Guidance

Bringing merchandise from or to the UK in baggage or a small motor vehicle in a no-deal Brexit

If you bring goods into or take goods out of the UK in your baggage or a small motor vehicle, and you intend to use them for business, you must declare your goods and pay import duty and VAT before you move them across the border.

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This guidance does not apply to importing or exporting goods between Ireland-Northern Ireland.

Merchandise in baggage

‘Merchandise in baggage’ are commercial goods that:

  • a commercial transport operator does not carry for you
  • you carry in your baggage when travelling to or from the UK
  • you carry in a small motor vehicle when travelling to or from the UK that:
    • can carry up to 9 people including the driver
    • weighs 3.5 tonnes or less
  • are not recorded on the ship, train or aircraft manifest as freight
  • are not for personal use or meant as gifts

You must use the goods either:

  • as spare parts or trade samples
  • for commercial sale

Importing

Checklist of things you’ll need to do:

  1. Apply for an EORI number now if your business does not have one already.

  2. Look up the correct tariff to pay the right duty for your goods.

  3. Check the weight of your goods.

  4. Check whether your goods are controlled or excise goods.

  5. Work out the value of your goods in pounds sterling to pay the right amount of duty and VAT.

  6. Decide how you’re going to declare your goods to HMRC.

  7. Travel with an entry reference number, download or screenshot of your declaration and payment notification as proof of your customs declaration.

Making an import declaration

You can declare your commercial goods using other customs declarations procedures and easements such as transitional simplified procedures. But, if you do not want to use these you should use the following processes.

Importing goods below £900 and weighing less than 1,000kg

If your goods are not licensed, controlled, or excise goods, you’ll be able to declare your goods and pay duty using an online service. The service will be available after Brexit.

Your declaration must have several pieces of information including:

  • your EORI number
  • your name and address
  • the date your goods are scheduled to arrive

If you plan to account for import VAT on your VAT Return then you should submit a full declaration.

Importing goods above £900, goods weighing more than 1,000kg, excise goods, or controlled goods needing a licence

You must submit a full declaration up to 5 working days before you travel to the UK, if you’re carrying goods that:

  • are over £900
  • weigh over 1,000kg
  • are excise goods
  • need a licence
  • are controlled

If you do not have software to make your own declarations, you need to appoint a customs agent to submit a full declaration for you.

If you choose not to pay duty before your goods arrive, you’ll have to either:

  • pay by the end of the next working day after arrival through your agent
  • pay using a duty deferment account – this allows you to pay your customs duty monthly by Direct Debit, rather than paying each time you clear your goods through customs

After you’ve made a declaration

You’ll be given a reference number or receipt when you submit your declaration. You’ll need to keep a copy of the declaration and payment notification as confirmation of your declaration. Border Force officials may ask you to show this to them.

You may also need to keep this as evidence if you need refunds or want to appeal.

You’ll then be able to move freely across the UK border when you arrive.

Exporting

Checklist of things you’ll need to do:

  1. Apply for an EORI number now if your business does not have one already.

  2. Work out the value of goods in pounds sterling.

  3. Submit a full customs declaration before arriving at the port of departure for goods that are above £900, weigh more than 1,000kg, or are licensed or controlled.

  4. Submit a short online declaration up to 5 working days before arriving at the port of departure for all other goods.

  5. Travel with an entry reference number, download or screenshot of your declaration notification as proof of your customs declaration.

Making an export declaration

If you’re carrying goods that need a licence, or are controlled goods, you must submit a full declaration up to 5 working days before you leave the UK.

You might find it simpler to appoint a customs agent to make customs declarations for you.

If your goods need a licence to export you’ll need to present them to a Border Force agent.

If your goods are zero rated for VAT, you should submit a full declaration.

You should check if you need to submit a declaration to the relevant customs authority in the country you’re exporting the goods to.

Exporting goods below £900 and less than 1,000kg

If you’re travelling with goods that are not controlled or licensed you must complete an online declaration up to 5 working days before you leave the UK. The online service will be available after Brexit.

You’ll be given a reference number or receipt. If asked, you’ll show this to Border Force at the UK border.

Exporting goods above £900, goods weighing more than 1,000kg, or controlled or licensed goods

You’ll need to submit a full declaration before you travel from the UK.

You might find it simpler to appoint a customs agent to make customs declarations for you.

Check what you need to do if you’re exporting to the EU through roll on roll off ports or the Channel Tunnel.

Getting duty and VAT refunds

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

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

To get a refund, you must apply within:

  • 3 years of making the over payment 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

If you’re VAT registered, you must claim import VAT back on your regular VAT Return and fill in the form for a refund of Customs Duty.

If you’re not VAT registered, you can fill in the form to claim both import VAT and Customs Duty.

More information

If you’re not already familiar with making full customs declarations you can find out more about trading with the EU in a no-deal Brexit.

Published 21 March 2019
Last updated 28 August 2019 + show all updates
  1. After Brexit, if you import merchandise in baggage through any port or airport with a red channel or red phone point, you'll now be able to declare your goods and pay duty using an online service, as long as the goods are: below £900; weighing less than 1,000kg; not licensed or controlled; not excise goods. The guidance has been updated to reflect this.
  2. First published.