Business tax – guidance

HM Revenue and Customs' National Import Reliefs Unit

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 European Union, where any of the following procedures and reliefs have been used:

  • Inward Processing (IP) using a Simplified Authorisation
  • Community System of Duty Reliefs (CSDR)
  • Outward Processing Relief (OPR) using a Simplified Authorisation
  • Processing under Customs Control (PCC) using a Simplified Authorisation
  • Returned Goods Relief (RGR)
  • End Use using a Simplified Authorisation
  • Onward Supply Relief (OSR)

NIRU is based at:

Abbey House
Head St
Northern Ireland
BT74 7JL

and can be contacted from 8am to 4pm, Monday to Friday by:

Simplified Inward Processing

Inward Processing (IP) is a procedure which promotes exports from the EU 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.

Traders who do not 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.

How Does simplified IP work?

  1. 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.
  2. The importer is responsible for accounting for the import. Goods must be re-exported using CPC 3151000.
  3. After the time allowed (normally six months) for the processing / repair to be completed, the goods should be accounted for by sending a Bill of Discharge (also known as a Return) (C99) to NIRU showing proof that the goods have been correctly re-exported. The Bill of Discharge must give the Export Entry details including the EPU, Entry Number and date. This information should be provided by the Agent who shipped the goods for you.
  4. Occasionally goods may remain in the UK, perhaps because an export order has been lost. The person who imported the goods to the procedure is liable for the duty suspended at import and the import VAT which is due when the goods are entered to free circulation in the EU. Compensatory interest may also be charged.

NIRU control of IP using a Simplified Authorisation

  • 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 etc. you should contact the Agent who shipped the goods. NIRU do not hold this information. The Agent’s name and reference number are shown on the reminder letter.
  • you can download the IP Bill of Discharge form C99 and send it to NIRU by post, fax or email.
  • if NIRU do not 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 cannot 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 221.

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 as follows:

  • 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 (ie there must already be a customer for the goods when they are 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

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 Customs Procedure Codes 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 three 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 three 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 is discovered the trader is not complying with the conditions of the regime the concession may be withdrawn.

You can read more in Notice 236 on importing returned goods free of duty and tax.

Community System of Duty Reliefs

Community System Duty Reliefs (CSDR) provides 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 for awards and decorations, or when inherited, or received as private gifts)

Key features

  • CSDR requires the use of specific import Customs Procedure Codes 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:

  • museums and galleries - imports of goods for museums and galleries can only be made to NIRU approved establishments. For more information read Notice 361
  • imports by charities free of duty and VAT, read Notice 317
  • importing scientific instruments free of duty and VAT - for use in educational establishments, as well as the NHS, read Notice 340
  • 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, read Notice 341
  • importing miscellaneous documents and related articles, read Notice 342
  • importing capital goods free of duty and VAT - the organisation claiming this relief must comply with the conditions listed in section two of Notice 343
  • importing animals for scientific research free of duty and VAT, read Notice 365
  • importing biological and chemical substances for scientific research, read Notice 366
  • importing commercial samples of negligible value, read Notice 372 
  • importing inherited goods free of duty and VAT, read Notice 368
  • importing blood grouping, tissue types and therapeutic substances, read Notice 369
  • importing goods for disabled people free of duty and VAT, read Notice 371
  • importing goods for test free of duty and VAT, read Notice 374

Processing under Customs Control (Simplified Authorisation)

Processing under Customs Control (PCC) allows certain raw materials or components to be imported from outside the EU under duty suspension arrangements for processing and subsequent release to free circulation in the EU. If you intend to export the processed products you should apply for duty suspension using inward processing.

How does PCC work?

After processing the finished products may 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.

Authorisation to use PCC and how to notify NIRU

There is a simplified authorisation available at the time of import. This may suit you if you make only occasional imports to PCC and the processing operations are carried out in the UK only.

Notification must be reported to NIRU on PCC return form C99.

The supervisory office for simplified authorisations is:

The National Import Relief Unit (NIRU)
Abbey House
Head Street
County Fermanagh
Northern Ireland

If you wish to avail of PCC on a regular basis you will need to apply for an authorisation on form C&E 1321. You will be issued with an authorisation number which must be quoted on all import documents. The application form and details of where to send your completed application are available from the HMRC Excise and Customs Helpline on Telephone: 0300 200 3700.

Find PCC eligibility requirements on Notice 237.

Imports to simplified PCC by the fruit and vegetable sector

PCC is used by the fruit and vegetable sector to facilitate customs clearance for goods selected by Defra for conformity inspection. To facilitate customs clearance for inspection purposes, the import entry is declared under CPC 91 00 F11 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. To send a return to NIRU use form C99.

Find details about PCC in Notice 237.

Simplified Outward Processing Relief

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. Learn how to calculate duty for OPR in the guide on Outward Processing Relief (OPR). However, 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 and copy of the warranty or guarantee which shows that 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.

NIRU control the simplified 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.

Simplified authorisation for repair is applied for by completion of a C88, at export, using Customs Procedure Codes 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 simplified OPR by carrying out projects and percentage checks on entries to ensure compliance with the conditions of this relief.

Simplified End Use

Simplified 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 770 and relief is only available for end-use operations carried out in the UK.

The entry is made using the appropriate Customs Procedure Code.

Simplified End Use may be applied for at the time of import by completing a C88. You may only use the simplified end-use system if you import goods on an occasional basis. In order to use a simplified 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
  • only use the simplified authorisation for civil aircraft, aircraft engines and occasional importations( approximately 3 per year) - it must not be used as a regular means of importation
  • not use Customs Freight Simplified Procedures to enter the goods
  • be established in the EU