Guidance

Pay no Customs Duty or VAT on goods for disabled people

If you have a disability, or are an organisation supporting disabled people, you may be able to claim relief from Customs Duty and VAT.

You can claim relief to pay no Customs Duty or VAT on goods specially designed or adapted to assist disabled people, including people who are blind or partially sighted, in carrying out everyday activities.

Some goods are zero rated for VAT when imported for disabled people, imported by charities or purchased with donated funds.

Some goods are automatically free of Customs Duty. You can check this by finding the commodity code in the tariff.

If your goods are not free of duty in the tariff, or not zero rated for VAT, you can claim relief from Customs Duty and VAT on certain goods.

Who can claim

Customs Duty

You can bring goods into the UK from outside the EU free from Customs Duty if:

  • you’re an organisation approved by HMRC mainly concerned with the education of, or assistance to disabled people or those who are blind or partially sighted
  • you have a disability, are blind or partially sighted and are bringing in goods for your personal use because of your disability
  • you’re a nominated carer - someone acting on behalf of a disabled, blind or partially sighted person and known to them, such as a parent, guardian, spouse or partner, or family member- importing goods to be used by the disabled person only

VAT

You can bring goods into the UK from outside the EU free from VAT if:

Find out more about VAT relief for disabled and older people in Notice 701/7, paragraph 8.1.

Goods that can get relief from Customs Duty

Specialised goods imported may be eligible for relief from Customs Duty. Any adaptation for use by disabled people or those who are blind or partially sighted must have been made before the goods are imported into the UK.

Goods for people who are blind or partially sighted

You can get relief from Customs Duty on goods specially designed or adapted to provide educational, scientific or cultural help to people who are blind or partially sighted for example:

  • white canes and similar items used for mobility assistance and for condition identification and awareness
  • teaching aids
  • equipment and digital media used to produce braille and talking books
  • electronic reading machines

These goods must be for the sole use of the blind or partially sighted person. A list of the goods eligible for relief is below.

You can also get relief from Customs Duty on spare parts, components, tools and accessories specifically or recognisably intended for goods that can get duty relief.

Goods for people with a physical or mental disability

You can get relief from Customs Duty on goods specially designed or adapted to provide educational, employment or social help to people with physical or learning disability or help them carry out their everyday activities, for example:

  • teaching aids
  • table games and accessories

These goods must be for the sole use of the disabled person.

You can also get relief from Customs Duty on spare parts, components, tools and accessories specifically or recognisably intended for goods that can get duty relief.

Goods you cannot claim relief from Customs Duty

You cannot get relief on:

  • standard generic wheelchairs and mobility light vehicles
  • motor vehicles or other methods of transport that have not already been specifically adapted for the sole use of the person with disability (a disabled person)
  • watches made from precious metals

Commodity codes for items imported for people who are blind or partially sighted

Goods Description Commodity code
Braille paper Uncoated paper and paperboard used for writing, printing or other graphic purposes, and non-perforated punchcards and punch tape paper, in rolls or rectangular (including square) sheets, of any size, other than paper of heading No 4801 or 4803; hand-made paper and paperboard. Other paper and paperboard, containing no more than 10% (in weight) of fibres from a mechanical or chemi-mechanical process 4802
Braille paper Weighing between 40 and 150g/m2 in rolls ex 4802 55
Braille paper Weighing between 40g/m2 and 150g/m2, in sheets, with one side not more than 435mm in length and the other side not more than 297mm in width, in an unfolded state ex 4802 56
Other braille paper Weighing 40g/m2 or more but not more than 150g/m2 ex 4802 57 00
Braille paper Other paper and paperboard weighing more than 150g/m2 with more than 10% of weight consisting of fibres from a mechanical or chemi- mechanical process ex 4802 58
Braille paper In rolls ex 4802 61
Braille paper Other ex 4802 61 80
Braille paper In sheets with one side no more than 435mm in length and the other side no more than 297mm in width (unfolded) ex 4802 62 00
Braille paper Other ex 4802 69 00
Other uncoated paper and paperboard Other uncoated paper and paperboard in rolls or sheets 4805
Braille paper Weighing 150g/m2 or less ex 4805 91 00
Braille paper Weighing more than 150g/m2 but less than 225g/m2 ex 4805 92 00
Braille paper Weighing 225g/m2 or more 4805 93
Braille paper Other ex 4805 93 80
Other paper, paperboard, cellulose wadding and webs of cellulose fibres Other paper, paperboard, cellulose wadding and webs of cellulose fibres, cut to size or shape; other articles of paper pulp, paper, paperboard, cellulose wadding or webs of cellulose fibres. Other paper and paperboard, used for writing, printing or other graphic purposes 4823
Other Other 4823 90
Braille paper Paper and paperboard, used for writing, printing or other graphic purposes ex 4823 90 40
White canes for the blind and partially sighted Walking-sticks, seat-sticks, whips, riding-crops and the like ex 6602 00 00
Adapted for use by the blind and partially sighted Typewriters and word-processing machines ex 8469
Equipment for the mechanical production of braille and recorded material for the blind Automatic data-processing machines and units thereof; magnetic or optical readers, machines for transcribing data onto data media in coded form and machines for processing such data, not elsewhere specified or included ex 8471
Record and cassette players specially designed or adapted for the blind and partially sighted Sound recording or sound reproducing apparatus ex 8519
Talking books, magnetic tapes and cassettes for producing braille and talking books Discs, tapes, solid-state non-volatile storage devices, ‘smart cards’ and other media for the recording of sound or of other phenomena, whether or not recorded, including matrices and masters for the production of discs ex 8523
Other optical appliances and instruments Liquid crystal devices not constituting articles, lasers, other than laser diodes 9013
Other devices, appliances and instruments Television enlargers for the blind and partially sighted ex 9013 80
Orthopaedic appliances Orthopaedic appliances, including crutches, surgical belts and trusses; splints and other fracture appliances; artificial parts of the body; hearing aids and other appliances which are worn or carried, or implanted in the body, to compensate for disability 9021
Other Other 9021 90
Other Products for the blind and partially sighted, such as electronic orientators and obstacle detector appliances, television enlargers and electronic reading machines ex 9021 90 90
Demonstration instruments, apparatus and models Instruments, apparatus and models, designed for demonstration purposes (for example, in education or exhibitions), unsuitable for other uses 9023 00
Teaching aids Teaching aids and apparatus specifically designed for the use of the blind and partially sighted ex 9023 00 80
Braille watches with cases other than of precious metals Wrist-watches, pocket-watches and other watches, including stop-watches ex 9102
Articles for funfair, parlour and casino games and bowling alley equipment Articles for funfair, table or parlour games, including printables, billiards, special tables for casino games and automatic bowling alley equipment 9504
Other Other 9504 90
Other Table games and accessories specially adapted for the blind and partially sighted to use ex 9504 90 90
Various All other articles specially designed for the education, scientific or cultural advancement of the blind and partially sighted various

