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This publication is available at https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/notice-372-importing-commercial-samples-free-of-duty-and-vat/notice-372-importing-commercial-samples-free-of-duty-and-vat
This notice cancels and replaces any aspects relating specifically to importing sample items previously found in Notice 367 (July 2017).
1.1 What is this notice about?
This notice is specifically for the Commercial Samples Relief. It tells you how you can import goods to the UK from:
- outside the EU free of import duty and import VAT
- the ‘Special territories’ of the EU or countries having a Customs Union with the EU free of import VAT
This relief can only be claimed provided HMRC is satisfied the goods are genuine commercial samples imported solely to solicit future orders of the goods they represent.
You cannot get relief from Excise Duty under these procedures but alternative reliefs may be available. For example, if you import samples of goods for examination, analysis or test, you should read our Notice 374: importing goods for test free of duty and VAT.
Other notices on this or related subjects:
- Notice 199: imported goods, customs procedures and customs debt
- Notice 200: Temporary Admission
- Notice 301: Civil penalties for contraventions of customs law
- Notice 367: importing commercial samples of negligible value free of duty and VAT
- Notice 374: importing goods for test free of duty and VAT
The glossary at section 4 explains the meaning of some of the particular words, phrases and abbreviations used.
1.2 What’s changed
This notice has been updated at paragraph 1.5 with new information on how to disagree with a customs decision.
1.3 What law covers this notice?
The law on relief for commercial samples is published in the Official Journal of the European Union under: Council Regulation (EC) No 1186/2009, Chapter XXI, Article 86 and under National legislation using The Value Added Tax (Imported Goods) Relief Order 1984 Schedule 2, Group 3, Item 2 (as amended).
This notice is not the law. It is our view of the law and nothing in this notice takes the place of the law.
Anyone who gives false information about goods declared under these arrangements may be liable to penalties under the Finance Act 2003.
1.4 What you can do if you receive 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.
1.5 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 phone the Imports and exports helpline.
1.6 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 the GOV.UK website.
2. Relief conditions
2.1 What is a ‘commercial sample’?
HMRC defines a ‘commercial sample’ as an imported item that can only be used in the UK as a demonstration sample of goods in soliciting orders for the types of goods they represent from potential customers of that product.
2.2 Who can use this relief procedure?
You can get relief on goods you import as commercial samples if you’re:
- an established commercial entity within the UK
- a government agency or department, or public institution or public establishment, recognised and approved by our National Import Relief Unit (NIRU)
Commercial Samples Relief is intended for importations made for trade promotion purposes only. It is not available for personal property or for use by any private individuals.
Import declarations for this relief can only be allowed with a valid EORI number. Further information on the EORI Scheme is available on the GOV.UK website.
2.3 What are the conditions for relief?
You can get relief on commercial samples of certain goods if, when imported, they:
- can only be used as commercial samples of the products, in order to demonstrate the characteristics of the goods
- are already prepared and presented in an acceptable manner before importation as commercial samples, where HMRC can then accept that they’re of negligible value
- are imported solely with the intention to obtain future orders for the type of goods that they represent
2.4 How do I ensure the goods can only be used as commercial samples?
Before importing the goods as commercial samples you and your supplier must identify those goods by the following methods.
Tearing, altering, perforating, slashing or defacing the items and/or
Using permanent indelible marking or permanent labelling to clearly mark the item as a ‘commercial sample’.
And in addition to the above, we may also insist that you use any or all of the following methods as well:
Limit the quantities of items within the consignment and/or for items like garments and footwear also limit the range of available sizes/dimensions of those items included within the consignment.
Limit the frequency or occasions on when the importation of those consignments are made during a 12 month period and/or
Use an acceptable method of presentation that restricts the handling of the goods so that they can only be used to demonstrate them as proper commercial samples.
HMRC expects that you will ensure the goods meet either or both of the first criteria A and B above, depending on the type of goods involved. Only if this pre-importation preparation is done correctly can the goods be accepted as proper commercial samples whereupon we will allow any relief on those imported goods.
HMRC may also ask that you then use one, some or all of the 3 additional methods - C, D and/or E too - depending on the commodity code of the intended commercial sample. If you’re not sure what methods to use, you should contact NIRU, their details are included in the Glossary.
HMRC reserve the right to state that some commodities cannot be prepared prior to import adequately enough, no matter what method is used from the above list, to then properly qualify as ‘negligible value’. In those situations, those commodities will not be eligible for Commercial Samples Relief - see paragraph 2.6.
