EU Exit: How VAT will apply for goods imported into Northern Ireland from outside the UK or EU

Guide

Last updated 11 March 2021

This guidance only applies to movements that begin after the end of the transition period at 23:00 on 31 December 2020.

The guidance covers:

  • how VAT will apply for goods imported into Northern Ireland from outside the UK or EU
  • VAT treatment of goods located in the UK, sold by sellers established outside the UK

Where this guidance refers to overseas goods, this means goods located outside the EU at the point of sale. Where the guidance refers to an overseas’ seller, this means a seller established outside the UK.

Where existing rules will continue to apply

The changes will not apply to consignments of goods containing excise goods or to non-commercial transactions between private individuals. Existing rules will continue to apply for these transactions.

Postponed VAT accounting

Postponed VAT Accounting will be available to VAT registered traders when they release imported excise goods of any value for home consumption, allowing import VAT to be declared on their VAT return.

Alternatively, the trader’s duty deferment account can be used to pay the VAT in these cases.

Removing Low Value Consignment Relief (LVCR)

There will no longer be Low Value Consignment Relief (LVCR) for mail order goods, for consignments of goods valued at £15 or less.

If imports of consignments are £135 or less

Your goods will be subject to import VAT if imported into Northern Ireland. You’ll account for this on your UK VAT return. This aligns with the process for imports into Great Britain.

If you’re importing overseas goods (outside of the EU at point of sale) into Northern Ireland in consignments that do not exceed £135 in value the liability for import VAT will lie with the seller or online marketplace, where it facilitates the sale, for business to consumer transactions.

The overseas business or online market places will be required to register for UK VAT using the normal registration process and be liable to account for the import VAT on their UK VAT return. This is irrespective of where the overseas business or online market place is established.

When a business customer provides their valid VAT registration number

Where a business customer provides its valid VAT registration number in a business to business transaction, the liability for import VAT will lie with the business customer. This regardless of whether it is a direct sale or through an online marketplace. Postponed VAT accounting will be compulsory for these movements. The business will have to ensure they select the option to use postponed VAT accounting when submitting their customs declaration.

The UK recipient business will account for the import VAT on their VAT return. They’ll be able to recover that VAT as input tax, subject to normal VAT recovery rules, on the same VAT return.

When a business recipient of goods is not VAT registered

If a business recipient of the goods is not VAT registered (or does not provide the seller with a valid UK VAT registration number for its business at the time of purchase) then the online market place or direct seller must treat the supply as a business to consumer sale (rather than business to business sale) and account for VAT accordingly.

If imports of consignments are more than £135

For business to business imports of goods with a value exceeding £135 into Northern Ireland, the recipient business will be able to use postponed VAT accounting to account for import VAT on their VAT return for goods imported from overseas.

This means that businesses will be able to declare and recover import VAT on the same VAT return, rather than having to pay it upfront and recover it later. This is subject to normal VAT recovery rules. If they wish to use postponed VAT accounting, they will need to select it when they make their customs declaration.

For business to consumer imports of goods, import VAT will continue to be payable by the recipient under the same processes as today.

Sales through online market places by overseas sellers of goods located in the UK at the point of sale (including through fulfilment houses)

The online market place will be responsible for accounting for VAT for business to consumer sales of goods of any value owned by sellers established outside the UK, in the following circumstances:

  • goods located in Great Britain are supplied to a Northern Ireland customer
  • goods located in Northern Ireland are supplied to a Great Britain customer

The online market place will need to account for the VAT on its VAT return.

The online market place will not be liable for the VAT on business to business sales where the goods are in the UK at the point of sale. The business recipient will need to provide a valid UK VAT registration number to show that the supply is a business to business sale. Where a valid VAT registration number is provided, the seller should account for the VAT on its VAT return. If no UK VAT number is provided, the sale should be treated as a business to consumer transaction.

The online market place must notify the overseas seller that they should account for VAT on a particular sale. This is where a business customer provides a valid UK VAT registration number. The online market place should provide the overseas seller with the UK VAT registration number and the details of the sale.

When the supply of goods located in Northern Ireland is supplied to a Northern Ireland customer

The overseas seller will be liable for the VAT and will need to register and account for UK VAT, as soon as the first sale is made in this way. The online market place will not be required to register and account for the VAT, but the existing rules for joint and several liability will continue to apply.

For sales by overseas sellers that are not facilitated by an online market place, where the goods are located in the UK at the point of sale, the seller is liable to register and account for VAT on all such sales to UK customers.

Non-business sales

These measures do not apply to sales made by those who are not in business. This includes gifts and consignments sent from consumer to consumer. Check guidance on these movements.

What a Northern Ireland customer is

Whether the sale is to a Northern Ireland customer will be determined by whether the final customer’s delivery address for the goods is in Northern Ireland. This is irrespective of the customer’s billing address.

Returned Goods Relief

Returned goods relief is relief from import VAT for goods returning to the UK, if they have not been modified, changed or sold. Goods must have been in free circulation and “tax paid” before they left.

Where goods meeting these conditions are returned to a Northern Ireland business that had previously exported them, returned goods relief will be available, as long as the conditions set out above are met, and that the goods had previously been in free circulation when they were exported.

Goods that left the UK more than 3 years before the end of the transition period

Returned goods relief will be available for a further period of one year, for goods that left the UK more than 3 years before the end of the transition period and are currently in the EU subject to the same general conditions being met.