Before you claim

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

How to apply

You require approval from the National Imports Reliefs Unit (NIRU) before importing goods if you’re:

  • a nominated carer or an organisation importing goods in baggage
  • an organisation, individual or nominated carer importing goods by freight or post

You do not require prior approval if you import eligible goods for your own use in your baggage.

If you require approval, contact NIRU before making any importations. You will be sent a form to complete and return.

If you are the nominated carer acting on behalf of an individual, you must provide an official letter of support from a medical professional, such as the disabled person’s General Practitioner (GP) or hospital consultant to confirm this.

If your application is successful, NIRU will issue you with a certificate that you must use when you make your import declaration.

How to claim

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.

Goods imported as freight or in baggage

You’ll need to have the necessary supporting documentation or evidence to show you’re entitled to this relief. If you do not, you must give us financial security (normally a cash deposit or a banker’s guarantee) to cover the duty or VAT before we’ll release the goods. We’ll discharge the security later if we are satisfied you qualify for relief.

You must:

  • present an official letter of support confirming you as the nominated carer (if applicable)
  • complete an import declaration
  • present your certificate from NIRU (if you required approval) and enter the certificate number in box 44 of your import declaration

If you’re an organisation involved in the education or provision of education for disabled people enter one of the following in box 37 of your import declaration:

  • 40 00 C21 - for goods specifically designed for the educational, scientific or cultural advancement of people with visual impairment
  • 40 00 C23 - for goods specifically designed for use by people who are blind or partially sighted
  • 40 00 C25 - for goods specifically designed for use by people with disability (other than people who are blind or partially sighted)

If you’re an individual importing goods for your own use or a nominated carer importing goods on behalf of a disabled person enter one of the following in box 37:

  • 40 00 C22 - for goods specifically designed for use by people who are blind or partially sighted
  • 40 00 C24 - for goods specifically designed for use by people with disability (other than people who are blind or partially sighted)

Goods imported by post

Ask the sender to write ‘goods for people with a disability: relief claimed’ clearly on the package and its accompanying customs declaration (CN 22 or CN 23).

We may send you a simplified form to complete and return.

If the package is not clearly marked, you must pay the duty and VAT. You can write to customs at the postal depot where the charges were raised. You must send the document showing the charges and prove that conditions of this relief are met. If the goods qualify for relief, HMRC will repay any duty and VAT.

Getting someone else to complete your customs declarations

You can use someone else to complete entries on your behalf but you must make sure:

  • that you’re always clearly identified as the approval holder claiming relief
  • you provide them with the certificate from NIRU if you require approval
  • there are clear, written instructions for the goods to be entered under this procedure

After you’ve claimed

If you dispose of your goods

You must tell NIRU if you intend to dispose of your goods or transfer them to another entity.

If you’re a charity contact the Excise and Customs Helpline to find out when you can supply imported goods free of VAT.

If you’re an organisation approved to import goods under this relief you may lend, hire out or transfer the goods on a non-commercial and non-profit making basis to:

  • disabled people without payment of duty and VAT
  • another organisation approved to import goods under this relief

If you dispose of the goods in any other way, contact NIRU for details of what you need to do.

If you have a disability, or are a nominated carer and you dispose or transfer your goods, contact NIRU to check if you need to pay duty.

Records you must keep

You must keep:

  • any NIRU certificates or acknowledgement letters
  • receipts
  • bills
  • invoices
  • insurance documents
  • evidence of disposal

You need to keep additional records if:

  • you transfer goods to another approved entity – keep any official documentation detailing transfer between you and the other entity
  • you re-export the goods – keep the New Export System declaration details or export documentation providing information about the date of export
  • your goods are stolen, lost or destroyed – keep police or insurance incident reports, or official documentation providing details of the date of the incident or loss

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

If you break the conditions of the relief

If you no longer meet the conditions of the relief, you must immediately notify NIRU electronically, or in writing. The relieved Customs Duty and VAT may be payable.

If you want to appeal

Appeal if you disagree with a decision

Published 17 July 2020