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This publication is available at https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/notice-317-imports-by-charities-free-of-duty-and-vat/notice-317-imports-by-charities-free-of-duty-and-vat
This notice cancels and replaces Notice 317 (February 2006). Details of any changes to the previous version can be found in paragraph 1.2 of this notice.
Other notices on this or related subjects
701/6 Charity funded equipment for medical, research, veterinary etc uses
1. About the notice, the law and your rights
1.1 What is this notice about
It tells you how approved charitable or philanthropic organisations can import certain goods into the UK from:
- outside the Customs Union free of duty and VAT
- the ‘Special Territories’ or countries having a Customs Union with the EC free of VAT
The glossary at section 5 explains the meaning of some of the particular words, phrases and abbreviations used.
You may also wish to see our Notices 701/1 Charities and 701/6 Charity funded equipment for medical, research, veterinary etc uses.
1.2 Changes from the earlier version of this notice
The information under heading ‘Putting things right’ has been updated.
1.3 What law covers this notice
The law on which this notice is based is:
- Council Regulation (EEC) No 918/83, Articles 65 to 69 and 79 to 85
- the Value Added Tax (Imported Goods) Relief Order 1984, schedule 2, group 6
This notice explains our view of the law.
1.4 What do I do if I disagree with a Customs decision
You have a right of appeal if you disagree with any decision we make. There is an independent appeals mechanism for most HM Revenue and Customs (HMRC) decisions. This involves a 2 stage process. The first stage is an independent departmental review by HMRC. The second stage, if required, provides for an appeal to an independent VAT and duties tribunal. The following time limits apply:
- you have 45 days from the date of the written notification of the decision by HMRC, to ask for a formal departmental review
- HMRC then have 45 days from receipt of your letter in which to carry out the review and notify you of the outcome
- if following the formal review you still wish to pursue the matter, you have 30 days to lodge your appeal with the tribunal
You can find full details in Notice 990: Excise and Customs appeals, which is available on our website or phone the HMRC Imports and Exports Helpline.
2. Relief conditions
2.1 Who can import the goods
We have given general approval to the following charitable and philanthropic organisations:
- those registered by the Charities Commission or the Office of the Scottish Charities Regulator
- state organisations which are devoted to welfare
- the following, as long as they are non-profit making and their objective is the welfare of the needy:
- youth organisations
- clubs, homes and hostels for the aged
- orphanages and children’s homes
- organisations set up for the relief of distress caused by particular disasters in the Customs Union
- organisations concerned with the relief of distress generally (such as the British Red Cross Society or the Salvation Army)
Please note: this duty relief is not available to support any business or commercial activities that will involve retail sales and hire charges of the imported goods, or for goods manufactured or produced by a third party who then charges the charity organisation accordingly.
2.2 Which goods are eligible for relief and which are not
(a) The relief covers:
- basic necessities for needy people
- goods to be used or sold at charity events for the benefit of needy people
- equipment and office materials to help run your organisation for the benefit of needy people
- goods to help deal with disasters in the Customs Union
We provide further details on each of these in paragraphs 2.3 to 2.6. ‘Needy people’ are those requiring any of the basic necessities listed in paragraph 2.3.
(b) The following specific goods however are not eligible for relief:
- alcoholic products (including alcohol based perfume)
- tobacco and tobacco products
- coffee and tea
- motor vehicles other than ambulances
- items associated solely with worship such as statues and pulpits
- any goods whose importation would give rise to abuse or major distortion of competition. We may therefore limit the quantities or kinds of goods which you can import
2.3 What are basic necessities
These are goods to meet the immediate needs of people which will be distributed free of charge to such needy people in the Customs Union or overseas. They include:
- orthopaedic equipment
We will allow relief from duty whether or not you have purchased the goods. But to qualify for relief from VAT, you must have obtained the basic necessities free of charge.
2.4 What goods can I use or sell at a charity event
Any kind, other than listed in paragraph 2.2(b), which you will use or sell for fund raising at occasional charity events for the benefit of needy people. You must receive the goods:
- free of charge from a person or organisation established outside the Customs Union
- without any commercial intent on the part of the donor
An ‘occasional charity event’ means any event held normally not more than 4 times a year by any one organisation.
2.5 What equipment and office materials can get relief
Machines, tools and equipment of the service industry, office materials, fixtures and fittings which you receive:
- free of charge from a person or organisation established outside the Customs Union
- without any commercial intent on the part of the donor
- solely to help run your organisation and carry out your charitable and philanthropic aims for the benefit of needy people
2.6 What about goods to help deal with disasters in the Customs Union
There are special procedures for dealing with these goods. Our helpline can give you full details. We cannot however allow relief on materials and equipment intended for rebuilding disaster areas.
2.7 Is there any restriction on the disposal of the goods
Yes. You may lend, hire out or transfer the goods to another approved organisation without payment of duty and VAT as long as you notify us first. Otherwise, you must pay us duty and VAT if you dispose of the goods for any purpose not covered by paragraphs 2.2 to 2.6. Phone our helpline for further details.
Our officers may visit you to confirm that the conditions of the relief are being complied with.
2.8 Do import prohibitions and restrictions apply
Yes, there are some goods which are strictly controlled. You can find information about these in the Tariff, Volume 1, part 3 or from our National Advice Service.
3. How to claim relief
3.1 How do I claim relief on goods imported in baggage
If you import goods in your accompanied baggage, you must:
- declare them to us at the Customs Red channel or Red point when you arrive
- produce evidence to satisfy us that all the conditions of the relief are met
We suggest that you carry a letter from a responsible official of your charitable or philanthropic organisation stating that the organisation will meet the conditions of the relief. The letter should also describe the goods, state how they will be used and whether the goods are donated or purchased.