2.5 What is ‘negligible’ value?
‘Negligible’ value is not defined in the law. Emphasis is on the proper preparation and presentation of the imported goods so that they can only be used as demonstration items to solicit further orders of that particular product.
If HMRC is satisfied the goods can only be used as commercial samples, only then will we regard them as being of negligible value.
If the goods fail to meet the criteria for this relief, for example, they are not of negligible value, and they are to be re-exported, they may qualify for relief under the Temporary Admission arrangements. Further information can be found in Notice 200: Temporary Admission.
2.6 Are there any goods excluded from the relief?
Yes, relief cannot be claimed for:
- goods imported without the intention of obtaining further orders
- goods which in our opinion are not capable of being presented properly as commercial samples, by permanent marking or alteration or defacement in order for them to be regarded as of negligible value - an example would be jewellery and/or precious stones
- small quantities of goods which are often described or labelled as ‘samples’ by the sender because of the amounts involved, or, if HMRC suspect that the goods have been deliberately mis-described as such - these are not to be considered as ‘commercial samples’ and should not be declared to this relief
- goods not presented as commercial samples at import but intended for subsequently making into samples (for example, unaltered rolls of fabric you import to cut up and make into swatch books)
- any excise goods, such as alcohol or tobacco products
- goods which can also be used other than just as commercial samples
- goods using the Low Value Bulking Import procedures cannot be considered as commercial samples
- ‘give-away’ goods intended as trade promotion items for immediate ‘on-the-spot’ use or consumption, destruction or distribution free of charge to the public at an official trade fair, exhibition or similar event where there is public access and/or participation, and where the amount of ‘give-away’ goods befits the level of participation of the importing participant at that event - such goods may qualify for the alternative relief explained in the Tariff, Volume 3 under Customs Procedure Code (CPC) 40 00 C32 or 49 00 C32, as appropriate
2.7 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 helpline on Telephone: 0300 200 3700.
3. How to claim relief
3.1 Who is responsible for claiming the relief?
The commercial entity, institution, establishment or company intending to use Commercial Samples Relief must have a person who is nominated as the contact responsible for:
- maintaining suitable records on their use of Commercial Samples Relief
- the demonstration of those samples
- their final disposal
- any involvement of any third parties acting on their behalf
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 are always clearly identified as the Consignee claiming relief
- that they 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/fiscal debt that arises.
Third parties who declare goods for relief 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 How do I claim relief on goods imported in baggage?
If you import commercial samples as goods in your accompanied baggage, you must:
- declare them to HMRC in the Customs Red Channel or Red Point at the time of arrival
- have documentation provided by the person described in paragraph 3.1 to satisfy HMRC and Border Force who’s making the import and that all the conditions for relief are met
If you cannot produce the necessary supporting documentation or evidence to show you’re entitled to this relief, 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.
HMRC will discharge the security later if we are satisfied you qualify for relief and that the goods were properly eligible for Commercial Samples Relief.
3.4 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 referred to in paragraph 1.6.
Enter one of the following CPCs in box 37 of the SAD form C88:
- CPC 40 00 C30 - for goods imported from outside the Customs Union on which you claim relief from import duty and VAT
- CPC 49 00 C30 - for goods imported from one of the special territories or countries having a Customs Union with the EU on which you claim relief from VAT
3.5 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):
‘Commercial samples of negligible value - relief claimed.’
Just writing ‘Samples’ on postal labels or packaging is no longer adequate. HMRC reserves the right to intercept and open any post we suspect has not complied properly with Commercial Samples Relief, we may also send you a simplified form to complete for you to then clearly demonstrate relief entitlement.
If the package is not clearly and properly marked it may not be delivered until you’ve paid the import duty and VAT. You should pay these charges and then write to customs using form BOR286 Import and export: Customs Duty/import VAT relating to imports by post. Explain what happened and enclose the document showing the charges. If HMRC and Border Force are satisfied that the goods qualify for relief, we may repay the duty and VAT.
3.6 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, HMRC may accept a belated claim in exceptional circumstances, for example where a third party declarant fails to follow instructions properly to import the consignee’s goods to the relief in the first place - and we may then repay the appropriate charges subject to certain conditions.
You must submit the claim within 12 months of the date of original import and you must provide adequate evidence so that HMRC can agree the goods were properly prepared prior to import as commercial samples.
See the section and paragraphs on repayment and remission in Notice 199: imported goods, customs procedures and Customs debt for further details.
3.7 What records must I keep?
You will need to provide the following information if requested by HMRC:
- details of the import declaration entering your goods to this customs procedure, especially the value of those goods
- the retained copy of any customs forms that have been completed
- 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 3.8
These records must be kept for a minimum of 4 years after you dispose of the goods.
