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This publication is available at https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/notice-371-importing-goods-for-disabled-people-free-of-duty-and-vat/notice-371-importing-goods-for-disabled-people-free-of-duty-and-vat
This notice cancels and replaces Notice 371 (September 2004). Details of any changes to the previous version can be found in paragraph 1.2 of this notice.
1. About the notice, the law and your rights
1.1 What is this notice about?
It tells you how you can import goods specially designed for the education, scientific or cultural advancement of disabled people from:
- outside the Customs Union free of duty and VAT
- the ‘special territories’ or countries having a Customs Union with the EU free of VAT
The glossary at section 6 explains the meaning of some of the words, phrases and abbreviations used.
1.2 What law covers this notice?
The law on which this notice is based is:
- Council Regulation (EC) No 1186/2009, Chapter XVII, Section B, Articles 66 to 73
- VAT (Imported Goods) Relief Order 1984, schedule 2, group 6, items 6 and 7
- Value Added Tax Act 1994, schedule 8, groups 12 and 15
This notice explains our view of the law.
1.3 What rights do I have in relation to a customs decision?
Receiving an adverse Customs decision from HMRC - ‘Right to be Heard’
When you receive an adverse customs decision from HMRC you will first be issued with a pre-notification communication explaining the reasons why the adverse decision has been made. This pre-notification is called your Right to be Heard and once issued, you will have a period of 30 calendar days in which you may make further representations or provide further information to HMRC concerning the decision.
1.4 What do I do if I disagree with a customs decision?
If you do not agree with the decision issued to you, there are 2 options available:
- if you want a review you should write back to the decision maker within 30 days of the date of their letter, giving your reasons why you do not agree with their decision
- appeal direct to the Tribunal who are independent of HMRC
If you choose to have your case reviewed you will still be able to appeal to the Tribunal if you disagree with the outcome.
Find out more information relating to reviews and appeals in leaflet HMRC1: HM Revenue and Customs decisions - ‘what to do if you disagree’.
You can also call the Imports and Exports Helpline.
1.5 Where can I obtain further information about the Community System of Duty Reliefs?
This notice explains the general principles of this particular customs procedure that comes under the Community System of Duty Reliefs. It does not attempt to cover every aspect in detail. Further ways to contact HMRC for general advice can be found on our website.
2. Relief conditions
2.1 Who can get duty relief?
We will grant relief to:
- an organisation principally concerned with the education of or the assistance to disabled people, which NIRU has approved to receive the goods duty free
- a disabled person, or their nominated carer, importing eligible goods for the sole use by the disabled person
The reference here and elsewhere in the notice for the ‘nominated carer’ allows for a person known to the disabled person, such as a parent, guardian, spouse or partner, or family member who acts as the disabled person’s carer to also act upon their behalf when using this relief.
We would recommend that the nominated carer obtains a letter of support confirming this, from a medical professional, such as the disabled person’s General Practitioner (GP) or hospital consultant, and to ensure that a copy of that letter is sent to NIRU, using the contact details in section 6.
We explain how to apply for NIRU approval in paragraph 3.1, and give their address in section 6.
2.2 What goods can get duty relief?
- any goods specially designed to be of educational, scientific or cultural help to people who are blind or partially sighted - we give examples in paragraph 4.1
- any goods specially designed to give educational, employment or social help to people with physical or mental disabilities - we give examples in paragraph 4.2
- spare parts, components, tools and accessories specifically or recognisably intended for such goods
We will not allow relief on any non-specialised goods imported for subsequent adaptation to make them suitable for use by disabled people. Any specialised adaptation must have been made before the goods are imported into the EU.
Certain goods, such as printed matter designed for blind or partially sighted people, are free of duty under the Tariff anyway. You only need to follow the procedures in this notice if you wish to claim relief on goods liable to a positive rate of duty.
2.3 What are the conditions for VAT relief?
Some goods are zero-rated for VAT and consequently no tax is payable on them. This includes equipment which has been designed solely for use by disabled people and imported by:
- the disabled person, or their nominated carer, for their domestic or personal use
- charities, for making available to disabled people for their domestic or personal use
You can find further information about zero rating, along with conditions and procedures in VAT Notice 701/7: VAT reliefs for disabled people. For information on zero rating for motor vehicles for disabled people, you should see VAT Notice 701/7: VAT reliefs for disabled and older people.
