Guidance

Pay no import duties or VAT on inherited goods

You can claim a relief to pay no Customs Duty and VAT if you're importing inherited goods into the UK.

Who can claim

You can claim relief if you inherit goods from a deceased person and are a:

  • UK resident

  • non-profit making company established in the UK

In nearly all cases, you cannot claim relief before the death of a current owner. Even if you know that the goods are bequeathed to you in the will of the current owner. The only time you can claim relief is if:

  • the goods were bequeathed to the current owner in the will of a deceased person

  • the will of that deceased person also stipulates that on the death of the current owner, the goods are to pass to you

  • you can prove that the current owner has renounced ownership or been judged too ill or infirm to manage their own affairs

  • you can provide a certificate or document given under the laws of the country concerned, stating that you can take the property absolutely under the terms of the will of the deceased person

In other situations, the goods will not qualify for the relief dealt with in this guidance.

Claiming relief if the benefactor died in the UK

You can claim relief if the benefactor was a resident:

  • of the UK, and their property was located outside the UK at the time of their death

  • outside the UK, and their property had already been temporarily admitted into the UK at the time of the benefactor’s death

What you can claim relief on

You can get relief for any goods included in the estate of the deceased intended for your personal use or for meeting your household needs.

Examples include:

  • jewellery

  • stamp collections

  • bicycles and private motor vehicles

  • caravans and trailers

  • pleasure craft and private aircraft

Other examples include:

  • household furnishings

  • family pets and saddle animals

  • portable items (such as doctor’s bag, musicians’ instruments, photographers’ cameras and equipment) used by the deceased in their trade or profession

Goods you cannot claim relief on

You cannot claim relief for:

  • alcoholic drinks, tobacco and tobacco products

  • stocks of raw materials and finished or semi-finished products

  • tools of trade other than the portable items

  • commercial vehicles

  • livestock and stocks of agricultural products which are more than what are required to meet a family’s normal needs

  • goods bought from the executor of the estate

  • goods bought or received as a gift from the person who legally inherited them

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 licence.

When to claim relief

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.

Proof of inheritance

When importing goods you must provide a:

  • copy of the will, or legal documents if the deceased died intestate, certified by the executor of the estate or by a person responsible for winding up the deceased’s estate

  • declaration on form C1421

This is to:

  • prove you are entitled to relief

  • identify the goods and their value in question

If the goods are not precisely identified in the will or other legal documents (perhaps they form all or part of the residue of the estate), we will need a list of the goods and their approximate value – this must be made by the executor or other legal person responsible for winding up the deceased person’s estate along with a confirmation that title to the goods passed to you.

If any of the documents mentioned above are in a foreign language it will help us if you provide a certified translation at importation.

Using someone else to act on your behalf

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.

How to claim

Goods imported in baggage

If you import the goods in your baggage you must:

  • declare them to us at the Customs Red Channel or Red Point

  • produce evidence to satisfy us that the conditions of the relief are met

  • claim relief by completing an import declaration

If you cannot produce the necessary supporting documentation or evidence to show you are entitled to this relief, you must give us financial security (normally a cash deposit or a banker’s guarantee) to cover either the duty or VAT, or both, before we will release the goods. We will discharge the security later if we are satisfied you qualify for relief.

Goods imported as freight

If your goods are imported as freight or in baggage you must claim relief by completing an import declaration.

Enter one of the following Customs Procedure Codes in box 37:

  • 40 00 C04 – for goods imported from outside the UK on which you claim relief from duty and VAT

  • 49 00 C04 – for goods imported from the Channel Islands on which you claim relief from VAT

If you cannot produce the necessary supporting documentation or evidence to show you are entitled to this relief, you must give us financial security (normally a cash deposit or a banker’s guarantee) to cover either the duty or VAT, or both, before we will release the goods. We will discharge the security later if we are satisfied you qualify for relief.

Goods imported by post

Ask the sender to write ‘Inherited goods: relief claimed’ clearly on the package and its accompanying customs declaration.

We may send you a simplified form to complete. You will need to return the completed form together with the documents and declaration.

If the package is not clearly marked it may not be delivered until you have paid the duty and VAT.

You should pay these charges and then write to customs at the postal depot where the charges were raised. Enclose with your letter a completed form C1421 and the supporting proof of entitlement together with the document showing the charges. If we are satisfied that the goods qualify for relief, we will repay the duty and VAT.

Find out more information about importing goods by post.

Time limits for the arrival of goods in the UK

You should import the goods within 2 years from the date the estate is finally settled.

The goods do not need have to arrive in the UK at the same time, but you must provide the proof of inheritance each time the goods are imported.

If you consider that exceptional circumstances apply and you cannot import the goods within this period, you should provide evidence to support your claim to the National Imports Relief Unit.

After you’ve claimed

If you dispose of your goods

You must tell the National Imports Reliefs Unit if you dispose or transfer your goods to another entity.

Records you must keep

You must keep:

  • any National Imports Relief Unit acknowledgement letters

  • receipts

  • bills

  • invoices

  • insurance documents

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 NES declaration details or export documentation providing information about the date of export

  • your are goods 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 all 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 the National Import Reliefs Unit orally, electronically, or in writing.

Provide full details of the importation and why you think the conditions of the relief have been breached.

If you want to appeal

Appeal if you disagree with a decision made by HMRC.

Published 4 June 2020
Last updated 31 December 2020 + show all updates
  1. This page has been updated because the Brexit transition period has ended.

  2. First published.