Guidance

Check how to pay duties and VAT on imports

If you’re a business importing goods from outside the UK, you can pay Customs Duty, excise duties and VAT in a number of ways.

Not paying at the time goods enter the UK

If you have a duty deferment account, you’ll be able to delay payment until an agreed future date.

This means:

  • you delay paying the charges for an average of 30 days

  • you do not have to pay immediately each time you want to clear your goods

  • HMRC can normally clear your goods more quickly because they do not have to handle payments for each transaction

You’ll be able to get copies of your duty deferment statements online.

If you’re registered for UK VAT you’ll get a C79 import VAT certificate which you’ll need to claim import VAT as input tax on your VAT Return.

Paying at the time goods enter the UK

You can use the flexible accounting system when your goods move across the border if:

  • you want to pay by card, cheque or bank transfer

  • you’re a Direct Trader Input (DTI) agent

You use the account in a similar way to a bank current account, with the exception that there are no charges for using the account, no overdraft facility and no interest.

If you’re registered for UK VAT you’ll get a C79 import VAT certificate which you’ll need to claim import VAT as input tax on your VAT Return.

From 1 January 2021

If you’re a UK VAT-registered business you can check when you can account for import VAT on your VAT Return.

Published 1 March 2019
Last updated 31 December 2020 + show all updates
  1. This page has been updated because the Brexit transition period has ended.

  2. New section 'From 1 January 2021' has been added.

  3. First published.

  1. Step 1 Check if you need to follow this process

    Follow these steps to get your goods for import through UK customs if you’re managing the process yourself.

    Getting customs clearance is complicated. You can hire a transporter or customs agent to make the import declaration and get your goods through UK customs.

    1. Hire someone to deal with customs for you

    Your business must be ready to import the goods before you can get customs clearance.

    1. Find out about importing goods from the UK
    1. Check if you need to make an import declaration
  2. Step 2 Set up your business for making import declarations

    You need an EORI number that starts with GB to import goods into England, Wales or Scotland. You'll need a new one if you have an EORI that does not start with GB.

    If you move goods to or from Northern Ireland you may need one that starts with XI.

    1. Get an EORI number

    Depending on where you're moving goods, you need to be registered on the right systems and have compatible software to make declarations.

    1. Check what systems and software you need to make declarations
  3. Step 3 Check if you can make the customs process quicker

    There are processes that can make clearing customs quicker and easier to manage if you have to make import declarations regularly.

    1. Find out about using simplified declaration procedures
    2. Check if Authorised Economic Operator status is right for you

    If you're importing goods from the EU to England, Scotland or Wales (Great Britain) you might be able to delay making a declaration for up to 6 months.

    1. Check if you can declare your goods later if you're importing goods from the EU

    If you regularly import goods using Common Transit, you can apply to start movements of goods at your own premises.

    1. Check if consignee status is right for your business
  4. Step 4 Register to import goods with restrictions

    You need to register as an importer if you import things like plant or animal products, high-risk food or feed, medicines, textiles, chemicals or firearms.

    Register to import:

  5. Step 5 Check if you need a licence or certificate for your goods

  6. and Check the labelling, marking and marketing rules

  7. Step 6 Arrange for the goods to be inspected

    If you import things like plant or animal products, you need to choose a place where the goods can be inspected. This needs to happen before they’re allowed through the UK border.

    1. Find an inspection point for animals and animal products
    2. Find an inspection point for plants, plant products, seeds and wood
    3. Find an inspection point for high risk food and feed that is not of animal origin
    4. Find an inspection point for endangered species, or products made from endangered plants or animals

    You need to let the inspection point know when the goods are arriving. You might have to pay a fee for the inspection.

  8. Step 7 Submit the import declaration

    1. Find out how to submit import declarations

    If you're importing goods from the EU to England, Scotland or Wales (Great Britain) you might be able to delay making a declaration for up to 6 months.

    1. Check if you can declare your goods later to make the importing process quicker
  9. Step 8 Pay VAT and duty

    HMRC will tell you how much to pay after you submit the declaration.

    1. You are currently viewing: Find out how and when to pay VAT and duty
  10. Step 9 Get the goods released if they're held up at the border

    The goods may be held at the border if, for example:

    • you have not paid the right amount of duty or VAT
    • you do not have the right import licences for the goods or business
    • they did not pass inspection
    • they've been combined with a shipment that has been held up

    If this happens you will be told why.

    1. Contact the National Clearance Hub to get help