If you’re an organisation or institution you should also see VAT Notices 701/1: charities and 701/6: charity funded equipment for medical, veterinary etc uses.
Alternatively, where goods are not zero-rated, we will allow relief from VAT at the current rate on goods which are:
- specially designed for the education, employment or social advancement of people who are blind or have a physical or mental disability
- imported by a NIRU approved organisation principally engaged in the education of, or the provision of assistance to, people who are blind or have a physical or mental disability
- donated to the organisation with no commercial intent on the part of the donor
2.4 Is there any restriction on the use and disposal of the goods?
Yes, the following restrictions apply:
- if you’re a disabled person, or the nominated carer, the goods you import must be for the sole use of the disabled person - if you intend to dispose of the goods at a later date, duty (but not VAT) may be payable depending on the circumstances - seek advice from our Excise and Customs Helpline first
- if you’re an organisation you must use the goods only to give educational, scientific or cultural help to disabled people - you must keep control and responsibility for the goods granted relief - our officers may visit you to confirm that the conditions of the relief are being met
- your organisation may lend, hire out or transfer the goods on a non-commercial and non-profit making basis to disabled people without payment of duty and VAT - it can also lend, hire out or transfer the goods to another organisation approved under this procedure, as long as you notify NIRU first - see section 6 for contact details
- your organisation must pay us the duty and VAT if you dispose of the goods in any other way - when this happens contact our Excise and Customs Helpline for details of the procedure to follow
- however, if you’re a charity, special VAT rules can apply - the Excise and Customs Helpline can tell you when you can supply imported goods free of VAT
2.5 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 the Excise and Customs Helpline or from Notice 1.
3. How to claim relief
3.1 How do I apply for approval?
You do not require prior approval if you import eligible goods for your own use in your accompanied baggage.
However, you must follow the approval procedure below for organisations if you import the goods by any other means.
The head of your organisation or an authorised representative, or as re-directed above from (a) the individual or the nominated carer acting on behalf of the individual, must apply in advance to NIRU before making any importations. Their address is in section 6. They will then send you a form to complete and return.
If you’re the nominated carer acting on behalf of the individual, you need to ensure you also provide NIRU with an official letter, as detailed in paragraph 2.1 earlier.
If your application is successful, NIRU will issue you with a certificate that you must use when you make your import declaration. If a third party is making the import declaration upon your behalf, they’ll need the certificate.
3.2 Can I authorise a third party to act on my behalf?
You can use a third party such as an agent, freight forwarder or fast parcel operator to complete entries on your behalf but you must ensure:
- you give clear written instructions for the goods to be entered under this procedure
- that you’re always clearly identified as the approval holder claiming relief
- that you regularly request them to send you details of declarations made on your behalf, so that you can check the accuracy of customs declarations made in your name
If the declaration is incorrect, then as the person in whose name the declaration is made, you will be liable for any customs debt that arises.
Third parties who declare goods to this procedure without the proper authority of the person in whose name the declaration is made, will be liable for any customs debt incurred. See Notice 199: imported goods, customs procedures and customs debts.
Note: agents, freight forwarders or fast parcel operators who complete customs entries on behalf of importers should not be identified as the consignee. They must ensure that declarations clearly identify the person eligible to claim relief, as stated in paragraph 3.1.
3.3 What do I do with the certificate?
NIRU will issue you with a uniquely numbered certificate and a copy.
You or the third party who are making the import declaration upon your behalf should enter the NIRU certificate number in box 44 of the import declaration, and present the original certificate to us at the port or airport when you import the goods. You, and not the third party, must retain the NIRU issued copy for your records.
3.4 How do I apply for VAT zero rating?
If you meet all the conditions for VAT zero rating, complete the appropriate VAT declaration from VAT Notice 701/7: VAT reliefs for disabled and older people, and attach it to the import declaration when you import the goods.
