Apply to operate a customs warehouse

Find out what you need to do and how to apply to operate a customs warehouse when importing to the UK.

You can use customs warehousing to delay duty and VAT. You’ll only pay when your goods leave the warehouse and go into free circulation.

You will not need to pay duty and VAT if you:

  • re-export your goods
  • move your goods to another customs procedure other than authorised use

You must be authorised to run a warehouse as a warehousekeeper.

You can also store goods in a customs warehouse as a depositor. The depositor, who must be established in the UK, is the person who either: 

  • submits the customs declaration 
  • arranges for an agent to submit it instead 

 Find out more about using a customs warehouse to delay your duty.

Using a customs warehouse

A customs warehouse can be used to store your goods:

  • that are liable to customs duties, excise duties or import VAT
  • where documents such as licences are not available when you import your goods
  • originally imported to a special procedure and being warehoused before being re-exported
  • on which duty is not due but import VAT is
  • that have been released to free circulation
  • now in free circulation, which are the subject of a claim under the Rejected Imports arrangements

You can process your goods in a customs warehouse but only certain types of processing are allowed. This is known as usual forms of handling. If you need to do more processing you should declare your goods to inward processing.

Types of customs warehouse

There are 2 types of customs warehouse.

Public warehouse

This is for businesses who want to store goods belonging to other people also known as depositors.

Private warehouse

This is for businesses who want to store their own goods. The warehouse authorisation holder and the depositor are the same person.

Who can apply

To be approved as a warehouse keeper, you’ll need to:

  • be established in the UK
  • have an EORI number
  • be financially solvent
  • have a good compliance record in dealing with customs
  • prove you have a business need for the warehouse
  • be able or prepared to make declarations or employ an agent who is
  • be able to keep inventory records and run the warehouse to health and safety standards
  • provide a guarantee if needed for Customs Duty and VAT unless you’re an Authorised Economic Operator or can meet Authorised Economic Operator conditions

Before you apply

You’ll need to provide the following information on your application:

  • your EORI number 
  • details of where your records are or will be held 
  • the type of accounting system you use 
  • how the goods will be received 
  • the 8-digit commodity codes and descriptions of the goods you intend to store 
  • any allowable processing you intend to carry out on the goods 
  • where the goods will be declared to customs warehousing 
  • how the goods will be identified in the warehouse 
  • whether you’ll be using simplified declaration procedures 
  • details of your guarantee if needed 
  • the address of the storage facilities 
  • details of any anticipated losses in warehouse 
  • details of any excise goods you intend to store 
  • details of any special storage facilities you’ll need if you store goods with specific requirements such as frozen goods or chemicals

How to apply

We recommend that you apply for an authorisation at least 2 months before you want to start using the warehouse. This will give us time to process your application. If we need more time to process your application we’ll contact you. With your application, you must also provide:

  • written procedures, that explain what happens to goods when they enter and leave the warehouse, listed in the order they happen
  • inventory records with screenshots of your Warehouse Management System (WMS) or Duty Management System (DMS) —­­ include both if you use both
  • site plans including address, dimensions of the perimeter, clearly marked entrances and fire exits, CCTV and security gates with the dimensions of a clearly marked customs area
  • a list of signatories authorised to contact us to amend your application or authorisation, signed by a director or company secretary
  • the list of customs procedure codes that you intend to use
  • a personnel chart
  • your lease or rental agreement that confirms the address, leaser, lessee and minimum terms — if the warehouse premises is rented
  • letters of intent from your customers with annual VAT and duty suspension figures for goods they intend to store in the warehouse, to show an economic need — for public warehouse applications

UK only authorisation

To apply online for an authorisation, you need to have a Government Gateway user ID and password. If you do not have a user ID, you can create one when you apply.

If you cannot do this online, you can use the print and post form.

If you’re applying for authorisation in Northern Ireland and Great Britain you’ll need to fill the form out separately for each.

Authorisations covering both Northern Ireland and the EU

You can apply for a single authorisation to cover goods you store in both Northern Ireland and the EU.

You need to request this by emailing with your:

  • name
  • contact email address
  • address of your Northern Ireland operation
  • EORI number starting XI

We’ll reply within 5 days and provide a link to the EU Trader Portal where you can access the application form.

If you only store your goods in Northern Ireland you should apply for a UK only authorisation.

If your information changes after you’ve applied

We may need to contact you after you apply. This could be to request additional information or to organise a site visit.

If any of your contact details change (for example, your address or telephone number) you must let us know by email or by writing to the address on the acknowledgement letter we sent you.

We may delay or refuse your application if you do not provide all the information we need to complete it.

After you’ve been authorised

When we authorise you, you’ll get a letter that sets out the authorisation conditions.

Conditions include things like:

  • paying Customs Duty and other charges
  • keeping detailed records

You’ll be responsible for: 

  • security and control of the goods, including keeping stock records and accounting for shortages 
  • co-operating with us as supervisors of your authorisation 
  • allowing us access to the warehouse premises, your records and the goods at any reasonable time

You can keep your goods in a warehouse for an unlimited time after we authorise you. We can tell you to move them out, if we think they might be a threat to humans, animals, plant health or the environment.

You can find out more about either: 

You should write to the address on your letter if you want your authorisation to be: 

  • amended 
  • cancelled

You also need to write to us if there has been a change to your business which may affect your authorisation, such as:

  • changing your trading name
  • being taken over by another business
Published 21 January 2020
Last updated 8 December 2023 + show all updates
  1. We have updated the 'How to apply' section with more information about what you'll need to provide with your application.

  2. Information about what to do if your contact details change after you've applied has been added.

  3. Information about not being able to make import declarations on the Customs Handling of Import and Export Freight (CHIEF) system from 1 October 2022 has been added.

  4. Added that you must also provide written procedures, stock records and site plans with your application.

  5. This page has been updated because the Brexit transition has come to an end.

  6. This page has been updated with information about multi state authorisations in Northern Ireland from 1 January 2021.

  7. An online form has been added.

  8. First published.