To download a PDF version of this document, click here
Date of publication: January 2012
Customs Duties apply to goods imported into the European Community (EC). There are no Customs Duties on services.
Once goods are inside the EC there are no further Customs Duties if the goods are moved between EC members.
Excise Duties are charged on the movement of Alcohol, Tobacco and Fuel Oils between EC members.
Customs Duties are payable by whoever “declares the goods”, that is the person or business whose name is on the import paperwork.
Any commercial importer will need an EORI registration number (Economic Operator Registration and Identification), before they can import goods.
Duty is payable at the point of entry into the EC, and Customs Officers will hold goods until the duty is paid, so the method of payment should be arranged with the shipping agent in advance.
Import VAT is often also due on imported goods and this is payable on the duty inclusive price. VAT registered businesses should be able to recover their import VAT.
Customs Duty is an ad valorem tax. This means that it is based on a % of the value of the goods, therefore the valuation is important.
There are a number of acceptable methods of valuation, which should be considered in the following order. The first suitable method that applies to that particular business being the correct one to use:
There are a number of different options which may provide relief from paying Customs Duties, either temporarily or permanently depending on circumstances.
Relief is also often available where imported goods are returned or sent back for repairs or alterations.
It is important to plan ahead if you want to import goods into the EC. If you wish to reclaim the VAT back on importation into the UK it would be best to obtain your VAT number first and then obtain your EORI, as they are linked, and otherwise it is very difficult to reclaim your VAT.
However, VAT numbers can take up to 6 weeks to be issued, so in some circumstances you may be forced to just get an EORI number, which only can be issued in a few days. Talk the process through with your shipping agent. They will probably complete all the paperwork for you but will need to know how the Duty is to be paid and what value to assign to the goods.
This guide does not contain a full statement of the law and it does not constitute legal advice. Please seek legal advice if you have any questions about the information set out above.