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Specialist tools were provided e. 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'. 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.
Thus at various times in the 20th century HMCE was involved in receiving, regulating or recording: Excise Offices were located both around the coast and inland in former centuries, every market town in England had a designated Excise Office, albeit not permanently manned; often a room in a local inn would be adapted for the purpose when required.
The nation's borders were the prime location for much of HMCE's work. Before the 20th century the UK's only border was its coastline and customs activity was focused around the coast.
The establishment of the Irish Free State in gave the United Kingdom a land border, which also required customs checkpoints ; later, customs officers were needed at airports as well. As well as administering Customs declarations , HM Customs and Excise staff had responsibility for guarding the borders of the United Kingdom from smugglers.
To try to achieve this, HMCE and its predecessors had a history of operating both on land and at sea. Later, however, the Commissioners along with most of the headquarters staff were forced to move out after the building was damaged in a bombing raid in December The amalgamation of the previously separate Customs and Excise services required a new corporate structure, which substantially remained in place until The new Board of Customs and Excise had oversight of three inter-linked branches, each with its own management structure: The Board was responsible to the Chancellor of the Exchequer for collecting and accounting for all customs and excise revenues and for 'the management of all matters belonging and incidental to such collection'.
The Headquarters Staff had oversight of policy implementation and management, as well as providing central accounting, legal and administrative services; its operation was akin to that of a government department. The Outdoor Service was divided into geographical areas called Collections, each overseen by a Collector a senior official who acted as the Board's representative.
Initially there were ninety-two Collections formed by merging the previously separate Customs Collections and Excise Collections but these were later reduced: The Collections were subdivided into Districts each overseen by a Surveyor within which were several Stations, each staffed by one or more Officers of Customs and Excise.
In each Collection, the Stations were responsible for assessment of duty while the Collector's Office focused on collection of revenue. The Waterguard carried out preventive work; it worked closely alongside the Outdoor Service but was separately constituted with its own management structure and its own geographical 'Divisions'.
After , management structures were streamlined and unified, with Civil Service grades replacing the previous disparate ranking structures in most areas. At the same time the Waterguard ceased to operate as a separate body, although uniformed customs officers continued to be involved in preventive work. The majority of the Headquarters staff belonged to the Civil Service grades generally clerical, executive, and secretariat. The main grades in the outfield were: The regions of London Port and Liverpool later 'London Airports' was added were graded as slightly higher than the others.
All grades were amalgamated and incorporated into the general Civil Service grades in Established in the mid-twentieth century to combat fraud and drug smuggling , the Investigation Division was headed by a Chief Investigation Officer, equivalent in rank to a Collector, assisted by a Deputy Chief Investigation Officer and a number of Assistant Chief Investigation Officers.
Officers of the Waterguard had their own rank structure, namely: Higher grades were the Assistant Superintendent and Superintendent, neither of whom wore a uniform. All uniformed grades wore a Navy curl ; CPOs were further distinguished by having a row of gold oak leaves on the peak of the cap. The Board of Customs, responsible for collecting duties levied on imported goods, and the Board of Excise, responsible for raising revenue from inland taxes, were both established in the 17th century.
The raising of excise duties also dates from this time, but the levying of customs duties has a far longer history, the first written reference being found in an eighth-century charter of King Aethelbald. These Boards and their successors were made up of Commissioners, appointed under the Great Seal of the Realm.
Originally, the term customs meant any customary payments or dues of any kind for example, to the king, or a bishop, or the church , but later became restricted to duties payable to the king on the import or export of goods. A centralised English customs system can be traced to the Winchester Assize of Customs of , in the reign of King John ,  from which time customs were to be collected and paid to the State Treasury. HM Customs was established on a more permanent basis with the passing of legislation in the reign of King Edward I:
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