How to set up a customs warehouse to store goods

Find out how to set up and use a customs warehouse as a trader to store goods with duty or import VAT suspended.

A customs warehouse allows traders to store goods with duty or import VAT payments suspended.

Once goods leave the warehouse, you must pay duty unless they are re-exported or move to another customs procedure.

HMRC must authorise you to run a customs warehouse.

Goods you can store in a customs warehouse

You can store goods in a customs warehouse if they are:

  • imported from outside the EU, and are liable to customs duties or import VAT – this includes goods imported under Customs Freight Simplified Procedures (CFSP)
  • moved from another EU country in duty suspension
  • Common Agricultural Policy goods that qualify for an export refund
  • EU goods that qualify for common storage arrangements

You can also put goods into a customs warehouse if:

  • you do not know the final destination of your goods when they arrive in the UK
  • there has been a delay to your import licences or paperwork, or you are waiting for a duty-relief quota to become available (for example, for agricultural goods)
  • you want to use another customs procedure (for example, Inward Processing for non-excise goods)

How to set up a customs warehouse

To run a customs warehouse, you must be an authorised warehouse keeper. Use form SP2 to apply to HMRC for authority.

To qualify as a warehouse keeper, your business must:

  • be registered in the EU
  • use the warehouse to mainly store goods
  • prove there is a real economic need, and you will have enough clients or business to run the warehouse
  • be able to meet the conditions of authorisation
  • provide a financial guarantee

You do not need to own the premises to be a warehouse keeper, but you must keep stock records and maintain and operate the warehouse to health and safety standards.

What Multi State Authorisations are

Multi State Authorisations are authorisations that are valid in more than one member state. They can apply to:

  • Temporary Admission
  • End Use
  • Inward Processing
  • Outward Processing
  • customs warehousing

Economic Operators must use a European Union Gateway website to access the EU Central Service site to ask for authorisation.

Email: to get access to the website. Include your:

  • name
  • contact email address
  • Economic Operator Registration and Identification scheme (EORI) number

HMRC will email you within 5 days to confirm you have been set up to access the European Union Gateway website, and give you the link to access it.

Responsibilities of a warehouse keeper

If you are a warehouse keeper, you must:

  • meet HMRC’s conditions for your authorisation
  • check goods when they arrive and record any shortages or surpluses
  • set up stock records for goods and keep them secure
  • keep stock records for at least 4 years
  • give HMRC officers access to the warehouse, goods and records
  • run the premises and make sure the warehouse meets health and safety standards

Responsibilities of a depositor

A depositor is a trader who places goods into a warehouse.

If you are a depositor, you have responsibility for the declaration used to put goods under customs warehouse procedures. You must:

  • accurately declare the goods entered into the warehouse
  • make sure your goods go straight to the warehouse shown on the declaration – within 5 days of your customs declaration clearing
  • give the warehouse keeper details of the declaration and explain any differences found between the goods deposited and the declaration
  • make sure the warehouse keeper has authorisation to store the type of goods you want to deposit
  • make sure you accurately declare goods when they leave the warehouse

You’re also responsible for any customs debt from declaration errors.

Get an agent to make declarations on your behalf

There are 2 ways your agent can enter goods into a customs warehouse for you, they are:

  • direct representation – where the agent enters goods on your behalf, in your name, you are responsible for any customs debt due from errors
  • indirect representation – where the agent enters goods on your behalf, in their own name, you are also liable for any customs debt due from errors

Make sure you give clear written instructions for the goods entering the warehouse, and check any paperwork.

If you are a depositor and your agent is entering your goods into a public warehouse, you must check the paperwork your agent sends to the warehouse keeper is correct.

What the types of warehouse are

There are 2 types of customs warehouse:

  • public warehouses (Type R) – operated by a warehouse keeper to store goods deposited by other traders
  • private warehouses (Type U) – operated by an individual trader who acts as depositor and authorised warehouse keeper for the storage facility, they do not need to own the goods, but must be the depositor

How to enter goods into a customs warehouse

Traders can enter goods into a customs warehouse:

Traders can use CFSP to declare goods to customs warehousing. You can find detailed information on CFSP in Notice 760: Customs Freight Simplified Procedures (CFSP).

Once you have checked space at the warehouse of your choice, you or your agent must complete the Single Administrative Document (SAD) (form C88)and send it to the National Clearance Hub.

You could be liable to a customs debt if you make any errors on the form.

Use volume 3 of the UK Trade Tariff to help you complete the SAD.

