Job descriptions and industry overviews

Customs officer

25 Jan 2023, 13:37

Checks the legality of items brought across national borders and works to protect society against the importation of dangerous or illegal items such as firearms, drugs and obscene material.

Blurred image of a person at a workstation with the text "Customs officer" overlayed.

Customs and excise officers are part of the civil service and work closely with other agencies including the Garda and the Department of Foreign Affairs. In Ireland they are widely known as revenue customs officers.

They use their extensive knowledge of customs laws and trade agreements to optimise importing and exporting costs. While normally associated with ports and airports, some work behind the scenes on routine administrative tasks such as preparing and processing import and export documentation according to customs regulations, laws or procedures.

The role of a customs and excise officer is varied but normally falls into the following categories:

  • Customs: combating the importation of firearms, drugs and other banned items and collecting revenues on imported goods.
  • Excise: levying duties inland on alcohol and tobacco.
  • VAT: assessing and collecting VAT from businesses.

Customs Officers working at customs halls in ports and airports are responsible for ensuring that passengers, baggage, freight and mail are cleared for travel. Often acting on intelligence in association with the police both at home and abroad, they search vehicles and people's belongings, looking for illegal drugs and other prohibited items. They are allowed to carry out checks on imported goods (including personal baggage) to prevent the smuggling of dutiable, excisable or prohibited goods. These checks are carried out routinely on travellers arriving from outside the EU.

Excise Officers monitor compliance with excise regulations within a variety of business premises including ensuring that appropriate duty is paid. A VAT Officer advises businesses on their VAT obligations and ensures full compliance with legislation.

Work activities

  • Clearing goods through customs.
  • Preparing and processing import and export documentation according to customs regulations, laws, or procedures.
  • Advising customers on import and export restrictions, tariff systems, quotas, or other customs-related matters.
  • Applying for tariff concessions or for duty drawbacks and other refunds.
  • Classifying goods according to tariff coding system.
  • Calculating duty and tariff payments owed on shipments.
  • Conferring with officials in various agencies to facilitate clearance of goods through quarantine.

Work conditions

Travel: can be a regular feature of the working day.
Working hours: mainly 9 to 5, Monday to Friday for those in administrative roles. Uniformed officers normally work shifts including weekends, public holidays and evenings/nights for those on port duties.
Location: mainly in towns, cities, airports and ports throughout the country.
Opportunities for self-employment: not possible.

Typical employers

  • Revenue commissioners.

Career development

While there is currently a moratorium on promotion within the public/civil service there are very clear progression routes. Mobility is a key feature and you may be required to work in a number of diverse areas during the course of your career. Promotion is on merit rather than on seniority, and you will be given support in acquiring qualifications in subjects such as public administration, law and IT.

Specific degree subjects required

Open to non-graduates and graduates of all disciplines.

Other relevant degree subjects

  • Accounting
  • Finance
  • Law
  • Psychology.

Postgraduate study

A pre-entry postgraduate qualification is not a requirement.

Specific entry requirements

Recruitment usually involves aptitude tests as well as and interviews.


Mainly on the job.

Skills and qualities

  • Ability to collate and analyse often complex information.
  • Ability to disseminate detailed information in a clear and concise manner.
  • ability to work independently and as part of a team.
  • Self-motivation.
  • Tactful and polite with excellent communication and interpersonal skills.
  • Excellent listening and questioning skills.
  • Ability to present information in a clear and logical way.
  • Honest and fair in applying the rules.
  • Good numeracy skills, with the ability to interpret accounts and make calculations.
  • Ability to work accurately, pay close attention to detail and notice inconsistencies.

gradireland editorial advice

This describes editorially independent and impartial content, which has been written and edited by the gradireland content team. Any external contributors featuring in the article are in line with our non-advertorial policy, by which we mean that we do not promote one organisation over another.

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