Refunds and waivers on customs debt by HMRC

Find out about repayment and remission of customs duties by HMRC and how to apply.

In certain circumstances HMRC can repay or remit (waive) a customs debt. We can either:

  • repay – refund an amount of import or export duty that’s been paid
  • remit – waive the payment of import or export duty that has not yet been paid

When HMRC can repay or remit duties

Your claim must be more than 10 euros in value (£8.86 in pounds sterling) for each customs declaration, and we can repay or remit customs duties when:

  • you paid duties that were not due, for example, an over payment
  • you reject the imported goods because they’re damaged or defective, or do not meet the conditions of their contract
  • the debt results from:
    • an error made by customs authorities that you could not have identified
    • circumstances that put you in an exceptional situation compared to other businesses, is outside of normal commercial risk and not the result of any negligence or deception on your part
  • you pay the duties but you ask us to invalidate the customs declaration, for example on mail order goods

Claims for rejected imports

You can claim repayment or remission on goods imported from outside the UK or EU when:

  • you’ve rejected the goods because at the time of declaring them to a customs procedure they’re:
    • defective
    • damaged before being cleared by customs
    • not compliant with the terms of the contract you imported them under
  • they’re the same goods from the original customs declaration
  • you’ve not used any goods, other than the minimum necessary to establish they were defective or did not comply with the contract
  • you’ve not sold the goods after finding them to be defective, damaged or not compliant with the contract
  • you’ll re-export or destroy the goods

You cannot make a claim if you already knew the goods were damaged or defective when the contract for sale was made.

You must submit form C&E1179 at least 48 hours before the goods are packed for re-export or destruction.

Claims for defective parts

You can claim for repayment of duties where only part of the goods are defective. You must only claim the difference between the duty:

  • charged on the whole of the goods
  • that would have been charged, if it had been imported without the defective parts

You must use the rate of duty that applied at the time of the original customs declaration.

Claims for goods located in an EU member state

You can claim for goods that are being rejected and are currently located in an EU member state, as long as you have paid or are liable to pay the import duty.

If you’re holding goods that are being rejected having originally been imported into an EU member state, the original importer can submit a claim.

There are special procedures for dealing with this situation. Contact HMRC for more information.

Claims for Common Agricultural Policy (CAP) goods

If your claim is approved before disposal of the goods that you’ve paid import duty or CAP charges on, the goods are classed as ‘removed from free circulation’.

How to apply

You apply for repayment or remission of import duties using form C285.

You can claim repayment or remission of charges on rejected imports and CAP goods using form C&E1179.

For declarations made by CHIEF or the Customs Declaration Service, you must submit your claim either:

  • 3 years from notification of the debt
  • 3 months from the date the customs entry was accepted

HMRC can extend these time limits if there are exceptional circumstances, for example, a fire or flood has destroyed your records. You can contact HMRC to ask for an extension.

Cases dealt with by the European Commission

In certain circumstances, HMRC must refer your case to the European Commission, this happens when there’s a special situation, customs error, and either the debt:

  • exceeds 500,000 euros in value
  • results from an EU investigation

We’ll notify you if we refer your case to the Commission, and we’ll keep you informed.

Complicated cases can take over a year to reach a decision.

Published 28 April 2016
Last updated 14 December 2018 + show all updates
  1. Information about when to use forms C&E1179CDS and C285CDS has been added to the page.

  2. Paragraphs withdrawn due to Union Customs Code (UCC) changes.

  3. First published.

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

    You need to follow these steps if you're bringing goods into the UK - for example for selling, processing or using in your business.

    What you need to do is different if you are:

  2. Step 2 Register your business for importing

    1. Get an EORI number
    2. Check if you need to register for VAT

    You can apply for simplified declaration procedures and for Authorised Economic Operator status. These are most suitable for businesses that import goods regularly.

    1. Find out about using simplified declaration procedures
    2. Check if Authorised Economic Operator status is right for you
  3. Step 3 Decide who will make customs declarations and transport the goods

    You can hire someone to deal with customs and transport the goods for you, or you can do it yourself. Most businesses that import goods use a transporter or customs agent.

    1. Find out how to hire someone to deal with customs for you
    2. Find out what you'll need to do if you make the customs declaration yourself
  4. Step 4 Classify your goods

    You must find the right commodity code to classify the goods you're importing. This will tell you the rate of duty you need to pay and if you need an import licence.

    Your customs agent or transporter might be able to help you with this.

    1. Find the right commodity code for your goods
  5. and Find out if you can delay or reduce your duty payment

    You may be able to delay or reduce the amount of duty you pay based on where the goods are from and what you plan to do with them.

    1. Find out if you can pay a lower rate of duty
    2. Find out if you can delay paying duty
  6. Step 5 Value your goods

    How much VAT and duty you pay depends on the value of your goods and the rate of duty you need to pay.

    1. Work out the value of your goods for customs
  7. Step 6 Get a licence or certificate if you need one

    You might need to get a licence or certificate if you're importing things like plant or animal products, high-risk food or feed, medicines, textiles, chemicals or firearms.

    Your customs agent or transporter might be able to help you with this.

    1. Find out if you need a licence or certificate for the goods
  8. Step 7 Get your goods through customs

    If you've appointed someone to deal with UK customs for you, they'll make the declaration and get your goods through the UK border.

    1. Make an import declaration yourself and get your goods cleared by UK customs

    You'll then be told how much VAT and duty to pay.

    You’ll also be sent an Import VAT Certificate (C79) in the post as proof you have paid.

  9. Step 8 Claim a VAT refund

    If you're VAT registered, you can claim back any VAT you paid on the goods you've imported. You’ll need your C79.

    1. Find out how to claim a VAT refund
  10. Step 9 If you paid the wrong amount of duty or rejected the goods

  11. Step 10 Keep invoices and records

    You must keep records of commercial invoices and any customs paperwork, including your C79.

    If you imported controlled goods, for example firearms, keep the paperwork that shows who owns the goods.