Returning goods to the UK

Find out how to bring goods back into the UK after they’ve been imported into another country or if they’re rejected for import at the other country’s border, where import and export declarations are required.

These processes do not apply to movements of goods between Great Britain and Northern Ireland in either direction. HMRC will provide guidance on these movements at a later date.

To return goods to the UK, there are differing requirements depending on if the goods:

  • were in free circulation in the UK before you exported them
  • were in free circulation in the EU before being returned
  • were rejected at the border of the country you’re exporting to
  • are subject to additional requirements before you can import them back into the UK

In all instances, to return goods to the UK, you must complete the following steps:

  1. Contact your regulator (if required) – find out what goods are regulated.
  2. Claim Returned Goods Relief if you’re eligible and want to avoid being charged import duty.
  3. Complete a full import declaration unless:

Due to a temporary waiver, you do not need to complete a safety and security declaration for goods being returned to Great Britain (England, Scotland and Wales) from the EU before 1 January 2022. If goods are returned to Great Britain from outside the EU, a safety and security declaration (also known as an entry summary declaration) may still be required.

Goods rejected at the other country’s border

If the goods you export from the UK are rejected for import into another country, you’ll be able to return them to the UK in most instances.

Your goods may be rejected if:

  • they’re missing essential markings or information
  • there’s an issue with the import declaration
  • the quality of the goods may cause risk to others

Where goods are denied release onto the market, you may be able to rectify the issues locally, for example, by arranging relabeling in temporary storage. You should ask the relevant customs or market surveillance authority operating at the frontier (in the country of entry) for advice.

If you’re unable to rectify the issues locally or decide not to use temporary storage, you must have the appropriate documentation and complete a full import declaration to return the goods.

If the goods you’re exporting from Great Britain are deemed a risk to public health, the border’s sanitary and phytosanitary authority will decide what happens to them – this often results in them being destroyed.

Find out what you need to do before exporting goods from the UK.

Returning goods after import to another country

For non-controlled goods re-entering Great Britain after being in free circulation in the EU immediately prior to import, you can use delayed import declarations until 31 December 2021.

For controlled goods, you must have the appropriate documentation and complete a full import declaration on their return.

Until 1 January 2022, there are certain customs requirements for hauliers moving goods from the EU to Great Britain.

Some commodities are subject to additional regulatory requirements, meaning you’d need to make a full import declaration when the goods return. You’ll need to meet additional requirements for goods:

  • covered by international conventions and commitments, such as:
    • endangered species of wild fauna and flora – requiring Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES) checks
    • fluorinated greenhouse gas and ozone-depleting substances – requiring you to follow specific regulations
    • rough diamonds – requiring the Kimberley Process
    • non-perishables – requiring ATA Carnets
  • subject to sanitary and phytosanitary controls, such as:
    • animal, fishery and plant products
    • high-risk food and feed not of animal origin
    • live animals and plants
  • with specific customs requirements
  • including strategic exports, such as:
    • bottled water
    • chemicals
    • plant protection products (pesticides)
    • drug precursor chemicals
    • firearms
    • waste
    • timber
    • medicines
    • substances of human origin

When to contact your regulator

You’ll need to contact your regulator if your goods are:

Returned Goods Relief

When claiming Returned Goods Relief in your import declaration, you must:

  • use the Returned Goods Relief procedure code
  • give details of your export declaration or (for goods returning to Great Britain which were exported from the UK or transported to the EU before 1 January 2021) alternative evidence that the goods were previously in the UK.

Find out who can claim Returned Goods Relief.

Published 29 January 2021
Last updated 16 March 2021 
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    If you’ve appointed someone to deal with UK customs for you, they’ll make the declaration and get your goods through the UK border.

    1. Make an export declaration and get your goods cleared by UK customs

    You may need other documentation to get your goods into the destination country. Ask the person or business buying your goods what information you need to provide.

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