Freight transportation ― handling, storage, intermediary and freight forwarder services

By Tolley

The following Value Added Tax guidance note by Tolley provides comprehensive and up to date tax information covering:

  • Freight transportation ― handling, storage, intermediary and freight forwarder services
  • Handling and storage services
  • Intermediary services connected with freight transport
  • Freight forwarders

This guidance note provides details of the VAT treatment of handling, storage, intermediary and freight forwarder services provided in connection with freight transportation services. This note should be read in conjunction with the Supplies of freight transport services guidance note.

De Voil Indirect Tax Service V3.191 (subscription sensitive); VATA 1994, Sch 4A, para 13; HMRC Notice 741A ; HMRC Notice 744B ;
Handling and storage services

There are special VAT rules regarding the handling and storage of cargo that will be transported in a ship or aircraft. The following are typical examples of the types of services that HMRC consider should be treated as handling and storage services connected with cargo shipments:

  • cargo security systems
  • a box charge levied on container handling services
  • detention of a ship, freight car, or other cargo conveyance during loading or unloading beyond the scheduled time of departure (demurrage)
  • loading stores and discharging empties
  • loading, unloading, stowing, reloading, securing or shifting cargo
  • preparing or amending bills of lading, seaway bills or certificates of shipment
  • preparing and amending Customs entries
  • presenting goods for a Customs inspection
  • services by personnel loading or unloading of ships (‘stevedoring’) and porterage
  • undertaking surveys of damaged or undamaged cargo
  • use of flat bottom barges to deliver or unload goods to or from a cargo ship or transport goods over short distances ('lighter')
  • opening cargo for inspection, sorting, repairing, weighing / taring, sealing / taping, labelling / numbering, checking, sampling, measuring / gauging and remarking / erasing


It should be noted that the hire of goods including cranes or other lifting equipment is not zero-rated. There are special rules regarding the hiring of goods and further information can be found in the

More on Cross border supplies of services: