Rules of origin for imported and exported goods

Defining the origin of goods


The rate of duty that must be paid on your goods will depend on three elements - the type of goods, the country the goods are being imported into and where they are judged to have 'originated' from. The first step is to clarify the origin of the goods.

The European Community (EC) has trading agreements with certain non-EC countries and regional trading blocs or free trade areas. Once you have determined origin, you will be on your way to classifying your goods and establishing whether an agreement is in place with the country or countries with which you wish to trade. Where an agreement exists, you will need to check whether your goods qualify for any preferential treatment - eg reduced or nil rate of duty, which that agreement might allow.

Defining the origin

There are two main categories of origin in the rules:

  • goods wholly obtained or produced in a single country
  • goods whose production involved materials from more than one country

This second category is the more complex as there are several criteria to consider - eg the origins of the materials, the country in which the final substantial production phase took place and the value the working and processing in each country has added.

If a product is manufactured entirely in the European Union (EU) and is exported to a country with which there is a preferential arrangement, it may attract lower or nil rates of duty when it is imported into the destination country.

However, if some of the components are manufactured in the EU, but components are added and the product is assembled in another country, it may be judged that the product originates from the country where it is assembled. The duty requirement will depend on the arrangements between the country in which the product was assembled and the country into which it will be imported.

Getting help

Access the UK Trade Tariff.

If you are importing goods, you can contact the HMRC VAT Helpline on Tel 0300 200 3700.

If you are exporting goods, you should check with your customer, the customs authorities in your customer's country or the Invest NI overseas trade division.