If we are not satisfied you will have to give us financial security (normally a cash deposit or banker’s guarantee) to cover the duty and VAT. We will discharge this when you prove that the goods qualify for relief.
Where the value of the goods is over £600, we will require a formal import declaration as explained in paragraph 3.2.
3.2 How do I claim relief on goods imported as freight
You must claim relief by completing an import declaration on a Single Administrative Document (SAD: form C88). You can get an import agent to do this, but if you want to complete the SAD yourself and need some more information on the details required for the declaration, please refer to the Tariff. Copies are available for reference at business centres and Customs enquiry offices at major ports and airports.
You will need to use one of the special Customs Procedure Codes (CPCs) listed in section 4 to claim this relief. Enter the appropriate CPC in box 37 of the SAD.
3.3 How do I claim relief on goods imported by post
Ask the sender to write clearly on the package and its accompanying international Customs declaration (CN22 or CN23):
‘CHARITY ITEMS: RELIEF CLAIMED’
If we need more information we will send you a simplified form to complete. If satisfied, we will then release the goods for delivery free of duty and VAT.
If the package is not clearly marked it may not be delivered until you have paid the duty and VAT. You should pay these charges and then write to Customs at the postal depot where the charges were raised. Explain what happened, how the goods will be used and enclose the document showing the charges. If we are satisfied you qualify for relief, we will repay the duty and VAT.
3.4 Can I claim relief after the goods have been imported and customs charges paid
Yes. Normally, you should claim relief at the time of import. If you fail to do this, we may accept a belated claim and repay the appropriate charges subject to certain conditions. See our Notice 199: imported goods: customs procedures and customs debt for further details. The section and paragraphs on repayment and remission under Code Article 236 refer.
4. Customs procedure codes
Referred to in paragraph 3.2
- CPC 40 00 C20 - for basic necessities imported from outside the Customs Union
- CPC 49 00 C20 - for basic necessities imported from the Special Territories or countries having a Customs Union with the EC
- CPC 40 00 C20 - for goods to be used or sold at charitable events imported from outside the Customs Union
- CPC 49 00 C20 - for goods to be used or sold at charitable events imported from the Special Territories or countries having a Customs Union with the EC
- CPC 40 00 C20 - for equipment and office materials imported from outside the Customs Union
- CPC 49 00 C20 - for equipment and office materials imported from the Special Territories or countries having a Customs Union with the EC
|CPC||Customs Procedure code. Used on import declarations (form C88) to identify the type of procedure for which the goods are entered|
|Customs Union||the customs territories of the EC, Turkey, San Marino and Andorra. The unions between the EC and these countries enable most goods in free circulation to move freely between them without the need to claim duty relief, subject to the production of any necessary preference or Community Transit documentation. For Andorra, the union only covers goods in chapters 25 to 97 of the Tariff. VAT is still due on imports from Turkey, San Marino and Andorra however unless the relief explained in this notice is applicable and claimed|
|Duty||taxes we charge on imported goods under the combined nomenclature of the Community. These include Customs Duty, Common Agricultural Policy (CAP) charges and Anti-Dumping Duty|
|EC||The European Community:
Austria, Belgium, Bulgaria, Cyprus, Czech Republic, Denmark
Estonia, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Hungary, the Republic of Ireland
Italy, Latvia, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Malta, the Netherlands
Poland, Portugal, Romania, Slovakia,Slovenia, Spain, Sweden and the UK
Plus from 1 January 2007, Bulgaria and Romania
The European Commission has advised that the application of the Community Customs Code and 6th VAT Directive shall be suspended in those areas of Cyprus in which the Government of the Republic of Cyprus does not exercise effective control. Goods from those areas will continue from 1 May 2004 to be treated as non-EC imports
|SAD||Single Administrative Document (form C 88)|
|Special Territories||countries or areas that are part of the customs territory of the EC but not part of the fiscal (VAT) territory. VAT is therefore due on imports from these territories unless the relief explained in this notice is applicable and claimed. These territories are: the Åland Islands, the Canary Islands, the Channel Islands, French Guiana, Guadeloupe, Martinique, Mount Athos and Reunion|
|Tariff||the Tariff is a 3 volume annual publication which is updated monthly containing useful information about customs import and export requirements|
|VAT||Value Added Tax|
Help and advice
If you need general advice or more copies of HM Revenue and Customs (HMRC) notices, please phone 0300 200 3700. You can call between 8am to 6pm, Monday to Friday.
If you have hearing difficulties, please call the Textphone service on 0300 200 3719.
If you would like to speak to someone in Welsh, please phone 0300 200 3705 between 8am to 6pm, Monday to Friday.
Your rights and obligations
Read Your Charter to find out what you can expect from HMRC and what we expect from you.
Comments or suggestions
If you have any comments or suggestions to make about this notice, please write to:
HM Revenue and Customs
Social Reliefs Team
4th Floor West
New Kings Beam House
Please note this address is not for general enquiries.
Putting things right
If you’re unhappy with HMRC’s service, please contact the person or office you have been dealing with. They’ll try to put things right.
If you’re still unhappy, find out how to complain to HMRC.
How HMRC uses your information
HMRC is a Data Controller under the Data Protection Act 1998. HMRC holds information for the purposes specified in its notification to the Information Commissioner, including the assessment and collection of tax and duties, the payment of benefits and the prevention and detection of crime, and may use this information for any of them.
HMRC may get information about you from others, or may give information to them. If it does, it will only be as the law permits to:
- check the accuracy of information
- prevent or detect crime
- protect public funds
HMRC may check information it receives about you with what is already in its records. This can include information provided by you, as well as by others, such as other government departments or agencies and overseas tax and customs authorities. HMRC will not give information to anyone outside the organisation unless the law permits it to do so. For more information read the guidance on data protection.