3.5 How do I claim relief on goods imported in accompanied baggage?
If you import goods in your accompanied baggage for your own personal use, you must declare them to us at the Customs Red Channel or Red Point when you arrive.
You do not need a NIRU certificate, but we may ask you to fill in the declaration shown in section 5. We would recommend that if you are the nominated carer for a disabled person, you ensure you obtain an official letter, as detailed in paragraph 2.1 earlier, and have the letter or a copy available for presentation.
If you’re an organisation, the procedures explained in paragraph 3.6 apply.
3.6 How do I claim relief on goods imported as freight?
If eligible goods are 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 more information on the details required for the import declaration, please refer to the Tariff.
Enter one of the following Customs Procedure Codes in box 37 of the SAD:
- 40 00 C21 - for goods specifically designed for the educational, scientific or cultural advancement of blind persons
- 40 00 C22 - for goods specially designed for use by blind or partially sighted people, and imported by those individuals, or their nominated carers, for the sole use of the blind or partially sighted person
- 40 00 C23 - for goods specifically designed for use by blind or partially sighted people imported by an organisation involved with the education of, or provision for, such people
- 40 00 C24 - for goods specifically designed for use by disabled people (other than blind or partially sighted) and imported by those individuals, or their nominated carers, for the sole use of the disabled person
- 40 00 C25 - for goods specifically designed for use by disabled people (other than blind or partially sighted) and imported by an organisation involved with the education of, or provision for, such people
- 49 00 C22 - for goods specially designed for use by blind or partially sighted people, and imported from the special territories or countries having a customs union with the EU, by those individuals or their nominated carers, for the sole use of the blind or partially sighted person
- 49 00 C23 - for goods specially designed for use by blind or partially sighted people, and imported from the special territories or countries having a customs union with the EU, imported by an organisation involved with the education of, or provision for, such people
- 49 00 C24 - for goods specifically designed for use by disabled people (other than blind or partially sighted), and imported from the special territories or countries having a customs union with the EU, by those individuals, or their nominated carers, for the sole use of the disabled person
- 49 00 C25 - for goods specifically designed for use by disabled people (other than blind or partially sighted) and imported from the special territories or countries having a customs union with the EU, imported by an organisation involved with the education of, or provision for, such people
Also ensure your copy of the NIRU certificate is available for presentation if requested and, if applying for VAT zero rating (paragraph 3.4), the declaration from VAT Notice 701/7: VAT reliefs for disabled people.
If you cannot produce the necessary supporting documentation, such as the proper certificate issued by NIRU, you must give us financial security (normally a cash deposit or a banker’s guarantee) to cover the duty and/or VAT before we will release the goods. We will discharge the security later if we are satisfied you qualify for relief.
3.7 How do I claim relief on goods imported by post?
Ask the sender to write clearly on the package and its accompanying Customs declaration (CN22 or CN23):
‘GOODS FOR DISABLED PEOPLE: RELIEF CLAIMED’
We may send you a simplified form to complete and return, together with the original NIRU certificate and the declaration from VAT Notice 701/7: VAT reliefs for disabled people.
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 HMRC at the postal depot where charges were raised. Explain what happened and enclose the original NIRU certificate, the VAT declaration and the document showing the charges. If we are satisfied that the goods qualify for relief, we will repay the duty and VAT.
3.8 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.
3.9 What records must I keep?
You will need to provide the following information if requested by us:
- details of the import declaration entering your goods to this Customs procedure, especially the value of those goods
- the retained copy of the certificate issued by NIRU
- evidence of ownership (if applicable for the relief claimed)
- when, where and how the goods are used
- how the goods are identified - such as manufacturers marks, serial numbers, technical descriptions or illustrations
- evidence of disposal, see paragraph 3.10
These records must be kept for a minimum of 4 years, even and including after you dispose of the goods.
3.10 Evidence of disposal
When you dispose of any goods that were imported using this customs procedure, you must retain adequate evidence for potential audit purposes. We recommend you keep proper records clearly identifying the goods, and if applicable, dates on when they left your possession and/or use.