You can find information on all the boxes that you need to complete in The Single Administrative Document for import and export guide.

You must move goods to the approved customs warehouse within 5 days of your declaration.

Extra checks or controls

There are extra controls for warehouses used to store excise goods.

Goods under prohibitions or restrictions must have had the right documents shown when they arrived at the EU border.

Meat or meat products must also have been through veterinary checks at the EU border before they enter the customs warehousing procedure.

If you receive goods from another customs warehouse

You must declare goods received from another customs warehouse on the SAD (form C88).

What to do if you find discrepancies

You must have a system in place to investigate and resolve all discrepancies (over and under shipments) between the declaration entering the goods to the warehouse procedure and the actual quantity of goods received.

You do not need to report discrepancies until you have investigated them. You must report discrepancies (over and under shipments) that you cannot resolve within 14 days to your supervising office.

If there is a discrepancy where you do not own the goods, you must inform the depositor or owner of the goods at once. They will investigate what has happened and provide you with either an explanation, supporting evidence or both.

What to do if you have an over-shipment

Goods received more than the declared quantity are dutiable and warehoused until you can resolve the matter.

You should change the original declaration if you are declaring an overshipment to the warehouse procedure. If this is not done, you must declare it to free circulation and pay the right duties and charges.

What to do if you have an under-shipment

The warehouse keeper should have evidence that the goods were not received into the warehouse. They should keep the evidence and make it available for inspection when needed.

If you cannot resolve the discrepancy, the warehouse must notify the Supervising Office within 14 days. There must be a change made to the declaration if the goods did not enter the procedure.

Unless the importer can provide evidence to prove that the loss occurred outside the EU or the goods were not shipped, you must it report to the Supervising Office. This report needs to include enough detail to raise a C18. A C18 (Post Clearance Demand Notes) is a way of updating an account with additional revenue found to be due after the processing of the declaration.

How you can handle goods in storage

Customs warehouses are for the storage of goods, but some minor handling (known as ‘usual forms of handling’) is allowed to:

  • preserve goods
  • improve the presentation or marketable quality of goods
  • prepare goods for distribution or resale

HMRC must authorise these forms of handling before they take place. This is usually arranged at the same time as your authorisation to operate the customs warehouse.

Use form SP2 to get authorisation from HMRC if you need to:

  • temporarily remove goods to carry out a usual form of handling
  • remove samples of goods

You must receive authorisation from HMRC before you remove anything and keep full records for both situations.

You can find detailed information on handling customs warehousing goods in Notice 3001: customs special procedures for the Union Customs Code.

If you need to remove goods from a customs warehouse to process them, you will need to transfer them to Inward Processing.

What a common storage arrangement is

Common storage arrangements let you make best use of your warehouse space by storing goods of different customs status together.

You can also store Inward Processing goods as long as as you can identify the status of your goods at all times. You must tell HMRC and keep full records.

If you do not know the current customs status of all the goods you want to keep together in common storage (under customs warehousing or Inward Processing), you can still store them together, as long as the goods have the same:

  • 8 digit commodity code
  • commercial quality
  • technical characteristics

How to remove goods from a customs warehouse

Goods you release to free circulation

If you release goods to free circulation, this means:

  • you remove goods from the customs warehouse procedure
  • all duties are paid
  • the goods enter the EU open market

Duties due on goods you release from the customs warehousing procedure

When you release your goods from the customs warehousing procedure, you may have duties and taxes to pay. You can work this out using:

If you move goods to another customs procedure

You will not be liable to a customs debt if you move customs warehousing goods to another customs-approved treatment or use, for example re-export.

If you do this, you must make a SAD (form C88) declaration and use the customs code for the procedure the goods are entering.

If you transfer goods to another customs warehouse

When you have authorisation to use a customs warehouse, HMRC will tell you which methods you can use to transfer goods. HMRC may also ask to examine your goods.

You must make sure the warehouse keeper has authorisation to receive the goods you are transferring to them.

You can move goods between:

  • the same authorisation
  • different authorisations
  • the same EU country
  • different EU countries

The dispatching and receiving warehouse must complete a declaration when goods move between different authorisation holders.

Goods moved between premises covered by the same authorisation, declarations are not needed. You must keep records on the movement of the goods and their location.

If you re-export goods from a customs warehouse

You can use the National Export System to re-export goods. The system is electronic, so reduces paperwork and approval times.

How to get help

You can find more information in Notice 199: imported goods, customs procedures and customs debt.

Published 6 August 2012
Last updated 4 June 2019 
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