Pay less import duty and VAT when re-importing goods to the UK


Last updated 31 December 2021

You can get a relief if you’re re-importing goods into the UK that have previously been exported or transported from the UK. This is known as Returned Goods Relief.

You can claim the relief for goods:

  • exported from the UK (exclusions apply to certain goods exported from Northern Ireland)
  • moved from Northern Ireland to Great Britain (England, Wales and Scotland) and returned to Northern Ireland
  • exported from the EU to Great Britain and moved into Northern Ireland
  • exported from Northern Ireland to any country outside the EU and returned to Northern Ireland

You may not need to use Returned Goods Relief when moving qualifying Northern Ireland goods back to Great Britain from Northern Ireland.

Information about moving goods temporarily into and out of Great Britain and Northern Ireland.

To claim the relief on the import VAT, the exporter and importer must be the same person.

The goods must be re-imported in an unaltered state, apart from any work that may have been carried out to maintain the goods in working order, the goods cannot have been upgraded to increase their value.

The goods must also:

  • have been in free circulation in Great Britain or Northern Ireland when they were exported, unless they were originally declared to inward processing or end-use
  • not have been exported to be repaired or processed, if they were but the repair or process was not carried out, relief may still be available
  • be re-imported within 3 years of their export, shorter periods apply to goods which benefitted from agricultural measures at export

If only a proportion of the original export is returned, then subject to the conditions above, relief is available.

On re-importation, any duty suspended at the time of their original importation to inward processing must be repaid. Also, any agricultural refunds received on export must be repaid.

The requirement that the goods must be returned within 3 years can be waived by HMRC in exceptional circumstances.

What you can claim relief on

You can get relief on goods being imported into:

  • Great Britain following their export from the UK
  • Northern Ireland following their export from Northern Ireland to the EU

This includes:

  • goods exported from Great Britain or Northern Ireland as free circulation goods benefitting from agricultural measures
  • goods exported from Great Britain or Northern Ireland following inward processing
  • goods imported into Great Britain which were previously declared to authorised use in Great Britain (if the goods are put to the same authorised use when imported)
  • goods imported into Northern Ireland which were previously declared to end-use in Northern Ireland or the EU (if the goods are put to the same authorised use when imported)
  • goods temporarily exported using the Admission Temporaire (Temporary Admission) (ATA) or Carnet de Passages en Douane (CPD) carnet procedures
  • goods declared for an outward processing procedure and exported, that remain:
    • unprocessed on re-import
    • in the same state as they were when originally exported
  • returned personal effects, vehicles, sports equipment or means of transport
  • returned professional and commercial equipment that have been hired, leased or loaned outside the UK

You can get relief on pallets, containers and packaging suitable for re-use, for example if they are:

  • used to import goods to Great Britain or Northern Ireland
  • pallets and containers previously exported or used to export goods from the UK or EU, which are re-imported to the UK
  • goods imported into the UK from the UK sector of the continental shelf where they had previously been exported to the UK Continental Shelf (UKCS), and discharged under authorised use

In addition to customs requirements, when you claim VAT relief you must show the:

  • original export declaration with you as the exporter – if you cannot provide this HMRC will consider alternative evidence of export
  • re-import declaration with you as the importer

Claiming the relief for goods exported from Northern Ireland
You can only claim this relief in Great Britain for goods which have been previously exported from Northern Ireland if both of the following apply:

  • the goods were in free circulation at the time they were moved from Northern Ireland to Great Britain
  • the goods are UK domestic goods, including those moved to Northern Ireland from Great Britain

You can hire someone to deal with customs and to transport your goods from overseas.

If you’re moving goods into Northern Ireland from Great Britain, you can sign up for the Trader Support Service to support you making a declaration.

EU member states
Returned Goods Relief is available in the EU and the procedures are the responsibility of the relevant customs authority.

Find out more information.

