How the National Import Reliefs Unit (NIRU) controls imports on certain goods from outside the EU and what tax and duty reliefs may apply.
HM Revenue and Customs (HMRC) National Import Reliefs Unit (NIRU) is the single national office responsible for the control of imports from outside the EU, where any of the following procedures and reliefs have been used:
- Inward Processing (IP) using a authorisation by declaration
- Community System of Duty Reliefs (CSDR)
- Outward Processing Relief (OPR) using a authorisation by declaration
- Returned Goods Relief (RGR)
- End Use using a authorisation by declaration
- Onward Supply Relief (OSR)
The NIRU is open from 8am to 4pm, Monday to Friday.
National Import Reliefs Unit
52-58 Great Victoria Street
Telephone: 03000 513310
Authorisation by declaration IP
IP is a procedure which promotes processing by suspending the payment of duty at the time of import.
Duty can be suspended when goods are imported into the UK for processing or repair and are then re-exported outside the EU, or they can be declared to free circulation at the lower duty rate that applies to the processed goods, rather than the rate that applied to the raw materials under Article 85 of the Union Customs Code.
Traders who don’t regularly import goods for process or repair, may not need a prior authorisation to bring the goods into the UK. Imports to the procedure can be made by the acceptance of the import entry. The acceptance by HMRC of the import entry is considered as the granting of the authorisation to use IP. You should only use authorisation by declaration a maximum of 3 times per year.
IP may be used by the fruit and vegetable sector to facilitate customs clearance for goods selected by the Department for Environment Food & Rural Affairs(Defra) for conformity inspection. To facilitate customs clearance for inspection purposes, the import entry is declared under CPC 51 00 001 and the goods are free to travel to the designated inspection premises.
After the inspection has taken place and any Defra requirements have been met, you must then make a customs entry to free circulation bringing to account any charges payable on the imported product.
Send a return to NIRU using form BOD3.
How IP works
- The importer declares the goods at import using the appropriate Customs Procedure Code (CPC) - the most common CPCs are CPC 51 00 001 and 51 00 003.
- The importer is responsible for accounting for the import. Goods must be re-exported using CPC 3151000.
- After the time allowed (normally 6 months) for the processing or repair to be completed, the goods should be accounted for by sending a Bill of Discharge (also known as a Return) (BOD3) to NIRU showing proof that the goods have been correctly re-exported or declared to free circulation. The Bill of Discharge must give the export entry details including the Entry Processing Unit (EPU), entry number and date. This information should be provided by the agent who shipped the goods for you.
NIRU control of IP using an authorisation by declaration
All imports to IP must hold an authorisation to use the relief. These are either full pre-approved authorisations for regular importers, as supervised by Nottingham, or what were previously known as simplified authorisations. NIRU supervise these. These authorisations are automatically granted to the importer at the time of making a declaration to the relief.
The CPC’s are 5100001, 5100003, 5171001 and 5171004.
The process of getting your authorisation at the time of import is now called ‘Authorisation by declaration’. The main aspects of NIRU supervision and control of the relief are:
- if you have not sent a Bill of Discharge to HMRC’s NIRU within 6 months of the date of import, you will receive a reminder letter
- if you have any questions about the goods imported, country of origin, and so on, you should contact the agent who shipped the goods - NIRU don’t hold this information - the agent’s name and reference number are shown on the reminder letter
- sending the IP Bill of Discharge form BOD3 to NIRU by post, fax or email
- if NIRU don’t receive the form within 6 months and 30 days of import, you will receive a demand for payment for all the monies owing
- if, exceptionally, you can’t complete the process or repair within 6 months, you should write to NIRU requesting an extension to the time limit - your request should set out the exact reasons why an extension is needed
Read guidance on IP in Notice 3001: customs special procedures for the Union Customs Code.
Onward Supply Relief
Onward supply allows relief from import VAT on goods imported by a taxable person in the course of a zero-rated supply of those goods to a VAT-registered customer in another EU member state.
The main conditions for OSR are:
- only UK VAT-registered traders can claim the relief - the goods must be imported in the course of their zero-rated supply to a taxable person in another member state
- the relief may not be used speculatively (that is, there must already be a customer for the goods when they’re imported)
- they must be removed to another member state within one month of the date of importation
- goods which are to be processed may not be entered to this relief - the name, address and VAT registration number of the consignee in the member state of destination must be shown on the import entry
Returned Goods Relief
Returned Goods Relief (RGR) provides relief from charges on re-imported goods, which were originally in free circulation in the EU, returning in the same state as at original export.
Goods can return to the UK/EU under RGR if, for example, part of a contract or operation carried out overseas has now been completed so that the goods are now free to return to the original owners, or for goods no longer wanted by the overseas customer, due to any number of changed circumstances.
RGR normally requires the use of specific import CPCs to claim relief from charges.
For goods to be entitled to use RGR for duty relief:
- there must be adequate evidence to use as reference to show the goods were originally exported from the Customs Union of the UK/EU - this evidence must be supplied at re-import
- the goods were in free circulation in the UK/EU prior to export and no refund of duty or VAT was claimed at export
- the goods are being returned within 3 years of the original export
- the goods are returning to the UK/EU in their original unaltered state
Additionally, for eligibility for VAT relief, the application to use RGR on re-import must be made by the original exporter.
