Returning goods to the UK

Find out how to return goods requiring import and export declarations after importing them to another country, or if they're rejected for import at another country’s border.

These processes do not apply to movements of goods between Great Britain (England, Scotland and Wales) and Northern Ireland in either direction. HMRC will provide guidance on these movements at a later date.

To return goods to the UK, there are differing requirements depending on if the goods:

  • were in free circulation in the UK before you exported them
  • were in free circulation in the EU before being returned
  • were rejected at the border of the country you’re exporting to
  • are subject to additional requirements before you can import them back into the UK

In all instances, to return goods to the UK, you must complete the following steps:

  1. Contact your regulator (if required).
  2. If you’re eligible, claim Returned Goods Relief to avoid being charged import duty.
  3. Check if you need to complete an entry summary declaration (also known as a safety and security declaration).
  4. Complete a full import declaration unless you’re:

If your goods are rejected at the other country’s border

If the goods you export from the UK are rejected for import into another country, you can return them to the UK in most instances.

Your goods may be rejected if:

  • they’re missing essential markings or information
  • there’s an issue with the import declaration
  • the quality of the goods may cause risk to others

Where goods are denied release onto the market, you may be able to rectify the issues locally. For example, you could arrange relabelling using temporary storage. You can apply to operate a temporary storage facility. You should ask the relevant customs or market surveillance authority operating at the frontier (in the country of entry) for advice.

If you cannot resolve the issues locally, or you do not want to use temporary storage, you must have the appropriate documentation and complete a full import declaration to return the goods.

If the goods you’re exporting from Great Britain (England, Scotland and Wales) are deemed a risk to public health, the border’s sanitary and phytosanitary authority will decide what happens to them — this often results in them being destroyed.

Find out what you need to do before exporting goods from the UK.

If you’re returning goods after import to another country

A full import declaration must be completed for all goods. For controlled goods, you must have the appropriate documentation.

Some commodities are subject to additional regulatory requirements. This means you need to make a full import declaration when the goods return. You must meet additional requirements for goods:

  • covered by international conventions and commitments, such as:
    • endangered species of wild fauna and flora — requiring Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES) checks
    • fluorinated greenhouse gas and ozone-depleting substances — requiring you to follow specific regulations
    • rough diamonds — requiring the Kimberley Process
    • non-perishables — requiring temporary admission (ATA Carnets)
  • subject to sanitary and phytosanitary controls, such as:
    • animal, fishery and plant products
    • high risk food and feed (not of animal origin)
    • live animals and plants
  • with specific customs requirements
  • including strategic exports, such as:
    • bottled water
    • chemicals
    • plant protection products (pesticides)
    • drug precursor chemicals
    • firearms
    • waste
    • timber
    • medicines
    • substances of human origin

When you should contact your regulator

You’ll need to contact your regulator if your goods are:

If you claim Returned Goods Relief

When claiming Returned Goods Relief in your import declaration, you must:

  • use the Returned Goods Relief procedure code
  • give details of your export declaration or provide alternative evidence that the goods were previously in the UK

Find out about the alterative evidence that can be used and who can claim Returned Goods Relief.

Published 29 January 2021
Last updated 3 November 2022 + show all updates
  1. The steps to to return goods to the UK have been updated.

  2. Bullet under 'When you should contact your regulator' renamed to 'ungulates and captive-bred birds' to remove reference to Balai directive which does not apply to exports.

  3. The last date you can use delayed import declarations for non-controlled goods re-entering Great Britain after being in free circulation in the EU immediately prior to import has changed from 30 June 2021 to 31 December 2021. The date that hauliers moving goods from the EU to Great Britain must meet certain customs requirements until has also changed, from 1 July 2021 to 1 January 2022.

  4. First published.