If you use an agent, freight forwarder or fast parcel operator to complete import and export declaration entries and maintain your records on your behalf, they must provide you with all the necessary official evidence of disposal or adequate references to the official evidence. It is recommended that this responsibility is made clear to the third party from the beginning of any contract, tender or arrangement.
Failure to provide adequate evidence of disposal may lead us to issue you a notice to recover the duties and VAT that were liable upon original import. We will also aim to secure unpaid duties and VAT if we suspect that the relief was incorrectly used and/or that the goods have been sold in commercial transactions, or for profit. Goods under this relief may not be lent, given as security, hired out, or transferred, whether for a fee, consideration or for free, without notifying NIRU first.
|Goods are transferred to another approved individual/entity||- official documentation detailing transfer between you and other entity
- NIRU acknowledgement of the transfer of responsibility
- any other documentation (such as, receipts, bills, invoices, insurance documents) which provide detail of the transfer
|Goods have been re-exported||- New Export System declaration details or export documentation providing details on the date of export
- any NIRU acknowledgement of the export
- any other documentation (such as, receipts, bills, invoices, insurance documents) that ensure the export has been made
|Goods have been stolen, lost or destroyed||- police or insurance incident reports, or official documentation providing details of the date of the incident or loss
- any NIRU acknowledgement of the loss or destruction, including scrapping notices
- any other documentation (such as, receipts, bills, invoices, insurance documents) which provide detail of the incident or loss
Note: all records of disposal must be kept for a minimum of 4 years.
4. Examples of eligible goods
4.1 For blind or partially sighted people
(referred to in paragraph 2.2)
- braille paper and related media
- white canes and similar items used for mobility assistance and for condition identification and awareness
- typewriters and other similar keyboards adapted for use by people who are blind or partially sighted
- equipment for the mechanical production of braille and recorded material
- television enlargers for people who are blind or partially sighted
- electronic orientator and obstacle detector appliances
- teaching aids and apparatus specifically designed for use by people who are blind or partially sighted
- braille watches with cases not made of precious metals
- CD players, record players, cassette players and other related digital equipment specially designed or adapted for people who are blind or partially sighted
- talking books, magnetic tapes, cassettes and digital media specifically for the production of braille and talking books
- electronic reading machines
- table games and accessories specially adapted or designed for people who are blind or partially sighted
- all other articles specially designed to be of educational, scientific or cultural help to people who are blind or partially sighted
- spare parts, components, tools and accessories specially or recognisably intended for any of the above goods
4.2 For disabled people
- purpose-made items and equipment, specifically designed for the sole use of the disabled person, to assist them in their ability to carry out everyday activities
- purpose-made items and equipment, specifically designed for the sole use of the disabled person, to assist them in everyday mobility, but not to be used for standard generic wheelchairs and mobility light vehicles, or for motor vehicles or other methods of transport that have not already been specifically adapted for the sole use of the disabled person
- other specifically designed items and equipment for the sole use of the disabled person, to assist them in vocational pursuits
- teaching aids and apparatus specifically designed for use by people who are disabled
- table games and accessories specially adapted or designed for people who are disabled
- all other articles specially designed to be of educational, scientific or cultural help to people who are disabled
- spare parts, components, tools and accessories specially or recognisably intended for any of the above goods
(referred to in paragraph 3.5)
Goods for people with disabilities: importation by an individual, or by their nominated carer, in accompanied baggage
I …………………………………………………………………………………………(full name)
declare that I am importing the following goods (description of goods) for my personal use.
I claim that this importation is eligible for relief from duty under the provisions of Council Regulation (EC) 1186/2009 as explained in Notice 371, and for this purpose I acknowledge that the articles must not be lent, hired out or transferred whether for payment or free of charge unless I first seek advice from HMRC and Excise and Customs Helpline. I understand that duty may be payable on the goods being transferred.
I further declare that I am, or the individual that I am the nominated carer of is, recognised by the medical profession as chronically sick or disabled and that this importation is eligible for VAT zero-rating* under Group 12 of the Zero Rated Schedule to the VAT Act 1994.
