A custom house or customs house was a building housing the offices for the government officials who processed the paperwork associated with importing and exporting goods into and out of a country. Customs officials also collected customs duty on imported goods.
The custom house was typically located in a seaport or in a city on a major river, with access to the ocean. These cities acted as a port of entry into a country. The government stationed officials at such locations to collect taxes and regulate commerce.
Due to advances in electronic information systems, the increased volume of international trade, and the introduction of air travel, the term "custom house" is now often an historical anachronism. There are many examples of buildings around the world that were formerly used as custom houses but have since been converted for other uses, such as museums or civic buildings.
In the United Kingdom, since 1386, the phrase custom house has been in use over the term customs house. This was after a "Custom House" was erected at Wool Wharf in Tower Ward, to contain just the officials of the Great Custom on Wool and Woolfells. The singular form was used even though in later years the Custom House was the location of other Customs officials as well.
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Old Custom House of Iquique, Chile
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