HM Customs and Excise

HM Customs and Excise
Corporate Logo for HM Customs and Excise.svg
Final logo of HM Customs and Excise
HM Customs Ensign vector.svg
Ensign of HM Customs and Excise
Non-ministerial government department overview
Formed1909 (1909)
Preceding agencies
Dissolved1 April 2005 (2005-04-01)
Superseding agency
JurisdictionUnited Kingdom
HeadquartersNew Kings Beam House, Upper Ground, London

HM Customs and Excise (properly known as Her Majesty's Customs and Excise (or His as appropriate), often abbreviated to HMCE) was a department of the British Government formed in 1909 by the merger of HM Customs and HM Excise; its primary responsibility was the collection of customs duties, excise duties, and other indirect taxes.

The payment of customs dues has been recorded in Britain for over a thousand years and HMCE was formed from predecessor bodies with a long history.

With effect from 18 April 2005, HMCE merged with the Inland Revenue (which was responsible for the administration and collection of direct taxes) to form a new department: HM Revenue and Customs (HMRC).[1]


The three main functions of HMCE were revenue collection, assessment and preventive work, alongside which other duties were performed.[2]

Revenue collection

On behalf of HM Treasury, officers of HM Customs and Excise levied customs duties, excise duties, and other indirect taxes (such as Air Passenger Duty, Climate Change Levy, Insurance Premium Tax, Landfill Tax and Value-added tax (VAT)).


Officers spent significant amounts of time in docks, warehouses and depots and on board newly-arrived ships assessing dutiable goods and cargoes. Specialist tools were provided e.g. for the measurement of containers or the specific gravity of alcohol.

Preventive work

HMCE was responsible for managing the import and export of goods and services into the UK; as such, its officers were active in the detection and prevention of attempts to evade the revenue laws, for example through smuggling or illicit distillation of alcohol. Since the early 17th century, the searching of vessels for illicit goods when undertaken by customs officers has been called 'rummaging'.[3]


For various reasons HMCE and its predecessors had accrued a variety of other responsibilities over the years, some of which had nothing to do with revenue collection and protection. Many of these additional duties pertained to the regulation of activities in UK coastal waters on behalf of HM Government (not least because HMCE had customs officers stationed all around the UK coast). Thus at various times in the 20th century HMCE was involved in receiving, regulating or recording:[4]

Other Languages