Customs and Excise Officer Career Advice
If you are wondering how to become a customs and excise officer, below are tips and advice on training for and beginning careers in this area of home security, as well as job prospects in the UK.
The Job Description
Officers working for Her Majesty’s Revenue and Customs (HMRC) collect a range of taxes and duties, control imported and exported goods, and prevent banned items from entering or leaving the country.
As a border protection (customs) officer, you would work in airports, ports and freight terminals to collect customs duty and prevent smuggling and illegal trade.
search luggage, vehicles and travellers
check customs documents
question people who have been found with illegal items or excess goods
arrest and charge people
prepare reports and witness statements
take on specialist roles such as dog handling or undercover and surveillance work.
As an excise officer or VAT assurance officer, you would make sure that businesses pay the right amount of excise duty and/or VAT, by:
visiting businesses to audit their accounts
advising traders about the law, and how to improve their accounting methods
taking legal action to make businesses pay what they owe.
In all cases you would occasionally attend court as a witness, and work closely with other agencies like the police and the Home Office.
The key personal attributes of good customs and excise officers include:
be able to analyse information and make decisions
work accurately and pay attention to detail
be able to work alone and also as part of a team
have good listening and questioning skills
be able to present information in a clear and logical way
be tactful and polite
be honest and fair in applying rules
have good mathematical skills, for examining accounts and making calculations.
How to become a customs and excise officer
Border protection, excise and VAT assurance officer jobs are at HMRC’s Officer grade. You would normally join as an administrative assistant or assistant officer and earn promotion to officer, although HMRC sometimes recruits directly into officer grade.
To join at Officer grade you are likely to need five GCSEs (A-C) including English and maths, plus two A levels or equivalent qualifications. You will usually need two GCSEs (A-C) to join HMRC as an administrative assistant, and five GCSEs (A-C) including maths and English for assistant officer jobs.
However, if you do not have these qualifications, you may be able to instead take a selection test to prove your skills and abilities in areas like teamwork and communication. Please check entry requirements for each vacancy.
You must also meet the Civil Service nationality requirement. All jobs are open to British nationals and many are also open to Commonwealth citizens or European Union nationals.
Training and Development
You would be trained on the job through a mixture of structured in-house training courses and learning from experienced staff. Training usually lasts around nine months, and may include some residential training courses.
You are encouraged to identify your own training needs throughout your career, as part of an appraisal and staff development programme.
The Pay (a rough guide)
Salaries at administrative and assistant grades are between £12,734 and £18,716 a year.
Officers earn between £19,587 and £25,206 a year.
Salaries after promotion to higher officer grades are between £24,513 and £38,099 a year.
Jobs are advertised on the HMRC and Civil Service Recruitment Gateway websites, in the local and national press and in Jobcentre Plus.
There is a clear promotion structure in the Civil Service. You could stay within HMRC and progress through the grades, or you could choose to transfer to other Civil Service departments and agencies. You may need to relocate to gain promotion.
Useful security or armed forces resources:
HM Revenue and Customs (HMRC)