Find out about HMRC’s National Import Reliefs Unit

How the National Import Reliefs Unit (NIRU) controls imports on certain goods from outside the EU and what tax and duty reliefs may apply.


HMRC’s NIRU is the single national office responsible for the control of imports from outside the EU, where any of the following procedures and reliefs have been used:

  • Inward Processing (IP) using an authorisation by declaration
  • Community System of Duty Reliefs (CSDR)
  • Outward Processing Relief (OPR) using an authorisation by declaration
  • Returned Goods Relief (RGR)
  • End-Use using an authorisation by declaration
  • Onward Supply Relief (OSR)

Authorisation by declaration IP

IP is a procedure which promotes processing by suspending the payment of duty at the time of import.

Duty can be suspended when goods are imported into the UK for processing or repair and are then re-exported outside the EU. They can also be declared to free circulation at the lower duty rate that applies to the processed goods, rather than the rate that applied to the raw materials under Article 85 of the Union Customs Code.

Traders who do not regularly import goods for process or repair, may not need a prior authorisation to bring the goods into the UK. Imports to the procedure can be made by the acceptance of the import entry.

The acceptance by HMRC of the import entry is considered as the granting of the authorisation to use IP. You should only use authorisation by declaration a maximum of 3 times per year.

IP can be used by the fruit and vegetable sector to help customs clearance for goods selected by the Department for Environment Food & Rural Affairs(Defra) for conformity inspection.

To help customs clearance for inspection purposes, the import entry is declared under Customs Procedure Code (CPC) 51 00 001 and the goods are free to travel to the designated inspection premises.

After the inspection has taken place and any Defra requirements have been met, you must then make a customs entry to free circulation bringing to account any charges payable on the imported product.

Use form BOD3 to send a return to NIRU.

How IP works

  1. The importer declares the goods at import using the appropriate CPC – the most common are CPC 51 00 001 and 51 00 003.
  2. The importer is responsible for accounting for the import. Goods must be re-exported using CPC 3151000.
  3. After the time allowed (normally 6 months) for the processing or repair to be completed, the goods should be accounted for by sending a Bill of Discharge (also known as a Return) form BOD3 to NIRU showing proof that the goods have been correctly re-exported or declared to free circulation. The Bill of Discharge must give the export entry details including the Entry Processing Unit (EPU), entry number and date. This information should be provided by the agent who shipped the goods for you.

NIRU control of IP using an authorisation by declaration

All imports to IP must hold an authorisation to use the relief. These are either full pre-approved authorisations for regular importers, as supervised by Nottingham, or what were previously known as simplified authorisations.

NIRU supervise these authorisations and are automatically granted to the importer at the time of making a declaration to the relief.

The CPC’s are:

  • 5100001
  • 5100003
  • 5171001
  • 5171004

The process of getting your authorisation at the time of import is now called ‘authorisation by declaration’. The main aspects of NIRU supervision and control of the relief are:

  • if you have not sent a Bill of Discharge to HMRC’s NIRU within 6 months of the date of import, you’ll receive a reminder letter
  • if you have any questions, for example about the goods imported or country of origin, you should contact the agent who shipped the goods – NIRU do not hold this information – the agent’s name and reference number are shown on the reminder letter
  • sending the IP Bill of Discharge form BOD3 to NIRU by post, fax or email
  • if NIRU do not receive the form within 6 months and 30 days of import, you’ll receive a demand for payment for all the monies owing
  • if, exceptionally, you cannot complete the process or repair within 6 months, you should write to NIRU requesting an extension to the time limit – your request should set out the exact reasons why an extension is needed

Find out more information on IP in Notice 3001: customs special procedures for the Union Customs Code.

Onward Supply Relief

Onward supply allows relief from import VAT on goods imported by a taxable person in the course of a zero-rated supply of those goods to a VAT-registered customer in another EU member state.

The main conditions for OSR are:

  • only UK VAT-registered traders can claim the relief – the goods must be imported in the course of their zero-rated supply to a taxable person in another member state
  • the relief may not be used speculatively (that is, there must already be a customer for the goods when they’re imported)
  • they must be removed to another member state within one month of the date of importation
  • goods which are to be processed may not be entered to this relief – the name, address and VAT registration number of the consignee in the member state of destination must be shown on the import entry

Returned Goods Relief

RGR provides relief from charges on re-imported goods, which were originally in free circulation in the EU, returning in the same state as at original export.

Goods can return to the UK and EU under RGR if, for example, part of a contract or operation carried out overseas has now been completed so that the goods are now free to return to the original owners, or for goods no longer wanted by the overseas customer, due to any number of changed circumstances.

