Guidance

Declaring reusable packaging for Great Britain imports and exports

From 1 January reusable packaging will require an import or export declaration. You may be able to make a declaration at the border (known as a ‘declaration by conduct’) instead and provide information to HMRC on a quarterly basis.

To be able to make a declaration by conduct, the packaging must be reusable.

Reusable packaging are goods that meet all the following:

  • are useable for transportation of other goods
  • are suitable for reuse
  • have a relief from import duty at the time of import
  • are not intended for sale

Packaging such as bubble wrap and cardboard boxes are not included as reusable packaging.

To qualify for a relief from import duty the reusable packaging must have been in UK free circulation from 1 January 2021 or have been transported to the EU prior to the end of the transition and will be returned before 31 December 2021.

The reusable packaging must be treated as going into free circulation, it cannot go into a Customs Special Procedure.

If you do not use declaration by conduct you can make a declaration for your reusable packaging using a different process.

Who can make the declaration

The importer and exporter must be the same person, so you can qualify for VAT relief and do not need to submit an import or export declaration.

The importer or exporter of the reusable packaging can be different to the importer or exporter of the goods they protect.

The person making the declaration by conduct does not need to be the owner of the packaging.

Declaring reusable packaging

Reusable packaging requires a declaration.

If the importer and exporter of the reusable packaging is the same person, you can make a declaration by conduct (whether filled or empty).

At Great Britain locations without customs controls you can make a declaration by conduct for all reusable packaging, the declaration by conduct will be by either:

  • disembarking from a vessel
  • driving past a Customs office
  • loading the goods on to the relevant vehicle

On export the declaration by conduct will be driving across the boundary of a port or driving past a customs office.

At locations in Great Britain with customs controls the declaration will be made by driving across the boundary of the port. You will only be able to make a declaration by conduct for packaging from the EU at locations with customs controls, because they will not be ready to manage this process for goods from other locations from 1 January 2021.

Someone can make a declaration by conduct on someone else’s behalf, for example a haulier can make a declaration by conduct on behalf of the importer.

If the goods are stopped by Border Force then the driver either carrying the goods, or coming to pick the goods up, must advise a declaration by conduct is being made for the packaging.

Imports

On import, the packaging is declared for free circulation by the conduct described above. These goods are intended to be re-exported.

You will not need to pay Customs Duty or import VAT on them. But to make sure that no VAT is due, the importer and the exporter of the packaging must be the same.

Safety and security declarations will not be required until 1 July 2021 on imports into Great Britain from:

  • the EU
  • Andorra
  • Monaco
  • Norway
  • Liechtenstein
  • Switzerland
  • Ceuta and Melilla
  • Heligoland
  • San Marino
  • the Vatican City State
  • the municipalities of Livigno Campione d’Italia
  • the Italian national waters of Lake Lugano, which are between the bank and the political frontier of the area between Ponte Tresa and Porto Ceresio

Exports

You will not need to make the reusable packaging available for examination unless Border Force stop you and want to make an inspection.

A safety and security declaration will be required for exports of packaging from Great Britain from 1 January 2021. However, for the period 1 January 2021 to 30 March 2021, this requirement is waived for any goods carried in Roll on Roll off (RoRo) vehicles that would otherwise need to make an exit summary declaration. The requirement for safety and security declarations on these movements will only start to apply from 1 April 2021.

How to send information to HMRC

You must send HMRC information about the packaging every quarter:

  • January to March
  • April to June
  • July to Sept
  • October to December

The information must reach HMRC within 15 days of the end of the quarter.

The quarterly report must be sent by e-mail with the individual or business name, and the EORI number show in the subject of the email. The e-mail address to send this information will be published shortly.

The email must contain the:

  • name of person or company importing or exporting the packaging (this should be the same person so that the goods qualify for relief from import VAT)
  • EORI number of person or company importing or exporting
  • commodity code of packaging
  • date of import or export (this can be the month that the import or export took place)
  • number of units imported or exported (this can be the total number of units in the month that the import or export took place)

You must also confirm in the email if:

  • your claim for returned goods relief is valid - for imports
  • commercial evidence has been retained - for exports

For each type of packaging, you should provide an aggregated summary each calendar month within the quarter. This should show, for each packaging type, the actual or estimated number of units imported or exported during the month.

If HMRC tells you to make normal declarations

If HMRC tells you that you cannot declare reusable packaging this way, you’ll need to make a normal import or export declarations for the packaging. If you disagree with the decision you can request a review by HMRC or appeal straight to the tax tribunal.

Published 23 December 2020