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HMRC internal manual

Imports

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HM Revenue & Customs
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Introduction: law and regulations

EC VAT law

The EC law relating to imports and goods removed from suspensive regimes is contained in the EC Council Directive 2006/112/EC, also known as the Principal VAT Directive (PVD).

UK law

Primary law

The main legal provisions governing import VAT are in the VAT Act 1994. For a summary of primary legislation concerning import VAT use IMPS09000. You should note that the effect of section 16 of the VAT Act 1994 is that most customs and excise legislation applies to import VAT, except where specifically dis-applied through secondary legislation.

The VAT Act 1994 section 1(4) provides that import VAT is treated as a duty of customs:

    • (1) Value added tax shall be charged, in accordance with the provisions of this Act-

(a) on the supply of goods or services in the United Kingdom (including anything treated as such a supply),

(b) on the acquisition in the United Kingdom from other member States of any goods, and

(c) on the importation of goods from places outside the member States, and references in this Act to VAT are references to value added tax.

(2) VAT on any supply of goods or services is a liability of the person making the supply and (subject to provisions about accounting and payment) becomes due at the time of supply.

(3) VAT on any acquisition of goods from another member State is a liability of the person who acquires the goods and (subject to provisions about accounting and payment) becomes due at the time of acquisition.

(4) VAT on the importation of goods from places outside the member States shall be charged and payable as if it were a duty of customs.

The VAT Act 1994 section 16 applies customs legislation to import VAT, subject to certain exceptions:

16(1) Subject to such exceptions and adaptations as the Commissioners may by regulations prescribe and except where the contrary intention appears-

(a) the provision made by or under the Customs and Excise Acts 1979 and the other enactments and subordinate legislation for the time being having effect generally in relation to duties of customs and excise charged on the importation of goods into the United Kingdom; and

(b) the Community legislation for the time being having effect in relation to Community customs duties charged on goods entering the territory of the Community,

shall apply (so far as relevant) in relation to any VAT chargeable on the importation of goods from places outside the member States as they apply in relation to any such duty of customs or excise or, as the case may be, Community customs duties

Secondary law

Secondary legislation concerning import VAT is mainly contained in Regulations and Orders made under powers contained in the VAT Act 1994. For a list of secondary legislation use IMPS09500. Regulations 118, 119, 120 and 121 of the Value Added Tax Regulations 1995 specify the EC and Revenue & Customs legislation excepted from application to VAT under s16 (1) of the VAT Act 1994.

Extra-statutory concession

In certain circumstances where remission or repayment of VAT, customs duty or excise duty is not provided for by law, Revenue and Customs may allow relief on an extra-statutory basis. For import VAT purposes an extra-statutory concession exists for repayment of import VAT to shipping agents and freight forwarders. For further details of the conditions for repayment see IMPS03360.