COVID-19: Customs and import VAT changes

Last updated: 2 December 2020

To assist with the COVID-19 response, HMRC has published the following information on COVID-19 easements for importers, exporters and customs authorisations.

Customs duty and import VAT on medical supplies, equipment and protective garments

Specific goods such as hand hygiene products, cleaning and medical equipment can be imported without payment of import VAT or customs duties where such goods are either for onward donation or for onward sale in specific circumstances (set out below).

The relief applies until 31 December 2020 and can be claimed by:

  • state organisations, including state bodies, public bodies and other bodies governed by public law; and
  • other authorised non-state bodies

Non-state bodies can request authorisation by contacting the National Import Relief Unit (NIRU) by emailing [email protected] for an application form.

Relief will apply to protective equipment, other relevant medical devices or equipment that are imported:

  • for donation to those affected by, at risk from, or involved in combating COVID- 19; or
  • to be made available free of charge to those affected by, at risk from, or involved in combating the COVID-19 outbreak, while remaining the property of the organisations importing them.

A full list of eligible goods is linked to from the official guidance on GOV.UK.  

VAT on domestic supplies is not affected by this relief, and VAT must be charged and accounted for at the normal rate on any onward sale.

Moving goods through customs

A number of changes have been made to how goods are cleared through customs during the COVID-19 crisis, including:

  • Exports less than €3,000 that are not subject to prohibitions or restrictions can be declared for export in the UK, even if the exporter is established in another EU Member State.
  • For those transporting goods, the expected journey time entered on a transit declaration can reflect anticipated delays.
  • Those unable to accurately calculate their supplementary declaration by the due date as a result of COVID-19 can submit an estimated figure (though for declarations including an amount of Excise duty a supplementary declaration must be submitted as normal).

Further information on all these measures can be found in the official guidance on GOV.UK.

Customs authorisations

To help during the COVID-19 crisis, HMRC have temporarily changed customs policy and authorisations on an exceptional basis.

These changes may affect those who are authorised or applying to be authorised by customs to:

  • use temporary storage or customs special procedures such as inward processing or customs warehousing;
  • use simplified declarations such as entry in their records;
  • have a guarantee; or
  • operate as an Authorised Economic Operator.

Changes have been made in the following areas:

  • What to do if it is not possible to comply with a condition of authorisation.
  • Use of email instead of post to apply for customs authorisations and guarantees.
  • HMRC customs visits
  • Automatic renewals of authorisations.

More information can be found in the official guidance on GOV.UK