Guidance

HM Revenue & Customs' National Import Reliefs Unit

How the National Import Reliefs Unit (NIRU) controls imports on certain goods from outside the EU and what tax and duty reliefs may apply

Introduction

HM Revenue & Customs’ (HMRC) National Import Reliefs Unit (NIRU) is the single national office responsible for the control of imports from outside the European Union, where any of the following procedures and reliefs have been used:

  • Inward Processing (IP) using a Simplified Authorisation
  • Community System of Duty Reliefs (CSDR)
  • Outward Processing Relief (OPR) using a Simplified Authorisation
  • Processing under Customs Control (PCC) using a Simplified Authorisation
  • Returned Goods Relief (RGR)
  • End Use using a Simplified Authorisation
  • Onward Supply Relief (OSR)

NIRU is based at Abbey House, Head St, Enniskillen, Northern Ireland, BT74 7JL and can be contacted from 08.00 to 16.00, Monday to Friday by:

NIRU information on Simplified Inward Process

Inward Processing (IP) is a procedure which promotes exports from the EU by suspending the payment of duty at the time of import.

Duty can be suspended when goods are imported into the UK for processing or repair and are then re- exported outside the EU.

Traders who do not regularly import goods for process or repair, may not need a prior authorisation to bring the goods into the UK. Imports to the procedure can be made by the acceptance of the Import Entry. The acceptance by HMRC of the import entry is considered as the granting of the authorisation to use IP.

How Does IP using a Simplified Authorisation work?

  1. The importer declares the goods at import using the appropriate Customs Procedure Code (CPC) - the most common CPCs are CPC51 00 001 and 51 00 003.
  2. The importer is responsible for accounting for the import. Goods must be re-exported using CPC 3151000.
  3. After the time allowed (normally six months) for the processing / repair to be completed, the goods should be accounted for by sending a Bill of Discharge (also known as a Return) (C99) to NIRU showing proof that the goods have been correctly re-exported. The Bill of Discharge must give the Export Entry details including the EPU, Entry Number and date. This information should be provided by the Agent who shipped the goods for you.
  4. Occasionally goods may remain in the UK, perhaps because an export order has been lost. The person who imported the goods to the procedure is liable for the duty suspended at import and the import VAT which is due when the goods are entered to free circulation in the EU. Compensatory interest may also be charged.

NIRU control of IP using a Simplified Authorisation

  • if you have not sent a Bill of Discharge to HMRC’s NIRU within 6 months of the date of import, you will receive a reminder letter.
  • if you have any questions about the goods imported, country of origin etc. you should contact the Agent who shipped the goods. NIRU do not hold this information. The Agent’s name and reference number are shown on the reminder letter.
  • you can access the IP Bill of Discharge form C99 on the HMRC website and send it to NIRU by post, fax or email.
  • if NIRU do not receive the form within 6 months and 30 days of import, you will receive a demand for payment for all the monies owing.
  • if, exceptionally, you cannot complete the process or repair within 6 months, you should write to NIRU requesting an extension to the time limit. Your request should set out the exact reasons why an extension is needed.

Read guidance on IP in Notice 221A on the HMRC website.

Onward Supply Relief

Onward Supply allows relief from import VAT on goods imported by a taxable person in the course of a zero-rated supply of those goods to a VAT registered customer in another EU member state.

The main conditions for OSR are as follows:

  • only UK VAT registered traders can claim the relief. The goods must be imported in the course of their zero-rated supply to a taxable person in another member state.
  • freight forwarding agents can also use OSR provided they are making a zero-rated supply of the imported goods, and not merely sending them, to someone who is registered for VAT, and who will account for the tax on their acquisition, in another EU country.
  • the relief may not be used speculatively (ie there must already be a customer for the goods when they are imported)
  • they must be removed to another member state within one month of the date of importation.
  • goods which are to be processed may not be entered to this relief. The name, address and VAT registration number of the consignee in the member state of destination must be shown on the import entry.

National Import Reliefs Unit - Returned Goods Relief

RGR provides relief from charges on re-imported goods, which were originally in free circulation in the EU, returning in the same state as at original export.

Goods can return to the UK/EU under RGR if, for example, part of a contract or operation carried out overseas has now been completed so that the goods are now free to return to the original owners, or for goods no longer wanted by the overseas customer, due to any number of changed circumstances. The goods return to the seller based in the UK/EU who originally exported them.

RGR normally requires the use of specific import Customs Procedure Codes to claim relief from charges.

For goods to be entitled to use RGR for duty relief:

  • there must be adequate evidence to use as reference to show the goods were originally exported from the Customs Union of the UK/EU - this evidence must be supplied at re-import
  • the goods were in free circulation in the UK/EU prior to Export and no refund of Duty or VAT was claimed at export
  • the goods are being returned within three years of the original export
  • the goods are returning to the UK/EU in their original unaltered state

Additionally, for eligibility for VAT relief, the application to use RGR on re-import must be made by the original exporter.