Normal time limits for returning goods

The goods must be returned no later than 3 years after they were exported to be eligible for this relief. This rule does not apply to:

  • goods owned by Crown Servants returning to the UK after their postings overseas (the time limit for Crown Servants is currently 6 years) – Crown Servants include:
    • diplomatic staff
    • armed forces
    • embassy
    • consular personnel

The requirement that the goods must be returned no more than 3 years after the date of export will be waived if any of the following circumstances apply:

  • specialised goods or equipment have been on long-term hire or loan outside the UK
  • building equipment or machinery have been used in one or more capital project outside the UK
  • exhibition goods have been on long-term display or loan outside the UK or have been stored outside the UK
  • goods could not be returned within 3 years of export because of circumstances beyond the control of the person returning the goods

The requirement will also be waived if:

  • professional effects are being returned to the UK to be used for professional purposes – including portable instruments of the applied or liberal arts (required by the claimant for their trade or profession)
  • collectors’ or heritage items (such as collectable items of furniture or ceramics) that were originally manufactured in the UK and have been acquired outside the UK
  • personal property of a UK resident is being returned to the UK for either:
    • personal (non-commercial) use of a UK-resident person
    • meeting household needs of a UK-resident person

‘Personal property’ includes:

  • household effects including personal effects, household linen, furnishings and equipment intended for the personal use of the claimant or for use within their household
  • cycles, motor cycles, private motor vehicles (and their trailers), camping caravans, pleasure craft and private aircraft
  • household provisions appropriate to normal family requirements, household pets and saddle animals

Requests for a waiver of the requirement to return goods no later than 3 years after the date of their export should be sent to the National Import Reliefs Unit together with:

  • the circumstances of their request that have been specified
  • why a claimant considers such a waiver would be reasonable, with regard to the specified circumstances

Contact the National Import Reliefs Unit for more information on these special circumstances.

Extended time limits for goods located in the EU on 31 December 2020

Goods transported from the UK which were in the EU on 31 December 2020, will be eligible for relief even if the normal 3-year time limit for re-importation has expired.

To claim this relief for goods which do not meet the normal 3-year time limit, you must re-import these items back to Great Britain by 30 June 2022 and meet the other conditions for Returned Goods Relief. This requirement will not apply if the normal 3-year time limit is waived in circumstances listed in the Normal time limits for returning goods section.

You will not need to give the actual date the goods were exported from the UK, you’ll only need to show that the goods were in the UK at some point before 31 December 2020 and were in the EU on that date.

This extended time limit does not apply to goods re-imported into Northern Ireland.

Before you claim

You should check if your goods are strictly controlled and if you’ll need an import licence.

When you get the commodity code for your goods using the Tariff it will tell you if you need a licence.

When to claim

You should claim relief at the time of import. If you do not do this, a late claim and repay the appropriate charges subject to conditions.

How to claim

You can claim Returned Goods Relief in the normal way, orally or by conduct (walking through the green channel). If you are sending your items by freight you should claim the relief by using the customs procedure codes in the Tariff.

You’ll need to prove that the goods satisfied the conditions for acceptance as returned goods at the time of previous export from the UK.

You may be asked to complete the C1314 and C&E1158 forms to support your claims.

Form C1314 (PDF, 628KB)

Form C&E 1158 (PDF, 102KB)

If you are moving goods from Northern Ireland to Great Britain or, from either Great Britain or Northern Ireland to the EU, you may be able to provide alternative evidence of export to claim the relief when returning your goods to Great Britain.

Alternative evidence
Alternative evidence which clearly confirms the previous export of those goods and their duty status at export (that is goods in free circulation, products of an inward processing operation or end-use goods) will be considered.

If the goods are readily identifiable and duty status is clear, one or more of the following documents may be accepted as evidence:

  • a document that proves the goods were previously in Great Britain, Northern Ireland or the EU (where relief is being claimed in Northern Ireland for goods originally exported from the EU)
  • a copy of the export invoice
  • a copy of the export airway bill or bill of lading
  • a commercial certificate of shipment prepared at the time of export
  • a certificate of posting relating to the export of the goods
  • a copy of the import invoice if it clearly shows that the goods are being returned
  • a suitable statement from the manufacturer or exporter if other than yourself
  • a preferential origin form EUR1 in certain cases
  • in the case of collectable items, catalogue information or qualified opinion from a recognised expert in the field such as National Institutes and specialist auction houses
  • record from the trader’s stock record book

If you’re regularly importing returned goods and presentation of the evidence at the time of import is difficult for you, alternative arrangements may be offered.

Goods imported in baggage
You do not need to make a formal customs declaration to claim relief on your own personal belongings re-imported in accompanied baggage if the conditions for relief are met.

You must declare any other re-imported goods in your baggage, for example commercial samples, at the red channel or red point when you arrive, and you may be asked to make a formal customs declaration claiming relief.