RGR normally requires the use of specific import CPCs to claim relief from charges.

For goods to be entitled to use RGR for duty relief:

  • there must be adequate evidence to use as reference to show the goods were originally exported from the Customs Union of the UK and EU – this evidence must be supplied at re-import
  • the goods were in free circulation in the UK and EU prior to export and no refund of duty or VAT was claimed at export
  • the goods are being returned within 3 years of the original export
  • the goods are returning to the UK and EU in their original unaltered state

Additionally, for eligibility for VAT relief, the application to use RGR on re-import must be made by the original exporter.

If, on re-import, the eligibility evidence is not available for presentation, security must be taken for the value of the duty and VAT due.

NIRU control and give advice on RGR used by commercial traders. They also monitor traders granted certain concessions within the RGR regime.

For instance, a compliant trader granted a concession will not have to provide export evidence and/or will be able to waive the 3 year requirement since export, on re-import. The trader will have to provide the export details and other eligibility documentation, at a later date, on the request of HMRC, as part of the assurance programme.

If during the assurance event it’s discovered the trader is not complying with the conditions of the regime the concession can be withdrawn.

You can read more in Notice 236: Returned Goods Relief on importing returned goods free of duty and tax.

Community System of Duty Reliefs

CSDR provide relief from Customs Duty, and in some cases VAT and Excise Duty, on a range of goods imported to free circulation:

  • for educational, scientific or cultural purposes
  • to encourage trade (for example, goods for test and commercial samples)
  • for other purposes, for example:
    • awards and decorations
    • when inherited
    • when received as private gifts

Key features

CSDR requires the use of specific import CPCs to claim relief from Customs Duty and/or import VAT charges.

Authorisation is required from HMRC’s NIRU or other government departments to use a number of the CSDR reliefs.

Some of the CSDR reliefs carry specific post import disposal restrictions.

Relevant notices

You can read more about each of these reliefs by reading the relevant notice:

Authorisation by declaration OPR

OPR is a customs procedure which allows you, on re-import, to pay duty on the added value of goods which have been processed or repaired outside the EU instead of on the full value of the goods as would normally be the case.

VAT is due on the value of the process, not the full value of the goods. Notice 3001: customs special procedures for the Union Customs Code tells you how to calculate duty for OPR.

If the goods have been temporarily exported for repair and are found to be irreparable, the VAT is due on the full value of the new, replacement goods unless the re-importer can provide a copy of the warranty or guarantee which shows the goods are to be replaced free of charge.

If this evidence is not available on re-import then security must be provided for duty and VAT potentially due until the evidence can be provided. This type of authorisation should only be used a maximum of 3 times a year.

NIRU control the authorisation by declaration OPR authorisations for repair and non-commercial authorisations which are for personal use or for close members of your family (non commercial) or for when OPR is only needed occasionally.

Authorisation by declaration for repair is applied for by completion of a C88, at export, using CPCs:

  • 21 00 004
  • 21 41 B5
  • 21 51 B51

The relief is claimed at re-import after the process or repair. The export declaration number is noted in box 40 of the OPR re-import declaration. If this number is not available then security must be taken for VAT and duty potentially for the full value of the goods.

NIRU control authorisation by declaration OPR by carrying out projects and percentage checks on entries to ensure compliance with the conditions of this relief.

Authorisation by declaration End-Use

Authorisation by declaration End-Use is primarily designed for certain industries such as shipbuilding and aircraft manufacture, who are not locally authorised, and who only import occasionally.

Eligible goods are highlighted in Notice 3001: customs special procedures for the Union Customs Code and relief is only available for End-Use operations carried out in the UK.

The entry is made using the appropriate CPC.

End-Use Relief can be applied for at the time of import by completing a C88. You can only use the authorisation by declaration End-Use system if you import goods on an occasional basis.

In order to use an authorisation by declaration authorisation the importer must:

  • wholly assign the goods to the prescribed End-Use
  • involve only UK customs
  • not transfer the goods to other persons authorised or otherwise
  • not use Customs Freight Simplified Procedures to enter the goods
  • be established in the EU

This type of authorisation should only be used a maximum of 3 times a year.

Once the goods have been put to End-Use you should send form BOD4 to NIRU.

Contact the NIRU

National Import Reliefs Unit
Dorchester House
52-58 Great Victoria Street
Northern Ireland

Telephone: 0300 322 7065

The NIRU is open from 8am to 4pm, Monday to Friday.

Published 10 August 2012
Last updated 25 May 2018 
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