Guidance

Temporary storage for imports

Use temporary storage to defer duty payments when you're importing from outside the EU.

Temporary storage for imported goods

Temporary storage is when goods imported from outside the EU are temporarily stored under customs supervision before they’re:

  • placed under a special procedure
  • released for free circulation
  • exported outside the EU

When you put imported goods into temporary storage you must immediately show them to the authorities by completing a temporary storage declaration, using a customs approved electronic inventory system.

By doing this, you can defer the full customs declaration and payment of taxes until the end of the permitted storage period.

Time limit

Goods can only be held in temporary storage for a maximum of 90 days. If this time limit expires you’ll have to pay the duty and VAT, and may have to pay a penalty.

Application and authorisation process

To apply you need to complete a Register of Interest for Temporary Storage form online.

You’ll be sent an application form to complete, or you can call the Border Force National Frontiers unit on telephone: 0121 781 7861 or 0121 781 7856 to get one.

You must specify the type of goods to be stored on the request for approval. The National Frontier Approvals Unit will let you know if you need to contact any other government departments as part of the approvals process for these goods.

Post the completed application form to:

National Frontier Approvals Unit
UK Border Force
1st Floor Admin Block
Cargo Centre
Birmingham International Airport
Birmingham
B26 3QN

Border Force will visit the proposed storage facilities and make sure they meet the necessary criteria and regulations.

Temporary storage facilities

Goods being temporarily stored must be kept on premises that are situated:

  • within an airport or sea port
  • outside of, but linked to, an airport or sea port

All importers can use temporary storage facilities, but you can only apply to have your premises approved as a temporary storage facility if you’re involved in the movement of goods imported from outside the EU as a:

  • freight forwarder
  • customs agent
  • warehouse keeper
  • transport company

Temporary storage facilities must be approved by Border Force and:

  • meet the requirements of the national health and safety at work legislation
  • be suitable for storing, loading, examining and sampling of goods
  • be secure and maintained in good repair
  • keep proper customs approved electronic inventory stock records

You can get full details about the conditions and criteria from the Border Force National Frontier Approvals Unit on telephone: 0121 781 7861 or 0121 781 7856.

Approved temporary storage facilities are considered to be part of the UK border. The main types of storage facilities are:

  • internal temporary storage facility (ITSF), is a place inside the customs controlled area of the frontier (port or airport) and near the port or airport
  • internal temporary storage facility - remote (ITSF-R), is a place outside the customs controlled area of the frontier (port or airport) but still near the port or airport
  • external temporary storage facility (ETSF), is a place outside the customs controlled area of the frontier (port or airport)
  • external temporary storage facility (approved depository) (ETSFAD), is a facility that stores personal and household goods

Temporary storage facilities may include tanks and unshedded areas.

Forms of handling allowed in temporary storage

EU legislation restricts forms of handling in temporary storage to only what is necessary to ensure preservation of the goods in an unaltered state without modifying their appearance or technical characteristics.

You cannot break up individual packages in temporary storage, except for essential examination or preservation purposes. All goods covered by a temporary storage declaration, whether unloaded or not, must be shown intact and can only be unpacked after goods have been cleared to a customs procedure, re-exported or released for free circulation.

Movement of goods to, and between, temporary storage facilities

You can move goods under your temporary storage approval from one approved storage facility to another using a Community Service Provider system.

Alternatively, you can use the New Computerised Transit System.

Special treatment for certain goods

Import and export licences

All goods can be kept in temporary storage but some, such as foodstuffs and firearms, are subject to special licences and controls.

Goods subject to checks before they move into temporary storage

You cannot move certain goods from their place of importation to a temporary storage facility until they have been through additional checks. For example:

How to get help

You can contact HMRC by online form, telephone or post with your import and export queries.

You can also find more information about temporary storage in Notice 199A: temporary storage and approved depositories.

Published 3 August 2012
Last updated 25 September 2018 + show all updates
  1. Information on the main types of storage facilities has been updated.
  2. This guide has been amended to include numerous changes following the introduction of the Union Customs Code (UCC). The guide has also been substantially rewritten to improve style and readability.
  3. Fixing references to specialist guides
  4. First published.