If, on re-import, the eligibility evidence if not available for presentation, security must be taken for the value of the duty and VAT due.

HMRC’s NIRU control and give advice on RGR used by commercial traders. They also monitor traders granted certain concessions within the RGR regime. For instance, a compliant trader granted a concession will not have to provide export evidence and/or will be able to waive the three year requirement since export, on re-import. The trader will have to provide the export details and other eligibility documentation, at a later date, on the request of HMRC, as part of the assurance programme. If the during the assurance event it is discovered the trader is not complying with the conditions of the regime the concession may be withdrawn.

You can read Notice 236 on importing returned goods free of duty and tax on the HMRC website.

National Import Reliefs Unit - Community System Duty Reliefs

Community System Duty Reliefs (CSDR) provides relief from customs duty, and in some cases VAT and excise duty, on a range of goods imported to free circulation:

  • for educational, scientific or cultural purposes
  • to encourage trade (for example, goods for test and commercial samples)
  • for other purposes (for example for awards and decorations, or when inherited, or received as private gifts)

Key features

  • CSDR requires the use of specific import Customs Procedure Codes to claim relief from customs duty and / or import VAT charges
  • authorisation is required from HMRC’s NIRU or other government departments to use a number of the CSDR reliefs
  • some of the CSDR reliefs carry specific post import disposal restrictions

You can read more about each of these reliefs by reading the relevant notice on the HMRC website:

Low value bulk import

The thresholds for the import of low value goods are provided for in European Union and UK legislation.

Currently this means that:

  • consignments with an intrinsic value of £15 or less are free from both customs duty and import VAT
  • import VAT is payable when the intrinsic value over the goods is over £15
  • customs duty and import VAT is payable when the intrinsic value of the imported goods is over £135

Low value bulk import (LVBI) is a UK concession where couriers or fast parcel operators who regularly import bulk low value items to several consignees can apply to HMRC for approval to bulk their imports.

LVBI allows authorised traders to make a single import entry to HMRC. This must have a manifest attached that identifies the individual items and their final delivery address details in that consignment, with sufficient detail for customs control purposes.

The LVBI import declaration must be entered to HMRC on Form C88/SAD (or electronic equivalent) using the correct Customs Procedure Code (CPC) for the imported goods. Volume 3, Part 3 and Appendix E2 of the Integrated Tariff provide full details of how to complete the import declaration and the completion notes for the CPCs.

Prior authorisation is required to use LVBI and application forms can be obtained from NIRU. A pre-authorisation visit by HMRC may also be carried out.

The LVBI concession must not be used:

  • for imports of low value commercial goods - this is one of the conditions of LVBI authorisation
  • with another simplified import procedure, eg it must not be used with Customs Simplified Freight Procedures

LVBI authorisation is dependant on the observance of the authorisation obligations and requirements and is subject to the general powers of revocation or variation held by HMRC.

LVBI approval CPCs

There are currently four CPCs for LVBI.

The first two are CPCs 40 00 003 (for imports from 3rd countries) and 49 00 003 (imports from an EU Special Territory eg Channel Islands). These CPCs are used for bulk imports to various consignees of low value items that do not exceed £15*, where customs duty and import VAT relief is claimed.

The main requirements of these CPCs are provided below but please also refer to Volume 3, Part 3 and Appendix E2 of the Integrated Tariff and the completion notes for the individual CPCs for full details of how to complete the import declaration:

  • the total value of goods per consignee declared on the entry must not exceed £15. 
  • the £15 value is the intrinsic value of the goods, ie the price paid or payable for the goods excluding postage and packing and insurance costs.
  • this CPC must not be used for consignments that are dispatched to a recipient outside the UK.
  • only a maximum of 99 items may be declared on a single bulked entry. 
  • bulking is restricted to goods that are imported on a single vessel/aircraft. 
  • the EORI number of the approved LVBI trader must be shown in Box 8 of the entry (C88). 
  • box 44 AI statement on the entry (C88) must show the valid NIRU LVBI approval number. If an approval number is out of date - eg entry made in December 2010 for an approval ending 30.11.10 - the LVBI declaration will be rejected. 
  • where a consignment consists of several items to a single recipient, the total intrinsic value of those items must not exceed £15 in order to qualify for relief under these CPCs. If the total intrinsic value exceeds £15, these CPCs must not be used. 
  • the CPCs must not be used for imports of samples

The use of these CPCs is a declaration that the consignment(s):

  • are not liable to excise duty
  • do not have an intrinsic value of £15
  • have been dispatched direct from a third country or an EU Special Territory
  • are not subject to any Prohibitions or Restrictions, for example, controlled drugs, firearms and fake branded goods which may be subject to Intellectual Property Rights

From 1 April 2012, the Channel Islands will no longer be eligible for the £15 VAT relief.

