This publication is available at https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/partnership-pack-preparing-for-a-no-deal-eu-exit/preparing-for-a-no-deal-eu-exit-step-by-step-guide-to-importing
The UK government is confident of securing an ambitious and comprehensive future partnership with the EU. But as a responsible government we have a duty to prepare for all possible outcomes, including the scenario that no agreement is reached.
If we leave the EU without an agreement on 29 March 2019 (may also apply to new exit date on 31 December 2020), UK businesses will have to apply customs, excise and VAT procedures to goods traded with the EU, in broadly the same way that they already apply to goods traded outside of the EU. Trading partners in the EU will also have to apply customs, excise and VAT procedures to goods received from the UK, in the same way that they do for goods received from outside of the EU.
We have designed this step-by-step guides to help businesses understand the key actions UK business will need to carry out in order to continue trading with EU businesses in the event that the UK leaves the EU without an agreement.
It is based on the existing guidance that already applies to all of the trade that UK businesses carry out with businesses outside of the EU. The guide will be updated as any outstanding details are confirmed – including VAT and excise arrangements – and should be used in partnership with our ‘Starting to import from non-EU countries’ guidance on GOV.UK.
The guide is for advice and guidance only and is part of the government’s ongoing programme of planning for all possible outcomes. The government fully expects to negotiate an agreement with the EU.
Step 1: register for a UK Economic Operator Registration and Identification number
You need an Economic Operator Registration and Identification (EORI) number to trade.
Depending on your business you may also need to register for a European EORI number.
The application form you fill in will differ, depending on your circumstances.
You’ll receive your EORI number by email, usually within 3 working days.
Step 2: find out the commodity code of your goods
Commodity codes classify goods so you can:
- fill in declarations
- check if there’s duty to pay
- find out about duty reliefs
Classifying your goods correctly means that you:
- pay the correct amount of duty
- know if duty is suspended on any of your goods
- know if any preferential duty rates can be applied
- know if you need to obtain an import or export licence
If you are unsure of how to classify your goods, please refer to the product classification guides.
Alternatively, the Trade Tariff lists all commodity codes.
You can also email HMRC for further advice.
Step 3: determine the value of your goods
The value of the goods is necessary to determine the level of customs duty applicable.
The value is also used for trade statistics.
You arrive at the value of the goods by using one of 6 ways or ‘methods’.
It is important to note that you must try Method 1 before going on to Method 2 and so on.
Method 1 is based upon the transaction value.
This is the price paid or payable by the buyer to the seller for the goods when sold for export to the UK in accordance with specific rules.
These rules, along with the other methods of valuation, can be found in Notice 252.
Step 4: check whether your goods are prohibited or restricted
Check whether your goods are prohibited or restricted in any way or whether any additional requirements are necessary.
You can read a list of goods that you can’t bring into the UK.
Some goods are restricted and you will need a special licence to bring them into the UK.
Licences are needed for the import and export of military and para-military goods, dual-use and technology, artworks, plants and animals, medicines and chemicals.
For more information, please see the current guidance on Import and Export Licences.
Step 5: establish the origin of the goods
Establishing the origin of the goods will help to identify whether they qualify for lower or nil customs duty.
There are 2 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
The second category is more complex as there are several criteria to follow. For more information, please see the guidance on rules of origin.
Once you have clarified the origin of the goods, you can find out if they qualify for preferential treatment under a tariff preference scheme.
More information on tariff preference schemes available, and you can read about the documents you’ll need to prove origin.
Step 6: consider whether you are eligible to use any facilitations
There are a number of customs special procedures available to traders:
- storage comprising of Customs Warehousing (CW)
- specific use comprising of Temporary Admission and End Use
- processing comprising Inward and Outward Processing
Before deciding whether to use a special procedure, you should research the procedure to make sure that you can meet all the obligations attached to it.
To note, the use of special procedures requires prior authorisation from HMRC.
You can read more information on special procedures in Notice 3001.
You can read information about Transit.
Step 7: choose the correct customs procedure code for your goods
Customs procedure codes (CPCs) identify the customs and/or excise regimes which goods are being entered into and removed from (where this applies).
The CPC is based on a 2-digit community code which identifies a customs procedure. The CPC is built up into a 7-digit code from this.
You can read more information about customs procedure codes, with examples.
Step 8: declare your imports to customs
It is possible to make your own customs declarations. This is done by completing a Single Administrative Document (SAD), form C88.
SADs can be submitted electronically using Customs Declaration Service.
To complete a SAD successfully, you will need the information gained from the previous steps.
You can read guidance on how to complete a customs declaration.
Using a third party to make your customs declaration
You should consider using an experienced third party, such as a customs broker or agent, to make customs declarations for you. This can make importing simpler and faster if you’re not authorised to make electronic declarations yourself.
If you have decided to use a third party, you must, in a formal written authorisation, outline whether the third party is empowered to act as a ‘direct’ or ‘indirect’ representative.
For a definition of direct and indirect representation, and information on the legal responsibilities attached to each, please read Notice 275 (Chapter 3).
Freight forwarding is a service industry that involves moving goods around the world on behalf of importers and exporters.
One of a freight forwarders main functions is to arrange customs clearance of goods crossing the frontier. A freight forwarder or their subcontractor will have specific software that can communicate with the HMRC central computer. You can read more information on the British International Freight Association (BIFA) and Institute of Export (external) websites.
Express courier industry
The express courier industry involves operators who specialise in time-definite transportation services for documents, parcels and freight.
These operators offer world-wide, integrated, door-to-door movement of shipments which are tracked and controlled throughout the journey.
You can read more about using an operator to import and export goods.
A freight forwarder will typically deal with ensuring your goods are transported from one country to another and provide other services such as customs clearance.
Customs agents and brokers make sure that your goods can be cleared through customs en route to the final place of delivery in the UK.
A customs agent/broker will either act as a direct representative or indirect representative. You can read more about the meaning of those terms.
Step 9: pay duty on goods
You might have to pay import duty depending on the classification of the goods and where they come from. Some goods benefit from a duty suspension regime.
Your goods might also be liable to additional duties, such as anti-dumping duties.
Goods aren’t normally released by HMRC until you’ve paid all the charges due.
Exceptions to this include if the importer of the goods takes advantage of the Duty Deferment Scheme. Conditions must be met to take advantage of this scheme, and you can read more about these.
You can read more about import duty in general.
Step 10: keeping records
You’re required to keep records for all traded goods you declare to HMRC for 6 years.
This is for duty and tax purposes, and for government statistics. Read guidance on best practice for archiving your paperwork.
Things to consider: excise duty
As mentioned above, goods are not normally released by HMRC until you’ve paid all the charges due. This normally relates to any VAT or import duty that may be due.
On top of this, some goods may be liable to excise duty. Excise duty is chargeable, in addition to any customs duty which may be due.
You can read a list of goods liable to excise duty.
Things to consider: VAT treatment for imports
In the VAT for businesses technical note, the government has announced that in a ‘no deal’ scenario it will introduce postponed accounting for import VAT on goods brought into the UK.
This means that UK VAT registered businesses importing goods to the UK will be able to account for import VAT on their VAT return, rather than paying import VAT on or soon after the time that the goods arrive at the UK border. This will apply both to imports from the EU and non-EU countries.
Things to consider: Authorised Economic Operator
Authorised Economic Operator (AEO) status is an internationally recognised quality mark indicating that your role in the international supply chain is secure, and that your customs controls and procedures are efficient and compliant.
You can apply for AEO status for customs simplification (AEOC), AEO status for security and safety (AEOS) or both.
You can find more information on the application process, benefits, and more, in Notice 117.