Value Added Tax

Imports ― meaning of import and VAT on imports

Produced by Tolley
  • 22 Dec 2021 18:49

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

  • Imports ― meaning of import and VAT on imports
  • What is an import for VAT purposes?
  • When is import VAT charged?
  • When is import VAT accounted for?
  • How is an import valued for import VAT purposes?
  • Who is liable for the import VAT?
  • Practical points ― imports and import VAT

Imports ― meaning of import and VAT on imports

This guidance note looks at the VAT meaning of the term ‘import’. It also considers when import VAT is due.

For an overview of importing goods from outside the UK generally, see the Imports ― overview (rules from 1 January 2021) guidance note. For Northern Ireland, see the Northern Ireland ― overview guidance note.

In-depth commentary on the legislation and case law on VAT on imports of goods can be found in De Voil Indirect Tax Service V3.302.

What is an import for VAT purposes?

At a very high level, the term import refers to goods that are brought into the UK from a country outside the UK.

Technically, however, goods are normally considered to be imported for VAT purposes when they are declared for a customs procedure. This could be that the goods are declared to the ‘free circulation procedure’ (ie they are released for free circulation in the UK), or it could be that the goods are declared to a ‘special customs procedure’ as described in the Imports ― import VAT suspension and reliefs guidance note). For customs declarations and VAT generally, see the Imports ― customs declarations and VAT guidance note.

There are special rules for Northern Ireland, which has a different relationship with the EU for VAT purposes. For discussion of Northern Ireland, see the Northern Ireland ― overview guidance note.

When is import VAT charged?

VAT is due on imports of goods into the UK. It is therefore important to be clear

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