*Note: drugs and medicines under Group 12 Item 1 are not eligible for VAT zero-rating on import as described in this notice.
If you are in any doubt as to whether you are eligible for VAT zero rating, you should read VAT Notice 701/7: VAT reliefs for disabled people or seek advice from our Excise and Customs Helpline.
|C 88 (SAD)||The UK version of the Single Administrative Document (SAD) for making import, export and transfer declarations.|
|CPC||Customs Procedure Code. Used on import declarations (form C88) to identify the type of procedure for which the goods are entered.|
|Customs charges||- customs duties
- import VAT
- specific Customs Duty (previously Common Agricultural Policy (CAP) charges)
- Anti-Dumping Duty (ADD)
- Countervailing Duty
- excise duties
|Customs Duty||An indirect tax that provides protection for Community industry. Raised on imported goods, it does not include Excise Duty or VAT.|
|Customs Union||The customs territories of the EU, Turkey, San Marino and Andorra. The unions between the EU and these countries enable most goods in free circulation to move freely between them without the need to claim import duty relief, subject to the production of any necessary preference or 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.|
|Disabled person||For the purposes of this notice, this is someone:
- with a physical or mental impairment which has a long-term and substantial adverse affect upon their ability to carry out everyday activities
- with a condition which the medical profession treats as chronic sickness, such as diabetes
- who is terminally ill
It does not include a frail elderly person who is otherwise able-bodied or any person who is only temporarily incapacitated, such as with a broken limb.
|Duty||Taxes we charge on imported goods under the combined nomenclature of the Community. These include Customs Duty, CAP charges and ADD.|
|EU||The European Union:
Austria, Belgium, Bulgaria, Croatia, Cyprus*, the 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.
*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-EU imports.
|Excise Duty||A duty chargeable, in addition to any Customs Duty that may be due, on the goods listed in The Tariff, Volume 1 Part 12 paragraph 12.1.|
|Helpline||The Customs Helpline. The phone number is Telephone: 0300 200 3700.|
|HMRC||HM Revenue and Customs|
|NIRU||National Import Reliefs Unit. The address is:
National Import Reliefs Unit
HM Revenue and Customs
52-58 Great Victoria Street
Telephone: 0300 322 7065
|SAD||Single Administrative Document (Form C88).|
|Special territories||Countries or areas that are part of the customs territory of the Customs Union but not part of the fiscal (VAT) territory. Goods coming from these territories are therefore liable to VAT 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.
Volume 3 contains a box-by-box completion guide for C88 (SAD) entries, the complete list of Customs Procedure Codes, Country/currency Codes, lists of UK ports and airports both alphabetically and by their legacy Entry Processing Unit (EPU) numbers, and further general information about importing or exporting.
The Tariff is available on an annual subscription and is also available at some larger libraries. You can buy the Tariff in printed and CD ROM formats or subscribe to the new e-service from the Stationery Service.
|Third country||Any country that is outside the Customs Territory of the EU.|
|VAT||Value Added Tax|
Your rights and obligations
Your Charter. explains what you can expect from us and what we expect from you.
Do you have any comments or suggestions?
If you have any comments or suggestions to make about this notice, please write to:
HM Revenue and Customs
Excise, Customs, Stamps and Money
10th Floor Alexander House
21 Victoria Avenue
Please note this address is not for general enquiries.
For your general enquiries please call the Helpline on Telephone: 0300 200 3700.
Putting things right
If you are unhappy with our service, please contact the person or office you have been dealing with. They will try to put things right. If you are still unhappy, they will tell you how to complain.
If you want to know more about making a complaint go to www.hmrc.gov.uk and under quick links, select Complaints and appeals.
How we use your information
HMRC is a Data Controller under the Data Protection Act 1998. We hold information for the purposes specified in our 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.
We may get information about you from others, or we may give information to them. If we do, it will only be as the law permits to:
- check the accuracy of information
- prevent or detect crime
- protect public funds
We may check information we receive about you with what is already in our 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. We will not give information to anyone outside HMRC unless the law permits us to do so. For more information go to www.hmrc.gov.uk and look for Data Protection Act within the Search facility.