Goods imported by post from outside Great Britain
Ask the sender to write ‘Returned goods — relief claimed’ clearly on the package and its accompanying customs declaration. The declaration must include a complete and accurate description of the goods, their quantity and value. If you’re registered for VAT, make sure your VAT number is quoted on the declaration (CN 22 or CN23).

Find out more information about importing goods by post.

Goods exported under the National Export Scheme (NES)
You must quote the export declaration reference number on the re-import declaration. If you do not have this, the movement reference number generated by the Customs Handling of Import and Export Freight (CHIEF) system at export can be used.

Claiming relief for goods benefitted from agricultural measures

You can claim this relief for goods that you’ve previously claimed for if:

  • any refunds or other amounts paid under those agricultural measures have been repaid, the necessary steps have been taken to withhold sums to be paid under the agricultural measures in respect of those goods, or the other financial advantages granted have been cancelled
  • the goods were in one of the following situations:
    • they could not be put on the market in the country to which they were exported
    • they were returned by the consignee as being defective or non-contractual
    • they were re-imported into the UK because they could not be used for the purposes intended owing to circumstances outside the exporter’s control

Circumstances outside the exporter’s control are if:

  • the goods are returned to the UK following damage occurring before delivery to the consignee, either to the goods themselves or to the means of transport on which they were carried
  • the goods were originally exported for the purposes of consumption or sale in the course of a trade fair or similar occasion which have not been so consumed or sold
  • the goods could not be delivered to the consignee on account of his physical or legal incapacity to honour the contract under which the goods were exported
  • the goods, because of natural, political or social disturbances, could not be delivered to the consignee or reached them after the contractual delivery date
  • fruit and vegetables were exported and sent for sale on consignment but were not sold in the market of the country of destination

The goods are declared for the free circulation procedure within 12 months of the date of completion of the customs formalities relating to their export.

Claiming relief for goods previously exported from Great Britain or Northern Ireland following inward processing

You can claim relief on the re-importation of third country goods which were previously relieved from Customs Duty under inward processing arrangements if you:

  • pay the amount of duty originally relieved under inward processing
  • meet all other relevant Customs Duty relief conditions
  • declare the goods to customs procedure code (CPC) 61 23 F01

Relief may also apply to goods incorporating third country components previously in inward processing if you comply with the conditions above.

The sum you must pay for relief purposes is the amount of duty which would have been due had the goods been diverted to free circulation after completion of the last inward processing transaction.

You must include details of the amount previously relieved under inward processing on form C&E 1314 which is to accompany the import declaration form.

Find out more information about inward processing.

Claiming relief for goods exported from the UK following authorised or end-use

Relief can be claimed on goods which, prior to export, were imported for authorised-use provided the goods are being re-imported for the same authorised-use purpose.

If the goods declared were imported to authorised-use but not put to their specific use, the goods should be exported under customs procedure code 10 40 000. On return, the goods should be entered to authorised-use again under the relevant authorised-use customs procedure code.

Import charges will be relieved by the production of the export documentation.

If the goods were put to their specific use prior to export, they can be re-imported using this relief subject to the usual conditions.

Authorised-use is known as end-use when exporting goods from Northern Ireland.

Claiming relief for exporting goods using a Duplicate List

This is a procedure that can be used when temporarily exporting goods from the UK and subsequently re-importing them. It is available for a range of free circulation goods travelling with you as accompanied baggage.

Goods subject to any UK Government licensing requirements or excise goods are not eligible to use the Duplicate List procedure.

The goods must not be processed or repaired (other than routine maintenance) whilst outside the UK. You’ll still need to complete the customs documentation and give any financial security normally required by the country to which you take your goods.

Find out how to export goods using a Duplicate List.

Claiming relief for a pleasure craft

A pleasure craft returning to the UK under this relief must complete a customs declaration and use customs procedure code 61 23 F01.

Find out more information about sailing your pleasure craft to and from the UK.

Returning vehicles requiring registration

If a vehicle requires registration, you should read more about importing vehicles into the UK.

Getting someone else to complete your customs declaration

You can use someone else to complete entries on your behalf but you must make sure you give clear written instructions for the goods that you’re claiming relief on.

After you’ve claimed

Records you must keep
You must keep:

  • any National Imports Relief Unit acknowledgement letters
  • receipts
  • bills
  • invoices
  • insurance documents

You must keep all records for a minimum of 4 years.

If you want to appeal
Appeal if you disagree a decision made by HMRC.