3.8 Evidence of disposal
When you dispose of any goods that were imported using this customs procedure, you will need to retain adequate evidence. This should show when you imported these items, along with copies of the original evidence that allowed you to claim relief, and also ensure you have details to show 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’s 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 when asked may result in liability for payment of duties and VAT that was relieved on import. You’ll also be liable to pay any customs charges if you were not entitled to claim relief. If you’re in any doubt whether you’re entitled to claim relief, always contact us first - see the paragraph 1.6 for contact details.
Note: all records of disposal must be kept for a minimum of 4 years.
3.9 What types of disposal are allowed?
- re-export the goods outside the EU, retaining the pertinent records or documentation as the necessary evidence of disposal to prove that re-export has taken place
- destroy the goods, retaining adequate documentation as the necessary evidence of disposal, such as destruction certificates provided by third party contractors employed by you to scrap/destroy these items, that must indicate what was destroyed when and where, and if deemed liable, pay any tax revenue on residual scrap value
- in exceptional circumstances, and only with prior agreement with NIRU, HMRC may allow commercial samples of certain commodities to be archived for future reference but these items must be retained in storage by you, detailed as such in your records - see paragraph 3.7 and made readily available at any time for our inspection
3.10 What types of disposal are not allowed?
- sales of the goods to staff, customers or other companies
- converting or altering the item into another product
- entering or transferring the goods into any other customs procedure from this relief
- transfers or ‘give-aways’ to other companies, customers or staff/employees
- donations to charity
If the commercial samples are disposed of improperly import duties and any other customs charges will become due. You may also be liable to a civil penalty see Notice 301: civil penalties for contraventions of customs law.
|C88 (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
specific Customs Duty (previously CAP (Common Agricultural Policy) charges)
Anti-Dumping Duty (ADD)
|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 Community Transit documentation. For Andorra, the union only covers goods in Chapters 25-97 of the Tariff. VAT is still due on imports from Turkey, San Marino and Andorra unless the relief explained in this notice is applicable and claimed.|
|Duty||Taxes HMRC charges on imported goods under the combined nomenclature of the Community. These include Customs Duty, CAP charges and ADD.|
|EORI||An EORI number is a number, unique throughout the EU, assigned by a customs authority in a member state to economic operators (businesses) or persons. By registering for customs purposes in one member state, an Economic Operator (EO) is able to obtain an EORI number which is valid throughout the EU. The EO will then use this number in all communications with any EU customs authorities where a customs identifier is required for example customs declarations.|
|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.|
|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 United Kingdom.
Note: Cyprus, including the British Sovereign Base Areas of Akrotiri and Dhekelia (but excluding the United Nations buffer zone and the part of Cyprus to the north of the buffer zone, where the Republic of Cyprus does not exercise effective control).
|Helpline||The VAT, Excise and Customs helpline on Telephone: 0300 200 3700.|
|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, Guadeloupe, French Guiana, Martinique, Mayotte, Réunion and Saint-Martin (French Republic), Mount Athos.
|Tariff||The Tariff is a 3 volume annual publication which is updated monthly containing useful information about customs import and export requirements.
Volume 1 contains essential background information for importers and exporters, contact addresses for organisations such as Department for Business, Innovation and Skills, Department of Environment, Food and Rural Affairs and Forestry Commission. It also contains an explanation of Excise duty, Tariff Quotas and many similar topics.
Volume 2 contains the 16,000 or so Commodity Codes set-out on a Chapter by Chapter basis. It lists duty rates and other directions such as import licensing and preferential duty rates.
Volume 3 contains a box-by-box completion guide for C88 (SAD) entries, the complete list of Customs Procedure Codes (CPCs), country/currency codes, lists of UK ports and airports both alphabetically and by their legacy Entry Processing Unit numbers, and further general information about importing or exporting.
Elements of the Tariff are now available on the GOV.UK website. The Tariff is also available on an annual subscription and copies can also be found at some larger libraries. You can buy the Tariff in printed and CD-ROM formats or subscribe to the e-service from the Stationery Service.
|Third country||Any country that’s outside the Customs Territory of the EU.|
Your rights and obligations
Your Charter explains what you can expect from HMRC and what we expect from you.
For more information go to Your Charter.
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
10th Floor Central
21 Victoria Avenue
Southend on Sea
Please note this address is not for general enquiries.
For your general enquiries please contact the helpline on Telephone: 03000 200 3700.
Putting things right
If you are unhappy with HMRC’s 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.
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
HMRC 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.