification?

Before a customs or external audit by the customs authorities takes place, it is necessary for the relevant main customs office (HZA) to issue a formal audit notification.

This notification outlines important information about the upcoming audit and is shared with you:

  • Who is the ordering authority?

  • Audit timeframe

  • Which types of taxes (e.g., import duties) will be audited?

  • Which operations (e.g., imports from a specific supplier) will be audited?

This can either be a comprehensive import trade audit or an examination of specific matters such as tariff classification, customs value, or preferential origin of goods.

Audit Timeframe

There is no uniform regulation regarding the frequency of customs audits. However, if a company engages in regular imports, an audit can be ordered by customs every three years. Smaller companies might experience fewer audit occurrences, while companies with past violations tend to be audited more frequently.

Regarding the audit period, the auditor will typically request all customs or export declarations from the past three years and form a sample from them. In certain cases, expanding the scope of the audit might be necessary, especially if irregularities are identified.

In principle, you are obligated to retain and have available all receipts and documentation for your import operations for inspection. Additionally, you must permit the customs auditor to review further trade documents in electronic or paper form and provide information about your manufacturing process or inventory.

Preparation for a customs audit can involve the following steps:

  • Firstly, carefully read the audit notification to understand the scope of the audit and the timeframe involved. 

  • Then, gather and organize all relevant documents needed for the audited import operations. 

  • Set up a suitable audit space that provides ample room and access to all required documents. 

  • It might be advisable to proactively discuss potential errors or irregularities with the customs auditor. 

  • Conduct a final discussion with the customs auditor to address any possible questions or uncertainties. 

  • Finally, thoroughly review the supplementary assessment and, if necessary, file an objection.

During a customs audit, the following documents are typically requested:

  • Customs documents such as export and import declarations, customs declarations, customs authorizations, certificates, or proof of origin. 

  • Trade documents such as invoices, delivery notes, transport documents, or contracts. 

  • Accounting documents such as bank statements, balance sheets, profit and loss statements, or inventory lists. 

  • Product documents such as technical specifications, safety data sheets, or declarations of conformity.

traide Support: Audit with traide AI

To aid in compliance with customs regulations, traide AI offers an audit feature. Through collaboration with customs tariff experts, potential errors or irregularities in tariff-related processes can be identified in a timely manner, avoiding unexpected costs in the form of tariff and tax repayments.

Whether traide is the suitable solution for you can be determined in a brief consultation.

For inquiries or further information, we are always available via email at or by phone at +49 30 31193141.

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