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 custom 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. 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 is 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 warehousekeeper, 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 stock 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 (AEO) or can meet AEO 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 kind of 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 will contact you. With your application, you must also provide:

  • written procedures
  • stock records
  • site plans

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.

From 1 January 2021
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 Northern Ireland and EU

You can also apply for an authorisation that covers your warehouse activities in Northern Ireland and EU.

You need to request this by emailing with your:

  • name
  • contact email address
  • address of your Northern Ireland operation
  • Economic Operator Registration and Identification number (XI Prefix)

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

After you’ve applied

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

  • amended
  • cancelled

You should also write to us if there has been a change to your business which may impact on your authorisation, such as, changing your name or being taken over by another business.

You’ll also 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, however, if we think they might be a threat to humans, animals, plant health or the environment, we can tell you to move them out.

You can find out more about either:

Published 21 January 2020
Last updated 11 May 2021 + show all updates
  1. Added that you must also provide written procedures, stock records and site plans with your application.

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

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

  4. An online form has been added.

  5. First published.