Guidelines for Post-Clearance Audit

The post-clearance audit (PCA) process is a structured examination, after Customs has released the cargo, of the relevant commercial data, sales contracts, financial and non-financial records, physical stock and other assets of traders. The purpose is to measure and improve the traders’ compliance. PCA has proved to be an essential tool ensuring that Customs controls are effective in many aspects, including compliance with the WTO Customs Valuation Agreement. It also plays a role in the implementation of an effective Customs risk management strategy, making it easier for Customs to gauge the level of risk corresponding to each trader by measuring compliance with the rules and to fine-tune future controls based on the result. Through the application of a risk-based post-clearance approach, Customs administrations are also able to target their resources more effectively and create win-win partnerships with traders, who will be prompted to comply fully and voluntarily with the rules, as this will facilitate clearance procedures and hence trade.

Recognizing the importance of PCA as an instrument allowing the multi-layered risk management approach wished by Customs to be consolidated effectively, in 2012 the WCO Council adopted the PCA Guidelines. These serve as an essential reference tool for Members as the first crucial stage in the process of implementing an effective PCA process. The Guidelines were updated in 2018 to highlight more clearly that PCA is a means to measure and improve traders’ compliance, structured around the overall strategy of motivating them to work voluntarily towards full compliance.

The audit-based control systems introduced by Customs administrations differ in scope and vary in methodology. Practice has also demonstrated that launching a fully-fledged audit system in a country with a significant informal economy is difficult. Nevertheless, Members are encouraged to work towards aligning their PCA practices as closely as possible with the Guidelines. They can then be sure that they are using an approach that was developed from Members’ actual experiences and that is consistent with a modern approach to Customs matters.

In order to supplement the Guidelines, the WCO has developed other tools to support Member administrations in their modernization efforts, such as an e-learning module, a Diagnostic Tool on Post-Clearance Audit (PCA) and Infrastructure, an Implementation Guidance on PCA and a PCA Typology “How to audit” (restricted access).