Guidance

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

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

Who can claim relief

You can get this relief if you are re-importing goods into the UK or EU that have previously been exported. This is known as Returned Goods Relief.

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 and EU 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 or EU following their export from the UK or EU as free circulation goods.

This includes:

  • goods exported from the UK or EU as free circulation goods and benefited from agricultural measures
  • goods exported from the UK or EU 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 that have been declared for an outward processing procedure and exported which 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 and EU

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 or EU
  • pallets and containers previously exported or used to export goods from the UK or EU, and then re-imported to the UK or EU

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. We may be able to waive this in special circumstances such as:

  • specialised goods returning to the UK from long-term hire or loan agreements outside the UK and EU
  • building equipment or machinery returning to the UK after use in capital projects outside the UK and EU
  • exhibition goods returning after long-term display or storage outside the UK and EU
  • collectors’ or heritage items originally manufactured in the UK or EU 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 or EU expatriates
  • 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

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

When you re-import the goods, you will need to show:

  • the original export declaration
  • a completed officially authenticated information sheet form C&E 1158 (PDF, 102KB, 6 pages) and form C1314 (PDF, 1.32MB, 9 pages) if appropriate

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 or EU
  • 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 New 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 Common Agricultural Policy (CAP) goods

You can claim this relief for CAP goods that you have 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
    • they were imported into the UK because they could not be used for the purposes intended owing to other circumstances outside the exporter’s control
  • 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

If you claimed a refund when you exported CAP goods

If any refund was claimed under CAP when the goods were exported, you may claim relief from CAP charges on re-importation of the goods if:

  • the goods required an export licence
  • the goods were subject to a claim for any refund, benefited from any other financial advantage
  • the goods must meet the additional conditions for relief from CAP charges even though they may not be liable to CAP charges at import, if you do not meet the additional conditions, you cannot claim customs duty relief alone
  • the goods whatever their position, must be supported with a statement from the Rural Payments Agency before we can consider relief
  • the refund claimed at export is repaid the Rural Payment Agency

You must also declare the goods to home use within 12 months of their previous export from the UK (we will extend this time limit if you can justify exceptional circumstances).

The goods could not be used for the purposes intended at export due to circumstances beyond the exporter’s control.

These conditions also apply if you are gaining any other financial advantage under CAP by exporting and re-importing the goods.

Time limit for re-importation of CAP goods

The requirement that 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 may be waived where the following circumstances apply:

  • 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

Contact the National Import Reliefs Unit for more information on these special circumstances.

If the National Import Reliefs Unit approve your application, you will be issued with an authorisation number that should be included on the re-importation declaration.

CAP Goods returned due to circumstances beyond the control of the exporter

Relief for goods returned in the following circumstances are regarded as beyond the exporter’s control for CAP purposes:

  • the goods or the transport in which they were carried have been damaged before delivery to the consignee
  • the goods were exported from the UK to be consumed or sold at a trade fair or similar event and were not consumed or sold
  • the goods could not be delivered to the consignee because the consignee was not able to honour the contract under which they were exported
  • because of natural or political events or social disturbances, the goods could not be delivered to the consignee, or they reached the consignee after a binding delivery date in the contract under which they were exported
  • the goods are fruit or vegetables that were exported for sale on consignment a market outside the UK but were not sold
  • the goods could not be entered to home use in the country of destination because of a law in force there
  • the goods are being returned by the consignee because they are defective or not in accordance with the contract under which they were exported

No other situation is acceptable for CAP purposes.

Claiming relief for goods previously exported from the UK or EU 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 form C1314 (PDF, 1.32MB, 9 pages) which is to accompany the import declaration form.

Find out more information about inward processing.

Claiming relief for goods exported from the UK or EU following end-use

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

If the goods declared were imported to end-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 end-use again under the relevant end-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 will 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