The second two are CPCs 40 00 005 (imports from 3rd countries) and 49 00 005 (imports from an EU Special Territory eg The Channel Islands). These CPCs are used for bulk imports to various consignees of low value items that are in excess of £15 and liable to import VAT but not exceeding £135 where customs duty relief is claimed.

The main requirements of these CPCs are provided below but please also refer to Volume 3, Part 3 and Appendix E2 of the Integrated Tariff and the completion notes for the individual CPCs for full details of how to complete the import declaration:

  • the total value of goods per consignee declared on the entry must not exceed £135. 
  • the £135 value is the intrinsic value of the goods, ie the price paid or payable for the goods excluding postage and packing and insurance costs. Where the total value exceeds £135 a full import entry must be made.
  • this CPC must not be used for consignments that are dispatched to a recipient outside the UK
  • only a maximum of 99 items may be declared on a single bulked entry. 
  • bulking is restricted to goods that are imported on a single vessel/aircraft. 
  • the EORI number of the approved LVBI trader must be shown in Box 8 of the entry (C88). 
  • box 44 AI statement on the entry (C88) must show the valid NIRU LVBI approval number. If an approval number is out of date - e.g. entry made in December 2010 for an approval ending 30.11.10 - the LVBI declaration will be rejected. 
  • where a consignment consists of several items to a single recipient, the total intrinsic value of those items must not exceed £135 in order to qualify for relief under these CPCs. If the total intrinsic value exceeds £135, these CPCs must not be used. 
  • the commodity code of the goods which represent the highest value must be entered in Box 33. The commodity code must also be shown against the description of the goods for each item on the supporting manifest. 
  • the CPCs must not be used for imports of samples.

The use of these CPCs is a declaration that the consignment(s):

  • are not liable to excise duty
  • does not have an intrinsic value of £15
  • have been dispatched direct from a third country or an EU Special Territory
  • are not subject to any prohibitions or restrictions, for example, controlled drugs, firearms and fake branded goods which may be subject to Intellectual Property Rights

From 1 April 2012, the Channel Islands will no longer be eligible for the £15 VAT relief.

Single entry Low Value CPCs

CPC 40 00 C07/49 00 C07 are for single low value imports for EU customers where the intrinsic value is less than £15 and relief from both customs duty and import VAT is being claimed. No NIRU prior approval required.

CPC 40 00 004/49 00 004 are for single low value imports for EU customers where the intrinsic value is between £15 and £135 where import VAT is payable but customs duty relief is being claimed. No NIRU prior approval is required.

CPC 40 00 600 is a bulk entry with payment of full charges. It is not to be confused with the LVBI approved imports. 40 00 600 allows bulking of entries as long as the aggregate value does not exceed £6,000; duty is chargeable at the commodity code with the highest rate of duty. NIRU approval is not required.

CPC 40 00 C08 - this CPC can be used either for single or bulked entries of goods not exceeding £36 per consignee. It can only be used for private imports from private individuals. Again not to be confused with the NIRU LVBI procedure which relates to imports purchased from abroad rather than gifts.

CPC 40 00 057 - this allows imports up to the value of €350 for private goods. Duty is payable at a flat rate of 3.5 per cent. Full VAT is payable. This CPC relates to a number of items being imported by the same person.

CPC 40 00 C31 - this CPC relates to bulked imports of advertising and publicity material. Full duty is due for consignments to the EC. Read Notice 342 - importing miscellaneous documents and other related articles free of duty/VAT on the HMRC website.

National Import Reliefs Unit - Processing under Customs Control

Processing under Customs Control (PCC) allows certain raw materials or components to be imported from outside the EU under duty suspension arrangements for processing and subsequent release to free circulation in the EU. If you intend to export the processed products you should apply for duty suspension using inward processing.

How does PCC work?

After processing the finished products may be declared to free circulation at the lower duty rate that applies to the processed goods rather than the rate that applied to the raw materials.

Authorisation to use PCC and how to notify NIRU

There is a simplified authorisation available at the time of import. This may suit you if you make only occasional imports to PCC and the processing operations are carried out in the UK only.

Notification must be reported to NIRU on PCC return form C99. Access form C99 - Inward Processing Relief (suspension system) using the simplified authorisation procedures - bill of discharge on the HMRC website.

The supervisory office for simplified authorisations is:

The National Import Relief Unit (NIRU)
Abbey House
Head Street
Enniskillen
County Fermanagh
Northern Ireland

For process using PCC on a regular basis you will need to apply for an authorisation on form C&E 1321. Access form C&E 1321 - Application for Processing Under Customs Control on the HMRC website. You will be issued with an authorisation number which must be quoted on all import documents. The application form and details of where to send your completed application are available from the HMRC Excise & Customs Helpline on Tel 0845 010 9000.

