Exporting goods ― evidence of export

Produced by Tolley

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

  • Exporting goods ― evidence of export
  • What is evidence of export?
  • Official evidence
  • Commercial transport evidence
  • Supplementary evidence
  • Additional proof of export for indirect exports
  • Exports to the Channel Islands
  • What are the zero-rating conditions for exporting goods after processing or incorporation?
  • What happens if the exporter loses the evidence of export or only has photocopy evidence?
  • How long does the export evidence need to be retained?
  • More...

Exporting goods ― evidence of export

In addition to the requirements laid down in the Exporting goods ― overview guidance note, businesses intending to zero-rate exported goods must hold satisfactory evidence that the goods have been delivered to a destination outside of the UK. If satisfactory evidence is not obtained, then the supply cannot be zero-rated. Businesses that zero-rate supplies without obtaining the necessary export evidence may be subject to assessments for the VAT due, interest and potentially a penalty as well.

For in-depth commentary on the legislation and case law relating to proof of export, see De Voil Indirect Tax Service V4.302.

What is evidence of export?

HMRC talks about three broad kinds of proof of export, namely:

  1. official evidence

  2. commercial transport evidence

  3. supplementary evidence

Notice 703, para 6.1; VEXP30400

To zero-rate an export, a business must hold official evidence and / or commercial transport evidence. Both have equal weight so one or the other should be acceptable. In addition, this should be supported by ‘supplementary’ evidence which is typically evidence that a business would expect to hold irrespective of its VAT obligations.

The different kinds of evidence are explored further below.

The evidence obtained as proof of export, whether official, commercial or supporting, must clearly identify:

  1. the supplier

  2. the consignor (where different from the supplier)

  3. the customer

  4. the goods

  5. an accurate value

  6. the export destination, and

  7. the mode of transport and route of the export movement

Notice 703, para 6.5

Vague descriptions of the goods and the value of those goods will not be accepted by HMRC and failure to provide satisfactory proof of export will result in the shipment becoming liable to VAT.

Official evidence

These are documents that are issued by HMRC and include:

  1. Goods Departed Messages (GDM) generated by the National Export System (NES) or the Customs Declaration Service (CDS)

  2. Single Administrative Documents (SAD) endorsed by HMRC at the time the goods were exported

  3. confirmation of the electronic discharge of an NCTS movement

VEXP30400; Notice 703, para 6.5

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