Intrastat: duty to report statistics
You must declare all goods leaving and entering the UK to HM Revenue and Customs (HMRC), and complete Intrastat Supplementary Declarations
VAT-registered businesses that trade in goods with other EU member states are required to provide details of these transactions, which are used for statistical purposes. Intrastat is the system used to collect these statistics.
Movements of goods between EU member states are called arrivals, or acquisitions; and dispatches, or removals (rather than imports or exports as these terms instead define trade with countries that do not belong to the EU).
All VAT-registered businesses, regardless of their intra-EU turnover, must show the total value of goods dispatched to other EU member states in box 8 and the total arrivals of goods acquired from other EU member states in box 9 of their VAT Return.
In addition, those who trade in the EU above either or both of the Intrastat exemption thresholds must also complete monthly Supplementary Declarations (SDs). The annual thresholds are £1.5 million for arrivals and £250,000 for dispatches.
Larger businesses that trade above the Intrastat delivery terms threshold of £24 million must also specify delivery terms information on their SDs.
Intrastat: coverage, duties and benefits
HMRC collects trade statistics on goods leaving and entering the UK, known as Intrastat, and also provide free online information for traders to complete their Intrastat SDs. The supply of services is excluded from Intrastat.
In addition to direct purchases from other EU member states and sales to them, you should declare all intra-EU goods:
- transferred within the same legal entity
- sent for or returned after processing
- mixed supplies of goods and services
- supplied free of charge
- on long-term hire, loan or lease
- to be installed or used in construction
- lost or destroyed - if goods dispatched from the UK are lost or destroyed in transit they should be recorded on the SDs (this does not apply to arrivals)
There are certain circumstances where movements of goods are excluded:
- goods not by way of trade (for example personal goods such as travel luggage, items involved in moving house or ballast)
- goods in transit including goods which are in transit through the UK
- certain purely temporary movements where the goods are to be returned to the original EU country within 2 years and there is to be no change of ownership
- monetary gold
- means of payment which are legal tender and securities, including means which are payments for services such as postage, taxes, user fees
- goods moving between the UK and its territorial enclaves (for example embassies, armed forces bases) in another member state or moving within the UK to an enclave of another member state
- goods used as carriers of customised information, including software
- software downloaded from the internet
- commercial samples and advertising material provided free of charge
- goods sent for or returned after repair
- means of transport travelling in the course of their work, including spacecraft launchers at the time of launching
- newspapers and periodicals supplied under direct subscription
All VAT-registered businesses must enter the total value of any arrivals or dispatches, from or to other EU member states in boxes 8 and 9 of their normal VAT Return. For more information, see the guide on how to complete your VAT Return.
If you are VAT registered and supply goods and certain types of services to a VAT-registered customer in the EU, you will also need to submit their details, the country code and the value of the transaction in an EC Sales List (ESL). HMRC will send an ESL to any business completing box 8. For more information, see the guide on VAT: how to report your EU sales.
Who does Intrastat serve?
Information about the trade between EU member states is crucial to governments and organisations, as well as to businesses.
Trade statistics enable governments, including the UK, to monitor the health of their economies and the balance of payments. Trade figures also affect other decisions that have an impact on the daily life eg, the Bank of England’s decisions regarding interest rates.
A number of UK government departments use these trade statistics to spot trends, set trade policy and find ways to help UK businesses. Outside the UK, Intrastat data is included in the trade information supplied to the European Commission, the European Central Bank and United Nations bodies such as the International Monetary Fund.
Your business can also benefit by using trade data to assess market share, look for gaps in the market and develop new markets.
Intrastat SDs: delivery methods and deadlines
There are 2 ways you can submit your monthly SDs:
- via the internet
- through the Electronic Data Interchange (EDI)/EDIFACT
You can complete your SDs and file them online on the uktradeinfo website. You can use either an online form or use a CSV file compiled offline. You’ll need to register and obtain a username and password to use this service. For more information, see the guide on Intrastat: technology and technicalities.
You can also use the EDI system to file your returns via email. You’ll need to supply the file in a specific format to do so. For more information, see the guide on Intrastat: technology and technicalities.
The period covered and monthly cut-off date
You must submit SDs on a monthly basis eg, you must submit declarations for the January period so that they are received by the 21st day of the month following the period for which you are reporting transactions. April SDs must be submitted by 21 May. A calendar month is the normal reference period and you must use four digits to show the month and year for which you are reporting transactions - (mmyy) eg, 0412 for April 2012.
If your business is approved to use non-standard VAT periods, the reference period can be either the calendar month in which the goods arrive in - or are dispatched from - the UK, or the calendar month of the VAT tax point.
You can choose the method that will best enable your business to meet its Intrastat duties. Note however, that if your business has 13 x 4 - week VAT periods, you must ensure that one of your Intrastat periods includes one 8-week period to allow 12 submission periods in total.