Find PCC eligibility requirements on Notice 237 on the HMRC website.

Imports to simplified PCC by the fruit and vegetable sector

PCC is used by the fruit and vegetable sector to facilitate customs clearance for goods selected by Defra for conformity inspection. To facilitate customs clearance for inspection purposes, the import entry is declared under CPC 91 00 F11 and the goods are free to travel to the designated inspection premises.

After the inspection has taken place and any Defra requirements have been met, you must then make a Customs entry to Free Circulation bringing to account any charges payable on the imported product. 

Find details about PCC in Notice 237 on the HMRC website.

National Import Reliefs Unit - Simplified Outward Processing Relief

OPR is a customs procedure which allows you, on re-import, to pay duty on the added value of goods which have been processed or repaired outside the EU instead of on the full value of the goods as would normally be the case.

VAT is due on the value of the process, not the full value of the goods. Learn how to calculate duty for OPR in the guide on Outward Processing Relief (OPR). However, if the goods have been temporarily exported for repair and are found to be irreparable, the VAT is due on the full value of the new, replacement goods unless the re-importer can provide and copy of the warranty or guarantee which shows that the goods are to be replaced free of charge. If this evidence is not available on re-import then security must be provided for duty and VAT potentially due until the evidence can be provided.

NIRU control the simplified OPR authorisations for repair and non commercial authorisations which are for personal use or for close members of your family (non commercial) or for when OPR is only needed occasionally.

Simplified authorisation for repair is applied for by completion of a C88, at export, using Customs Procedure Codes 21 00 004, 21 41 B51 and 21 51 B51. The relief is claimed at re-import after the process or repair. The export declaration number is noted in box 40 of the OPR re-import declaration. If this number is not available then security must be taken for VAT and duty potentially for the full value of the goods.

If OPR is required on a more than occasional basis then a full OPR Authorisation must be applied for using form C&E 1153. Find OPR C&E 1153 application form on the HMRC websiteSee Notice 235 for form C&E 1153 completion instructions on the HMRC website.

NIRU control simplified OPR by carrying out projects and percentage checks on entries to ensure compliance with the conditions of this relief.

For more information on OPR, see the guide on OPR.

Simplified end use

Simplified end use is primarily designed for certain industries such as shipbuilding and aircraft manufacture, who are not locally authorised, and who only import occasionally.

Eligible goods are highlighted in Notice 770 and relief is only available for end-use operations carried out in the UK.

The entry is made using the appropriate Customs Procedure Code. A form C100, stating the importers intentions, is completed and kept with the entry.

Simplified end use may be applied for at the time of import by completing a C88. You may only use the simplified end-use system if you import goods on an occasional basis. In order to use a simplified authorisation the importer must:

  • wholly assign the goods to the prescribed end use
  • involve only UK customs
  • not transfer the goods to other persons authorised or otherwise
  • only use the simplified authorisation for civil aircraft, aircraft engines and occasional importations( approximately 3 per year) - it must not be used as a regular means of importation
  • not use Customs Freight Simplified Procedures to enter the goods
  • be established in the EU

Find details in Notice 770 - End-Use Relief and C1317 application form on the HMRC website.

For more information on end-use relief, see the guide end-use relief.

Further Information

HMRC National Import Relief Unit

028 6634 4557

Inward Processing using a simplified authorisation in Notice 221A on the HMRC website

IP Bill of Discharge form C99 on the HMRC website

Notice 236 on importing returned goods free of duty and tax on the HMRC website

Notice 361 - importing museum and gallery exhibits free of duty and VAT on the HMRC website

Notice 342 - importing miscellaneous documents and other related articles free of duty/VAT on the HMRC website

Notice 343 - importing capital goods free of duty and VAT on the HMRC website

Notice 365 - importing animals for scientific research free of duty and VAT on the HMRC website

Notice 366 - Importing biological and chemical substances for research free of duty and VAT on the HMRC website

Notice 368 - importing inherited goods free of duty and VAT on the HMRC website

Notice 369 - Importing blood grouping, tissue typing & therapeutic substances duty & VAT free on the HMRC website

Notice 374 - importing goods for test free of duty and VAT on the HMRC website

PCC information in Notice 237 on the HMRC website

Form C99 - Inward Processing Relief (suspension system) using the simplified authorisation procedures - bill of discharge on the HMRC website

Form C&E 1321 - Application for Processing Under Customs Control on the HMRC website

SAD (Single Administrative Document) form (C88) on the HMRC website

OPR C&E 1153 application form on the HMRC website

Notice 235 on OPR on the HMRC website

Notice 770 - End-Use Relief and C1317 application form on the HMRC website

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