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HMRC internal manual

VAT Personal Exports: Retail Exports

Personal exports - retail exports: Controls at export - airports and ports: Overview and object of export control

The goods and the VAT refund document must be produced to Customs at the point of departure from the EC. UK customs officers are responsible for certifying the VAT refund documents where the goods exit the EC from the UK. Liaison between customs staff at export locations and VAT assurance staff has significant benefits. This guidance has been written with liaison in mind. To assist in understanding how the scheme should be operated at all stages this section outlines the Customs procedures.

VAT export zero rating is a high revenue risk area. Customs officers have the opportunity to see the goods, the VAT refund document, till receipts, the traveller, and the traveller’s passport. VAT Assurance staff cannot view the goods, the traveller, or evidence that the traveller is an entitled person, and they will probably only see the VAT refund document long after the event. The importance of checks made by the Customs officers at the final port / airport of departure from the EC cannot therefore be underestimated. Carefully selected checks will:

  • identify unjustified claims such as high value goods substituted by others of much less value; and
  • provide a basis for assuring the correct operation of VAT retail export scheme by retailers.