If you exceed the threshold on both arrivals and dispatches, you must separately provide information on your inbound and outbound trade and submit both forms.
The data you provide on SD forms for Intrastat purposes is also used for purposes of VAT regulations.
You can submit as many SDs as you like each month. Submitting nil returns will prevent you from being contacted for missing declarations and timely, complete and accurate submissions will avoid costly penalty action.
It is your responsibility to monitor your EU trade to determine when you must submit an SD. HMRC will also be monitoring the value of your EU trade and may write to you from time to time to check that your records and theirs tally.
Find the technical specifications in the guide on Intrastat: technology and technicalities.
Intrastat SDs: required information
To complete Intrastat SDs, you will need specific information to hand. The key fields are introduced below, see the Intrastat five-step guide.
You will need your VAT registration number and branch identifier if required. If an agent is submitting SDs on your behalf, they’ll also need to supply their own matching information. You will also need your sales or purchase ledgers, invoices, and any other commercial documentation relating to the sale or purchase of goods for the month of return.
You must submit Intrastat SDs on a monthly basis eg, you must submit declarations for the January period so that they are received by the 21 February. A calendar month is the normal reference period and you must use four digits to show the month and year for which you are reporting transactions - (mmyy) eg, 0412 for April 2012.
If your transactions are in currencies other than sterling, you will need to use official exchange rates to convert the value of the good. You should list the value in pounds sterling rounded up to the nearest pound in the same way as your VAT Return. You must not include duty or service charges that may have been included on the invoice.
You must correctly classify your goods using the Intrastat Classification Nomenclature (ICN) codes. Accurate classification of goods is the key to reliable statistics so the commodity code under which you list your goods on the SD is arguably the most important data field on the form.
Commodity codes for all goods are described in the Combined Nomenclature on which the Integrated Tariff of the UK is based. A simplified ICN is produced for EU trade, omitting duty and tariff details. You can find commodity codes for import and export duty.
You can request additional support on a specific commodity code by sending a request by email.
To enable HMRC to deal with your enquiry, ensure:
- only one item only is shown per email
the request includes the following information:
- what the product is
- what it is made of - if made or more than one material, explain the breakdown
- what it is used for
- how the product works/functions
- how it is presented/packaged
Some additional information is required on certain products:
- footwear: include the type (shoe, boot, slipper etc), upper material detail, outer sole material detail, heel height and the purpose for men or women
- food: include precise composition details by percentage weight of all the ingredients to 100% and the method of manufacture or process undergone (fresh, frozen, dried, further prepared/preserved etc)
- chemicals: include the CAS Number, whether the product is a liquid/powder/solid and include the percentage ingredients
- textiles: include the material composition, how it is constructed (knitted/woven) and the name of fabric
- vehicles: include the age, engine type (petrol or diesel), engine size, whether the vehicle is new or used, whether the vehicle is over 30 years old, whether it is in its original condition, is the vehicle going to be for everyday use
A classification officer will reply by email, giving you non-legally binding classification advice based on the information you have supplied.
You can also find out about the ICN classification system.
Nature of Transaction Codes
Special codes are used to signify what type of transaction you’re reporting. See the section in this guide on how to deal with complex transactions.
Weight or supplementary units
You must record the weight (net mass in kilograms) or a supplementary unit for each data line of goods. The required unit of measurement is defined by the commodity code. Only one measure is required.
On SDs for ‘arrivals’, you must use the country code indicating the member state from where the goods have come. On the SD for ‘dispatches’, you must use the code for the member state to which you have sent the goods. For the list, see the section on Intrastat SD country codes in the guide on completing your Intrastat SD.
If the value of the goods you acquire or supply exceeds £24 million annually, you will also have to record the delivery terms on your SDs.
If you exceed the Intrastat threshold on intra-EU trade in any calendar year - either for arrivals or dispatches, or both - you must start submitting arrivals and/or dispatches on a monthly basis.
On your form, list the arrivals or dispatches that were actually carried out during the relevant period. To reduce paperwork, you are encouraged to combine values and quantities of goods where all other details are identical.
Commercial software is available to automate the process of Intrastat returns. See information on submitting Intrastat returns electronically in the guide on Intrastat: technology and technicalities. Read Notice 60 Intrastat general guide.
How to deal with complex transactions
While the reporting requirements for Intrastat are simple, there are occasions where the nature of your business may mean your responsibilities are more complex - such as when your VAT accounting periods don’t align with calendar months or goods have been returned. Most of these issues can be resolved simply.
Location of goods
It’s essential to remember that the movement of your goods is the most important element in completing your SDs correctly. For example, if you buy goods from a customer in Spain but the goods are dispatched from Germany, you should record those arrivals as coming from Germany, rather than Spain. This is known as triangulation.
Errors, credit notes and retrospective discounts
Sometimes you will have to issue credit notes or discounts after your SD for the period has been submitted. When this happens, you should add a balancing entry to your next return covering the credit. To do so using the electronic service, you should use the first digit of the Nature of Transaction Code (NoTC) followed by a ‘6’. This will indicate to the system that it’s a minus value and will balance your records accordingly.
