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Customs and excise officer career guide

We break down exactly what custom and excise officers do - find out if this role is suited to your abilities. 

Safeera Sarjoo
22nd April 2016
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What is a custom and excise officer?

When you think of an officer you may imagine stern individuals fighting drug trafficking and other illegal trade. You’re not wrong to envision this; however their role is much broader.

They work for HM Revenue and Customs. Heavily focused on regulations, they monitor compliance with excise policies within a range of business premises. They ensure that passengers, baggage, freight and mail are cleared for travel. They also work to identify goods that might be smuggled too.

In terms of excise, officers visit business premises such as distilleries, refineries and importers to make sure excise regulations are being upheld and the correct amount of duty is being paid.

Custom and excise officers are part of the Civil Service and work closely with other agencies including the Police and the Home Office. Though the hours worked can be somewhat unsociable and involve shift patterns, there is an obligation to attend Court and give evidence. A challenging and hands on job, not many roles crop up within the HMRC and so when opportunities do arise, competition is always fierce.

What are their responsibilities?

Responsibilities stretch across customs, excise and VAT which includes:

  • Processing documentation
  • Attending court as official witnesses
  • Preparing reports and answering correspondence
  • Collecting information from suspects and witnesses
  • Advising businesses about statutory requirements
  • Helping with business audits
  • Handling enquiries
  • Liaising with other government departments

What characteristics and skills would suit this role?

A good custom and excise officer should be an all rounder as they are required to have excellent numerical, communication skills and should be able to work together as part of a team and individually. Other skills that are important to this role includes

  • Good listening and questioning skills
  • Able to analyse information
  • Strong decision making skills
  • Ability to present information in a clear and logical manner
  • Tactful, honest, and polite

Entry requirements and training

Entrants can gain entry into Customs and Excise as junior managers, which is a band 5 job. This would require five GCSEs and two subjects at A level or equivalent. One of these subjects must be in English. A degree can also grant you entry. It is also worth noting that it is uncommon to start as a customs officer.

There are other bands that you can gain entry into and work your way up the line. The minimum requirement for entry into this role is two GCSEs. Graduates who hold a 2.2 or higher degree in any subject can apply through the fast track graduate recruitment scheme too. Some positions may require previous work experience with the public which can prove beneficial given the nature of the job.

Examples of requirements based on bands are as follows:

Band 2 – two GCSEs grades A-C or equivalent, of which one subject must be English Language

Band 3 and 4 - five GCSEs grades A-C or equivalent, of which one subject must be English Language.

Training in this role involves a structured programme introducing you to the department. Training can last up to nine months and can include some in house training courses. A lot of the training is done by experienced officers whilst on the job.

Junior managers can progress to more senior positions and ultimately to senior civil servant. There are opportunities to also move into specialist areas such as computing or auditing.


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