Did you know that exporters and importers can claim a relief which allows them to pay less Customs Duty and VAT when they re-import to the UK? This is thanks to a mechanism created by the UK government. Termed Returned Goods Relief, the mechanism minimises the amount of customs fees importers and exporters will have to pay if the importer or exporter can prove that the items have already passed through customs previously. Without further ado, here’s all the information you need to know about how to pay less at customs when re-importing.

Who Can Use The Returned Goods Relief?

This relief is available to anyone who is re-importing goods back into the UK. However, the person importing them back must be the same person who exported them out. You can not claim this relief if you are re-importing goods that someone else sold or moved.

To claim this relief you must have an import licence. You must also have the commodity code for your item. If you are unsure about what a commodity code is or how to use them, you can find our guide on commodity codes here.

What Goods Can The Relief Be Claimed On?

This relief is available for any goods that are being imported in the UK following their exportation out of the UK (if this is applicable for the goods). However, there are a few guidelines for the goods that must be followed.

Firstly, the goods must have undergone inward processing and must have been cleared to be eligible to be used in Great Britain and must have been in free circulation when they were exported originally.  

The goods must also be in the same condition as they were when they were exported. If they have had some work completed on them in order to maintain them small alterations are permissible, but they cannot have been altered in order to upgrade them or increase their value.

Why Would Someone Want To Use The Returned Goods Relief?

It is pretty obvious that the reason someone would want to take advantage of this relief is to save money on Customs Duty when re-importing an item. This can typically happen if the goods in question have been on loan somewhere, or on display or in storage.

Ecommerce sellers may also want to take advantage of this relief if, say for example, they had transferred some stock abroad in order to be sold but the demand for the goods is no longer present or they would rather sell the stock in the UK.

When Can You Claim?

You must claim for the relief at the point of import. In some circumstances you can make late claims and your claim may still be accepted, but to be safe it is definitely preferable to make the claim at the point of import.

Those hoping to claim should also be aware that there is a time limit of 3 years from the point of export. If your goods have been out of the UK for longer than 3 years there is no guarantee that you will be able to benefit from the relief scheme.

There are some specific circumstances where the time limit will be relaxed, such as special goods returning from long-term hire or exhibition goods that are usually displayed in the UK returning from a long-term display. For more information regarded the time limit exemptions, you can contact the National Import Relief Unit.

When it comes to re-importing goods from Northern Ireland it is not always necessary to use the relief scheme, so it is worth checking with your customs agent when attempting to re-import from Northern Ireland whether it is worth trying to use the Returned Goods Relief.

How To Claim?

You can claim the Returned Goods Relief by conduct – which consists of walking through the green channel – or orally. If your items are being moved by freight you will be required to claim the relief via the customs procedure codes in the Tariff.

You will be required to prove that the goods are acceptable with regards to the conditions that were outlined above. In order to do this, you may be ordered to complete the C1314 and C&E1158 forms.

Conclusion – The Returned Goods Relief Is Extremely Useful

This mechanism can be very useful for any UK importers or exporters. It is also worth noting that goods that were in the EU before 31st December 2020 can be re-imported using the Returned Goods Relief regardless of how long ago it was that they were originally exported from the UK. In short, the 3 year time limit will not apply to these goods. However, this must be carried out before 30th June 2022.

If you are a business who participates in cross border e-commerce, or importing of any kind, we would be more than happy to help you with your import VAT and Customs Duties. We can also help you register for UK VAT, the UK VAT deferral scheme, file your UK and EU VAT returns, and help you comply with VAT in case your account faces any issues.

At J&P, helping your business is our passion, and we understand that companies across the UK are at risk now more than ever. We are here to support you through this post-Brexit period, so please do not hesitate to give us a call on 0161 637 1080 or send an e-mail to enquiries@jpaccountant.com.