Guidance

Bringing commercial goods into Great Britain in your baggage

Find out what you need to do when importing commercial goods into Great Britain in your accompanied baggage or small vehicle. 

Applies to England, Scotland and Wales

Commercial goods also known as merchandise in baggage are goods (to sell or use in your business) where:

  • a commercial transport operator does not carry them for you, or you do not pay them to carry them for you
  • you’ve travelled to Great Britain (England, Scotland and Wales) carrying goods either in:

    • your accompanied baggage
    • a small vehicle that can carry up to no more than 9 people and weighing 3.5 tonnes or less

You must declare all commercial goods. There is no duty free allowance for goods you are bringing in to sell or use in your business.

You do not need to make an import declaration if you’re bringing commercial goods in your baggage from Northern Ireland into Great Britain.

From 1 October 2022, all import declarations will need to be submitted through the Customs Declaration Service. You’ll need to make sure that you or your agent have access to the Customs Declaration Service.

What you’ll need

You or someone dealing with customs for you will need to:

  1. Get an EORI number.

  2. Declare the goods to HMRC.

  3. Pay any Customs Duty or import VAT due.

How to declare

If you bring commercial goods into Great Britain you must make either:

  • a full import declaration
  • a simple online declaration
  • an oral declaration at the ‘goods to declare’ channel or the red point phone in the customs area at the port

You have 5 days to declare the goods before you arrive in Great Britain if you make a simple online declaration.

You do not need to make a safety and security declaration for merchandise in baggage imports.

Making a full declaration

Submit a full import declaration before arriving into Great Britain

You must submit a full import declaration before you arrive in Great Britain if your goods:

  • have a value of more than £1,500
  • weigh more than 1,000 kilograms
  • are restricted goods
  • are alcohol, tobacco or fuel (excise goods)
  • need a licence (controlled goods)
  • are being put into a customs special procedure

You must also submit a full declaration if you’re:

You’ll need specialist software to make a full import declaration electronically into the Customs Handling of Import and Export Freight (CHIEF) system.

You can get someone to deal with customs for you.

Make a full import declaration before arriving into Great Britain.

When you arrive at point of entry into Great Britain with your goods

After you’ve declared your goods, you’ll need to arrive your declaration on CHIEF when you reach a point of entry into Great Britain. You must do this within 24 hours of presenting your goods at the border.

You may arrive your declaration yourself or with the help of your customs agent. You can ask a Border Force officer to do it for you where there is a red channel or red point phone. It’s your responsibility to check if a red channel or red point phone is available at your point of entry before your departure.

You can arrive your declaration on CHIEF using the customs facilities available at Stop24 in Folkestone if:

  • you enter Great Britain through the ports of Dover or Eurotunnel Calais Terminal Coquelles
  • you or your agent are unable to arrive your declaration through CHIEF within the 24 hour deadline

Stop 24
Folkestone Services
Junction 11 M20
Hythe
CT21 4BL

Making a simple online declaration

You can make a simple online declaration using the merchandise in baggage online declaration service if your goods:

  • are coming to Great Britain
  • have a value of less than £1,500
  • weigh less than 1,000 kilograms
  • are not restricted goods
  • are not alcohol, tobacco or fuel (excise goods)

If you do not need to make a full declaration, you can make a simple online declaration in the 5 days before you arrive with your goods.

You will have to pay VAT but will have no duty to pay if both the following apply:

  • you are bringing goods that meet the rules of origin under the UK-EU or other UK free trade agreements
  • you have relevant documentation to certify that the goods meet these rules

If you are bringing in mixed consignment goods, the zero duty will only apply to the portion of goods that meets the rules of origin.

If your goods are under £1,000, you do not need to give a formal proof of origin, but HMRC may examine the goods or packaging to make an assessment on the declaration.

Declaring online allows you to:

  • pay in advance
  • go through the green channel (nothing to declare)
  • add goods to a declaration you’ve already made as long as all the goods combined do not exceed the total value of £1500, weigh less than 1000 kilograms and are not controlled goods

If you choose to make a simple online declaration, you will not be able to account for import VAT on your VAT Return.

Making an oral declaration

If you do not want to declare and pay in advance with a simple online declaration, you can go to the ‘goods to declare’ red channel or the red point phone in the customs area to declare your goods and pay what you owe. You can only do this if your total goods are £1,500 or less in value and meet all other criteria for making a simple online declaration.

Getting duty and VAT refunds

You may be able to ask for a refund after you’ve made your declaration if:

  • you do not travel
  • your goods are lost or destroyed before they reach the UK
  • you make a mistake when you work out your duty

To get a refund, you must apply within:

  • 3 years of making the overpayment of Customs Duty or import VAT
  • 12 months for duty you’ve paid on damaged or defective goods
  • 3 years if after making a declaration you did not actually travel

Find out how to claim a refund for Customs Duty and also use this process to claim back your import VAT if you’re not registered for VAT.

If you’ve used the online declaration service, you can claim a refund by completing form C83.

C83 online declaration refund

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If you’re VAT registered

You can adjust your VAT records to reflect the import VAT that you have paid.

If you’ve made an online declaration, you’ll need to keep evidence of your declaration to allow you to recover the import VAT you’ve paid as input tax on your VAT Return.

Published 15 October 2019
Last updated 14 July 2022 + show all updates
  1. From 1 October 2022, all import declarations will need to be submitted using the Customs Declaration Service. You'll need to make sure you or your agent have access to the service.

  2. Guidance has been updated to explain that you no longer need to make a safety and security declaration from 1 July 2022.

  3. Information on what to do when you arrive into GB if you made a full declaration has been added. A link to a list of ports and airports with red channels or red phone points is included.

  4. From 1 July 2022, you will need to submit a safety and security declaration to HMRC, if you are carrying your goods in a goods vehicle, such as a van, and the goods are over a value of £1,500.

  5. Guidance about making a simple online declaration has been updated.

  6. The date from when you will need to submit a safety and security declaration to HMRC if you are carrying your goods in a goods vehicle, has been updated to 1 January 2022. The previous date of 1 July 2022 was published in error.

  7. The date from when you will need to submit a safety and security declaration to HMRC if you are carrying your goods in a goods vehicle, has been updated to 1 July 2022.

  8. Sections about 'bringing commercial goods into Great Britain in your baggage' and 'making a simple online declaration' have been updated.

  9. New guidance for declaring goods added to 'Making a simple online declaration'.

  10. First published.