VAT in Brief – Imports UK

By Steve McCrindle, Haines Watts

When goods are imported into the UK VAT becomes due (at 20%, 5% or 0%). The following local B2B sale is subject to UK VAT at the applicable rate, and an intra-community sale or export is zerorated. Importers have to provide a Guarantee in favour of HM Revenue & Customs, but this can be dispensed with in certain circumstances.

Import VAT refund

Import VAT can normally be claimed back by all UK and non-UK businesses unless the business performs VAT-exempt activities: both UK, EU and non-EU businesses via their UK VAT returns (if UK VAT registered), or for the latter two categories through a special claim via the VAT portal (if not required to be UK VAT registered).

Simplification measures

Import VAT is due for payment at the time of importation by UK and non-UK businesses alike, unless it is able to be deferred or is subject to a VAT Suspension Regime; both of which have to be applied for.

Fiscal Representatives

A foreign business can register directly for VAT in the UK. Where a non-UK business makes supplies within or from the UK, albeit it has no establishment (either business or fixed) it must register for UK VAT via the NETP office (for Non- Established Tax Payers). There is no requirement to appoint a Fiscal Representative or Agent, but if a foreign business does not have a UK presence it follows that it will normally require some form of representation.

All of the foregoing is subject to exceptions and nuances, and it is strongly recommended that VAT advice is obtained before taking any action.


Steve McCrindle

Steve McCrindle

Haines Watts, With more than 60 offices throughout the UK
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GGI Indirect Taxes Practice Group
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Steve McCrindle is a VAT Partner at Haines Watts, a leading provider of business advice and accounting services to ownermanagers operating in the UK and abroad. It has more than 60 offices throughout the UK. He is also Global Chairperson of the GGI Indirect Taxes Practice Group.

Haines Watts assists clients to navigate complex issues around tax planning and structuring, growth and expansion plans, with securing funding, succession management and harnessing opportunities. Our commercial focus and practical approach ensures we help our clients build profitable businesses and realise their ambitions.


Published: Spring 2017 l Photo: julianpictures - Fotolia.com

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