If, on re-import, the eligibility evidence is not available for presentation, security must be taken for the value of the duty and VAT due.
NIRU control and give advice on RGR used by commercial traders. They also monitor traders granted certain concessions within the RGR regime.
For instance, a compliant trader granted a concession will not have to provide export evidence and/or will be able to waive the 3 year requirement since export, on re-import. The trader will have to provide the export details and other eligibility documentation, at a later date, on the request of HMRC, as part of the assurance programme.
If during the assurance event it’s discovered the trader is not complying with the conditions of the regime the concession may be withdrawn.
You can read more in Notice 236: Returned Goods Relief on importing returned goods free of duty and tax.
Community System of Duty Reliefs
Community System Duty Reliefs (CSDR) provide relief from Customs Duty, and in some cases VAT and Excise Duty, on a range of goods imported to free circulation:
- for educational, scientific or cultural purposes
- to encourage trade (for example, goods for test and commercial samples)
- for other purposes, for example:
- awards and decorations
- when inherited
- received as private gifts
CSDR requires the use of specific import CPCs to claim relief from Customs Duty and/or import VAT charges.
Authorisation is required from HMRC’s NIRU or other government departments to use a number of the CSDR reliefs.
Some of the CSDR reliefs carry specific post import disposal restrictions.
You can read more about each of these reliefs by reading the relevant notice:
- Notice 361: importing museum and gallery exhibits free of duty and VAT - imports of goods for museums and galleries can only be made to NIRU approved establishments
- Notice 317: imports by charities free of duty and VAT - importation of goods by registered charities, basic necessities for needy people
- Notice 340: importing scientific instruments free of duty and VAT - for use in educational establishments, as well as the NHS
- Notice 341: importing donated medical equipment free of duty and VAT - for research, diagnosis and treatment for a health authority or hospital department - you’ll also need approval from HMRC
- Notice 342: importing miscellaneous documents and other related articles free of duty and VAT - importation of documentation of either an educational, cultural or miscellaneous nature as per its specific description in the Tariff
- Notice 343: importing capital goods free of duty and VAT - the organisation claiming this relief must comply with the conditions listed in Section 2 of this notice
- Notice 365: importing animals for scientific research free of duty and VATT - the importation of goods by a public establishment for education and scientific research
- Notice 366: importing biological and chemical substances for research free of duty and VAT - the importation of goods by a public or private establishment for education and scientific research
- Notice 372: importing commercial samples free of duty and VAT - importation of goods as a sample of a product to elicit future sales
- Notice 368: importing inherited goods free of duty and VAT - importation of goods which have been inherited by an EU citizen or a non-profit making company established in the EU
- Notice 369: importing blood grouping, tissue typing and therapeutic substances duty and VAT free - the importation of goods purely for scientific purposes by either a public or private organisation approved by Department of Health
- Notice 371: importing goods for disabled people free of duty and VAT - importation of goods specifically to help a disabled individual or by an organisation approved by NIRU to support disabled individuals
- Notice 374: importing goods for test free of duty and VAT - importation of goods for testing to establish their composition, quality or characteristics in support of industrial or commercial research
Authorisation by declaration OPR
OPR is a customs procedure which allows you, on re-import, to pay duty on the added value of goods which have been processed or repaired outside the EU instead of on the full value of the goods as would normally be the case.
VAT is due on the value of the process, not the full value of the goods. Notice 3001: customs special procedures for the Union Customs Code tells you how to calculate duty for OPR.
If the goods have been temporarily exported for repair and are found to be irreparable, the VAT is due on the full value of the new, replacement goods unless the re-importer can provide a copy of the warranty or guarantee which shows the goods are to be replaced free of charge.
If this evidence is not available on re-import then security must be provided for duty and VAT potentially due until the evidence can be provided. This sort of authorisation should only be used a maximum of 3 times a year.
NIRU control the authorisation by declaration OPR authorisations for repair and non-commercial authorisations which are for personal use or for close members of your family (non commercial) or for when OPR is only needed occasionally.
Authorisation by declaration for repair is applied for by completion of a C88, at export, using CPCs 21 00 004, 21 41 B51 and 21 51 B51.
The relief is claimed at re-import after the process or repair. The export declaration number is noted in box 40 of the OPR re-import declaration. If this number is not available then security must be taken for VAT and duty potentially for the full value of the goods.
NIRU control authorisation by declaration OPR by carrying out projects and percentage checks on entries to ensure compliance with the conditions of this relief.
Authorisation by declaration End Use
Authorisation by declaration End Use is primarily designed for certain industries such as shipbuilding and aircraft manufacture, who are not locally authorised, and who only import occasionally.
Eligible goods are highlighted in Notice 3001: customs special procedures for the Union Customs Code and relief is only available for end-use operations carried out in the UK.
The entry is made using the appropriate CPC.
End-Use Relief may be applied for at the time of import by completing a C88. You may only use the authorisation by declaration end-use system if you import goods on an occasional basis.
In order to use a authorisation by declaration authorisation the importer must:
- wholly assign the goods to the prescribed end use
- involve only UK customs
- not transfer the goods to other persons authorised or otherwise
- not use Customs Freight Simplified Procedures to enter the goods
- be established in the EU
This sort of authorisation should only be used a maximum of 3 times a year.
Once the goods have been put to end use you should send form BOD4 to NIRU.