Claiming tariff quotas to reduce import duties


Last updated 21 October 2021

Tariff quotas allow you to import limited amounts of specific goods (sometimes from specific countries) at a rate of duty lower than would otherwise apply.

You do not need to claim a tariff quota if there is a lower or the same rate of duty available under:

  • other preference arrangements
  • an import duty suspension

Most tariff quotas operate on a first come first serve basis.

To benefit from the tariff quota rate of duty, you or someone acting on your behalf for customs must make a claim on the import declaration covering the release of goods to free circulation. It will not be applied automatically.

Other tariff quotas are licence based, access to them depends on you getting an import licence before importing the goods concerned.

Find out more information about licenced tariff rate quotas.

Check what goods are covered

You can check if individual goods are covered by a tariff quota by classifying them with the right commodity code using the trade tariff tool.

Alternatively you can use the quota search in the trade tariff tool to get information on specific quotas.

You will need to check the information in the tariff tool to see which quota applies to the goods you are importing and any conditions, including country of origin and documents needed.

If your goods are listed, you will need the 6-digit tariff quota order number and include this in the import declaration.

If the quota order number begins 054 the Rural Payments Agency will administer the quota.

When you can make a claim

First come first serve tariff quotas should be claimed when your goods are entering free circulation.

You may be able to make a claim up to 3 years after your goods have been imported if the tariff quota is still available.

Before you make a claim

Check the status of quotas

You should use the trade tariff tool quota search to check the status and balances of quotas to see if there is a quota that you can claim.

Quotas can be:

  • open - the quota is not expected to exhaust for some time and a lower rate of duty can be given automatically to any valid claim
  • critical - the quota may be nearing exhaustion or there is no information to base a prediction of how quickly it will be used up
  • quota exhausted - all claims will be rejected

Check the balances of quotas

Quota balances are updated on the trade tariff tool after each allocation has happened. The available balance will change depending on the number of claims received and being processed.

The amount, which can be imported, can be expressed in units of:

  • quantity
  • value
  • volume
  • weight
  • length

How to make a claim

You (or someone dealing with customs for you) must enter the tariff quota order number on the import declaration in:

  • box 39 if you’re using Customs Handling of Import and Export Freight (CHIEF)
  • Data Element 8/1 if you’re using the Customs Declaration Service

You must also indicate on your declaration that the documents required to support the claim are available (box 44 or Data Element 2/3).

You will have to provide security for duty at the full rate if the quota is critical.

If the quota is exhausted, your claim will be refused and you will have to pay duty at the full rate.

If your goods are covered by a licence quota you must still include the tariff quota order number in your declaration.

Provisional claims

If you registered your provisional claim by putting the tariff quota order number in your declaration with a code to say that the necessary documentation was not available, you must provide a security for the full amount of duty payable.

Once you receive the documents you should send them immediately to the National Clearance Hub along with:

  • form C285
  • details of the entry and the quota claimed

Your claim will be treated as a late claim and if the tariff quota has exhausted before the documents are received it will be refused.

Refunds will not be sent until your original documents have been received.

Late claims

You can make a late claim to a tariff quota using form C285. Your claim will be registered on the date that you apply for the refund.

You should also explain why you did not make a claim when your goods entered into free circulation.

HMRC will work out your claim based on when you put your goods into free circulation. If the quota has exhausted your claim will be refused.

Claiming a quota using Authorised Use

Some tariff quotas only apply to goods put to a specific use (known as Authorised Use).

You’ll need to get written authorisation from HMRC before you claim a tariff quota for those goods.

When this is given, you will be allocated an authorisation number which must be entered on your import declaration when claiming the quota.

Claiming a quota using simplified declarations for imports

If you are authorised to use simplified declarations for imports you can make a claim to a tariff quota when you submit your supplementary import declaration.

We will use the date of acceptance of the declaration to register and schedule the claim.

The quota may be exhausted before the declaration is submitted. You will need to decide if using simplified declarations to claim a quota is best for you.

Paying duty and securities

You must make sure you have paid any duties when you make your declaration.

If the tariff quota status is critical you will be required to provide a security as there is no guarantee that your claim will be allowed. The security must be equal to the full rate of duty before we can register your claim.

Find out how to pay duties and VAT on imports.

After you’ve claimed

Your claim is registered by HMRC only when:

  • your declaration is correct
  • all the documents have been presented
  • any duties that are payable have been paid or secured

If your claim is invalid, for example you do not possess the necessary supporting documents or have misclassified the goods, you will need to pay the full rate of duty.

The quota balance is checked, and a decision on whether it can be fully met, partly met or not allowed is made. HMRC will then recalculate the duty you need to pay. If you believe you are due a repayment, email the Customs Accounting Service at:

A quota may become exhausted without ever being critical. If this happens, the full rate of duty is charged.

Repayments of duty

You may be able to get a repayment of duty if you made a valid claim but HMRC made an error and it was not processed before the quota was exhausted.

Find out how to apply for a repayment of duty.