Guidance

Pay less import duty and VAT when re-importing goods to the UK

You can claim a relief to pay less Customs Duty and VAT if you re-import goods to the UK.

Who can claim relief

You can get this relief if you’re re-importing goods into the UK that have previously been exported. This is known as Returned Goods Relief. The relief does not apply where those goods were exported from the UK as a result of their removal from Northern Ireland.

The goods must be re-imported in an unaltered state, apart from any work that may have been carried out to maintain the goods in working order, the goods cannot have been upgraded to increase their value.

The goods must also:

  • have been in free circulation in the UK when they were exported, unless they were originally declared to inward processing or end-use
  • not have been exported to be repaired or processed, if they were but the repair or process was not carried out, relief may still be available
  • be re-imported within 3 years of their export, shorter periods apply to goods which benefited from agricultural measures at export

If only a proportion of the original export is returned, then subject to the conditions above, relief is available.

On re-importation, any duty suspended at the time of their original importation to inward processing must be repaid. Also, any agricultural refunds received on export must be repaid.

The requirement that the goods must be returned within 3 years can be waived in exceptional circumstances.

What you can claim relief on

You can get relief on goods being imported into the UK following their export from the UK as free circulation goods.

This includes:

  • goods exported from the UK as free circulation goods and those that benefit from agricultural measures
  • goods exported from the UK following inward processing
  • goods previously declared to end-use (if the goods are put to the same authorised use when imported)
  • goods temporarily exported using the Admission Temporaire (Temporary Admission) (ATA) or Carnet de Passages en Douane (CPD) carnet procedures
  • goods declared for an outward processing procedure and exported, that remain:
    • unprocessed on re-import
    • in the same state as they were when originally exported
  • returned personal effects, vehicles, sports equipment or means of transport
  • returned professional and commercial equipment that have been hired, leased or loaned outside the UK

You can get relief on pallets, containers and packaging suitable for re-use, for example if they are:

  • used to import goods to the UK
  • pallets and containers previously exported or used to export goods from the UK or EU, which are re-imported to the UK
  • goods imported into the UK from the UK sector of the continental shelf where they had previously been exported to the UK Continental Shelf (UKCS), and discharged under Authorised Use

VAT

In addition to customs requirements, when you claim VAT relief you must show the:

  • original export declaration with you as the exporter
  • re-import declaration with you as the importer

Time limits for returning goods

The goods must be returned no later than 3 years after they were exported in order to get this relief. The following circumstance are given automatic waiver of the 3-year rule:

  • goods owned by Crown Servants returning to the UK after their postings overseas (the time limit for Crown Servants is currently 6 years) - Crown Servants include:
    • diplomatic staff
    • armed forces
    • embassy
    • consular personnel
  • goods in the EU at the end of the transition period (after 31 December 2020)

To allow importers extra time to return goods to Great Britain from the EU, a special extension to the existing grace period has been agreed.

Goods you transported from the UK which were in the EU on 31 December 2020 will be eligible for relief even if the normal 3-year time limit for re-importation has expired. To claim this relief you must re-import these items back to Great Britain by 30 June 2022 and fulfil all the other conditions for Returned Goods Relief.

You’ll not have to give the actual date the goods were exported from the UK, you’ll only need to show that the goods were in the UK at some point before 31 December 2020. This does not prevent the normal 3-year rule applying if this is more favourable.

We may also be able to waive the requirement that the goods must be returned to the UK no more than 3 years after the date of export in special or exceptional circumstances such as:

  • specialised goods returning to the UK from long-term hire or loan agreements outside the UK
  • building equipment or machinery returning to the UK after use in capital projects outside the UK
  • exhibition goods returning after long-term display or storage outside the UK
  • collectors’ or heritage items originally manufactured in the UK and returning from overseas after re-acquisition by a UK dealer or investor, for example collectable items of furniture or ceramics
  • professional and personal effects returning with returning UK expatriates Contact the National Import Reliefs Unit for more information on these special circumstances

Before you claim

You should check if your goods are strictly controlled and if you’ll need an import licence.

When you get the commodity code for your goods using the tariff it will tell you if you need a license.

When to claim

You should claim relief at the time of import. If you do not do this, we may accept a late claim and repay the appropriate charges subject to conditions.

How to claim

You can claim Returned Goods Relief in the normal way, orally or by conduct (walking through the green channel). If you are sending your items by freight you should claim Returned Goods Relief by using the customs procedure codes in the tariff.

You’ll need to prove that the goods satisfied the conditions for acceptance as returned goods at the time of previous export from the UK.

You may be asked to complete the C1314 and C&E1158 forms to support your claims.

form C1314

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form C&E 1158

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Alternative Evidence

We will consider alternative evidence which clearly confirms the previous export of those goods and their duty status at export (that is goods in free circulation, products of an inward processing operation or end-use goods).

If the goods are readily identifiable and duty status is clear, we may accept one or more of the following documents as evidence:

  • a document that proves the goods were previously in the UK
  • a copy of the export invoice
  • a copy of the export airway bill or bill of lading
  • a commercial certificate of shipment prepared at the time of export
  • a certificate of posting relating to the export of the goods
  • a copy of the import invoice if it clearly shows that the goods are being returned
  • a suitable statement from the manufacturer or exporter if other than yourself
  • a preferential origin form EUR1 in certain cases
  • in the case of collectable items, catalogue information or qualified opinion from a recognised expert in the field such as National Institutes and specialist auction houses
  • record from the trader’s stock record book

If you’re regularly importing returned goods and presentation of the evidence at the time of import is difficult for you, we may be able to offer alternative arrangements.

