Guidance

Check when you’ll need to account for import VAT in a no-deal Brexit

If you're a VAT-registered business find out when you can account for import VAT on your VAT Return (also called postponed VAT accounting) for goods brought into the UK in a no-deal Brexit.

This guidance was withdrawn on

Postponed VAT accounting is currently not available between February and December 2020. Check the current VAT rules for bringing goods from the EU.

If your business is registered for VAT in the UK you’ll be able to account for import VAT on your VAT Return. This means you’ll account for import VAT on your VAT Return instead of paying when the goods arrive at the UK border.

This will let your business:

  • pay import VAT later on goods you bring in from non-EU countries
  • maintain cash flow on goods you bring in from the EU

When you cannot account on your VAT Return

If you’re not VAT-registered in the UK

You will not be able to account for import VAT in this way, you’ll need to pay import VAT at the time you import the goods. If you’re importing goods from the EU, you may be eligible to apply for transitional simplified procedures.

Postal imports worth £135 or less

If you import goods for use in your business and the seller sends them to you as a parcel, you will not be able to account for import VAT on your VAT Return if the goods are worth £135 or less.

The seller, outside of the UK, will be responsible for paying the import VAT on these parcels. You should keep the outer wrapper of the parcel and invoice from your supplier to support your claim to input tax.

When you can account on your VAT Return

You can account for import VAT on your VAT Return if:

  • the goods you import are for use in your business
  • your VAT registration number is shown on your customs declaration, or EORI number that starts with GB if you’re using the Customs Handling of Import and Export Freight (CHIEF) system

The goods can be imported from anywhere in the world.

You can account for import VAT when the goods enter the UK, or when they’re released into free circulation through one of the following customs special procedures:

  • customs warehousing
  • inward processing
  • temporary admission
  • end use
  • outward processing
  • duty suspension

You can account for import VAT when you release excise goods for use in the UK (also known as ‘released for home consumption’). This includes when goods are released from an excise warehouse, after being in duty suspense since the point of import.

If you use transitional simplified procedures to import standard goods, you must account for import VAT on your VAT Return.

Postal imports worth over £135

You should account for any import VAT due on your VAT return.

The parcel operator will collect any customs duty and excise duty that’s payable for goods in parcels worth over £135.

Goods arriving in the UK immediately after Brexit

If your goods cross the border immediately after Brexit, they will be covered by transitional rules. If your goods started moving from an EU member state to the UK before the day of Brexit but do not arrive in the UK until after the day of Brexit, you will not need a customs declaration for them. If you don’t need a customs declaration, you will not have to pay import VAT or import duty. Acquisition VAT should be accounted for in the way it was before Brexit.

If you’re bringing goods into the UK under customs freight simplified procedures and you’ve completed your simplified frontier declaration before Brexit, you’ll not be able to account for import VAT on your VAT Return even if you complete your supplementary declaration after this time.

How to complete your customs declaration

If you use software or the CHIEF system to declare your customs duties, you’ll need to:

  • input your EORI number (which includes your VAT registration number) into either registered consignee (box 44h on the declaration) or consignee (box 8 on the declaration)
  • enter ‘G’ as the method of payment

If you use the new Customs Declaration Service to declare your customs duties you need to enter your VAT registration number at header level in data element 3/40.

VAT will be recorded against your EORI and will be at declaration level only.

You can still account for import VAT on your VAT Return, even if you cannot confirm the customs value of the goods that you import. You should declare the highest value for VAT and reclaim any eligible input tax under the normal rules.

VAT Notice 252 has more information on the customs value of goods.

If you act on behalf of someone else

If you’ve been authorised to act on behalf of your client, you must use their VAT registration number or EORI number on the customs declaration.

Deciding to pay the import VAT when the goods enter the UK

If you choose to pay import VAT at the time the goods enter the UK instead of accounting for it on your VAT Return, you’ll need to wait 2 months after paying the import VAT before you can reclaim it as input tax on your VAT Return.

You will also have to declare import VAT when the goods arrive in the UK, or enter free circulation, if you use:

  • CHIEF to make declarations, you could select to pay or secure the import VAT by declaring the method of payment on the VAT tax line of your declaration
  • Customs Declaration Service to make declarations, you would not enter your VAT registration number at header level in data element 3/40

After the goods have been imported

You will need to account for import VAT when you complete your VAT Return.

Published 6 March 2019
Last updated 16 September 2019 + show all updates
  1. Content for paying import VAT has been moved to "How to account for import VAT on your VAT Return in a no-deal Brexit"

  2. First published.