A similar principle is followed if an adjustment needs to be made as a result of a change in trading terms or goods being returned, such as goods shipped and not paid for or the receipt of stage payments. Further information on this can be found in section 7.2 of Notice 60 Intrastat general guide.
However, you must not use NoTC’s to amend errors on your SDs. If you find an error, you must supply an additional declaration for that period.
Warehouses, Inward Processing and Onward Supply Relief
If your goods are entered into a customs, fiscal or excise warehouse or subject to a customs procedure such as Inward Processing (IP), this will have an impact on your SD reporting.
If your goods move between customs warehouses and are not in free circulation, you do not record them for Intrastat. If the goods are brought into free circulation and then move to another EU member state, an Intrastat report will be required.
Goods going into an excise warehouse in the UK from another member state or transferred from a UK excise warehouse to another member state are reportable for Intrastat.
Intrastat reporting is also required for goods moving between fiscal warehouses in the UK and other member states.
If you send or receive IP goods where the movements have been reported on a Customs Handling of Import and Export Freight (CHIEF) declaration, you must not include these movements on your Intrastat declarations. For statistical purposes, HMRC obtain the intra-EU movement data from the CHIEF information.
Any movement of IP goods that are not reported on a CHIEF declaration must be reported on your Intrastat declarations.
If you supply Onward Supply Relief (OSR) goods to, or receive OSR goods from, another EU member state you must include these movements on your SD.
You can find further information about the arrangements for goods in warehouses or subject to customs processes in section 17 of Notice 60 Intrastat general guide.
Other detailed information
The uktradeinfo website has detailed information for other special situations, such as the position for leasing and hire of goods, progress and stage payments and goods on sale or return.
Intrastat SDs: record keeping
In addition to the legal requirement to submit accurate SDs within the prescribed deadlines, you must keep specific paperwork when completing and filing SDs.
You must retain a copy of every SD you submit - or an agent submits on your behalf - and all papers and documents used to compile your SDs for at least 6 years.
You can keep these documents in an electronic format, provided it can be read by HMRC.
HMRC carries out inspections from time to time to ensure that businesses are complying with their Intrastat obligations. The visit is almost always to your premises, even if you use an agent. When the HMRC representative visits, they’ll need access to all your SD-related paperwork, so it’s advisable to keep your records organised.
In most cases, managing your Intrastat responsibilities will be comparatively simple. It’s prudent to check your SDs against your VAT Return to see if the figures tally.
Any differences between your VAT returns and SDs may be queried by HMRC, although HMRC understands that circumstances - such as credit notes - may create a discrepancy between the SDs and the VAT Return.
Check Notice 60 Intrastat general guide for more detailed guidance on inspections and day-to-day management of your Intrastat responsibilities.
Where to get help and advice
The main sources of advice and help if you have questions about Intrastat and SDs are:
- HMRC’s VAT helpline for help with most queries
- Notice 60 - for more detailed information on Intrastat and SDs
HMRC Notice 725 the single market
Read about VAT on sales within the EU in the single market in Notice725.
Additional guidance on common specific queries is also available on the uktradeinfo website.
For information on how to classify your goods, see the guide on classifying imports and exports using the UK Trade Tariff.
If your query is complex, you can check with HMRC’s Trade Statistics unit. You can write to them at the following address:
3rd Floor Central
21 Victoria Avenue
You can also contact the Excise helpline or send an email.
Penalties for late or inaccurate Intrastat SDs
If you fail to submit your Intrastat SDs by their due date, or send HMRC data that is incomplete or inaccurate, you may be committing a criminal offence.
The penalties involved are seen as a last resort, but they may be imposed where SDs are persistently late, missing, inaccurate or incomplete.
Although the penalty regime is a criminal one and could result in proceedings in a Magistrates Court, HMRC would normally prefer to ‘compound’ alleged offences. This involves the offer of an administrative fine in lieu of court proceedings. However, an administrative fine is only offered when, after receiving a Warning of Possible Criminal Proceedings letter, a business has brought its Intrastat declarations completely up to date. If any declarations remain outstanding, court proceedings will be instigated.
You should pay any administrative fines electronically by Bacs, online/telephone banking or CHAPS. Read about paying any fines in the guide pay Intrastat penalties.
Administrative penalties and court fines are a totally unnecessary financial burden on business which can be avoided by compliance with the Intrastat system. Ensure that your data is complete, and accurate, and is sent to HMRC in plenty of time. HMRC can provide help on the completion of the Intrastat SDs for businesses experiencing difficulties.
Published: 20 September 2012
Updated: 1 April 2016
- VAT checker section has been updated.
- Guidance on help and advice on commodity codes has been updated.
- Contact details for Intrastat system added.
- The annual threshold has been updated to £1.5 million
- First published.