Goods imported in baggage

You do not need to make a formal customs declaration to claim relief on your own personal belongings re-imported in accompanied baggage if the conditions for relief are met.

You must declare any other re-imported goods in your baggage, for example commercial samples, at the Red Channel or Red Point when you arrive, and we may ask you to make a formal customs declaration claiming relief.

Goods imported by post

Ask the sender to write ‘Returned goods - relief claimed’ clearly on the package and its accompanying customs declaration. The declaration must include a complete and accurate description of the goods, their quantity and value. If you’re registered for VAT, make sure your VAT number is quoted on the declaration (CN 22 or CN23).

Find out more information about importing goods by post.

Goods exported under the National Export Scheme (NES)

You must quote the export declaration reference number on the re-import declaration. If you do not have this, the movement reference number generated by the Customs Handling of Import and Export Freight (CHIEF) system at export can be used.

Claiming relief for goods benefited from UK agricultural measures

You can claim this relief for goods that you’ve previously claimed for if:

  • any refunds or other amounts paid under those agricultural measures have been repaid, the necessary steps have been taken to withhold sums to be paid under the agricultural measures in respect of those goods, or the other financial advantages granted have been cancelled
  • the goods were in one of the following situations:
    • they could not be put on the market in the country to which they were exported
    • they were returned by the consignee as being defective or non-contractual; or
    • they were re-imported into the UK because they could not be used for the purposes intended owing to the following circumstances being outside the exporter’s control
    • the goods are returned to the UK following damage occurring before delivery to the consignee, either to the goods themselves or to the means of transport on which they were carried
    • the goods were originally exported for the purposes of consumption or sale in the course of a trade fair or similar occasion which have not been so consumed or sold
    • the goods could not be delivered to the consignee on account of his physical or legal incapacity to honour the contract under which the goods were exported
    • the goods, because of natural, political or social disturbances, could not be delivered to the consignee or reached him after the contractual delivery date
    • fruit and vegetables were exported and sent for sale on consignment but were not sold in the market of the country of destination

The goods are declared for the free circulation procedure within 12 months of the date of completion of the customs formalities relating to their export.

Claiming relief for goods previously exported from the UK following inward processing

You can claim relief on the re-importation of third country goods which were previously relieved from customs duty under inward processing arrangements if you:

  • pay the amount of duty originally relieved under inward processing
  • meet all other relevant customs duty relief conditions
  • declare the goods to Customs Procedure Code (CPC) 61 23 F01

Relief may also apply to goods incorporating third country components previously in inward processing if you comply with the conditions listed above.

The sum you must pay for relief purposes is the amount of duty which would have been due had the goods been diverted to free circulation after completion of the last inward processing transaction.

You must include details of the amount previously relieved under inward processing on C&E 1314 form which is to accompany the import declaration form.

Find out more information about inward processing.

Claiming relief for goods exported from the UK following authorised-use

Relief can be claimed on goods which, prior to export, were imported for authorised-use provided the goods are being re-imported for the same authorised-use purpose.

If the goods declared were imported to authorised-use but not put to their specific use, the goods should be exported under customs procedure code 10 40 000. On return, the goods should be entered to authorised-use again under the relevant authorised-use customs procedure code.

Import charges will be relieved by the production of the export documentation.

If the goods were put to their specific use prior to export, they can be re-imported using this relief subject to the usual conditions.

Claiming relief for exporting goods using a duplicate list

This is a procedure that can be used when temporarily exporting goods from the UK and subsequently re-importing them. It is available for a range of free circulation goods travelling with you as accompanied baggage.

Goods subject to any UK Government licensing requirements or excise goods are not eligible to use the Duplicate List procedure.

The goods must not be processed or repaired (other than routine maintenance) whilst outside the UK. You’ll still need to complete the customs documentation and give any financial security normally required by the country to which you take your goods.

Find out how to export goods using a Duplicate List.

Claiming relief for pleasure craft

Pleasure craft returning to the UK under this relief must complete a customs declaration and use customs procedure code 61 23 F01.

Find out more information about sailing your pleasure craft to and from the UK.

Returning vehicles requiring registration

If a vehicle requires registration, you should read more about importing vehicles into the UK.

Getting someone else to complete your customs declaration

You can use someone else to complete entries on your behalf but you must make sure you give clear written instructions for the goods that you’re claiming relief on.

After you’ve claimed

Records you must keep

You must keep:

  • any National Imports Relief Unit acknowledgement letters
  • receipts
  • bills
  • invoices
  • insurance documents

You must keep all records for a minimum of 4 years.

If you want to appeal

Appeal if you disagree a decision made by HMRC.

Published 3 September 2020
Last updated 9 April 2021 + show all updates
  1. More information has been added about how to claim Returned Goods Relief. The 'Goods in an EU member state on 31 December 2020' section has been removed.

  2. This page has been updated with information about re-importing goods to the UK.

  3. Information about Returned Goods Relief for goods that are in an EU member state on 31 December 2020 has been added.

  4. First published.