Goods arriving in Great Britain without an import declaration (CIP 1/2021)

This Customs Information Paper sets out HMRC’s policy on importers or their agents who were eligible to make an import declaration and who have unintentionally found themselves in receipt of undeclared goods in the period 1 January 2021 to 31 December 2021.

 

Background

 

It is expected that importers will make sure haulage companies are moving their goods compliantly in future and HMRC will monitor this to identify and address repeated non-compliance.

Where goods have been imported without a declaration these goods have been imported non-compliantly and civil penalties could be charged where HMRC considers it appropriate. Additionally, depending on the goods imported, a liability to import VAT will normally have been incurred on importation, and there may also be a liability to import duty or excise duty.

It is not legally possible for the importer (or the person dealing with customs for them) to put matters right by submitting a retrospective declaration. But in order to satisfy their obligation to pay any outstanding liabilities, importers or their agents have 2 options (the second option is available if the first cannot be used).

Neither of these options will constitute a legal import declaration (it will be a non-statutory declaration) but it will allow the importer to settle any outstanding liabilities. Settling these liabilities will be a significant factor in HMRC’s decision as to whether a civil penalty will be charged.

HMRC reserves the right to use its discretionary powers to charge penalties depending on the evidence of deliberate or repeated behaviour. Additionally, it will not, by itself, cause HMRC to cancel an authorisation to use simplified declarations for imports, or stop any application for such an authorisation.

 

Option 1: submit a full import declaration for the free-circulation procedure as soon as possible

 

Goods have been imported non-compliantly so it will not be possible to defer any liabilities to import or excise duties by declaring the goods into a customs special procedure or an excise duty suspension arrangement. You should submit this full non-statutory import declaration within one calendar month (subject to the additional conditions set out below) of the goods being imported into Great Britain (England, Wales and Scotland). If you are already in this situation at the time of this publication you have one calendar month from the date this guidance was issued.

As the Customs Handling of Import and Export Freight service (CHIEF) and the Customs Declaration Service cannot accept retrospective declarations, the date of submission of this non-statutory declaration will be the date for which any tax or duties due on imports will be calculated. To ensure that the right amount of any tax or duties due on imports is charged, you should:

  1. Check to see if the HMRC exchange rates have changed in the period between the actual date of import and the date of declaration (the intervening period). These normally only change monthly. If exchange rates have changed you must convert any non-Sterling values at the exchange rate at the date of actual import.

  2. Check to see if the rate of any tax or duties due on imports has changed. This can be checked for the dates starting and ending the intervening period by using the Trade Tariff tool. If the rate has not changed the full import declaration can be submitted.

If a full import declaration cannot be submitted (for example the one-month deadline has elapsed, or the rate of any tax or duties due on imports has changed) then you will need to use option 2.

As goods have been imported non-compliantly, it is not possible for VAT registered importers to use postponed VAT accounting to account for import VAT on their VAT Return. You will therefore need to pay your import VAT when the non-statutory declaration is submitted.

 

Option 2: submit a supplementary declaration to HMRC as soon as possible showing the correct date of import

 

This requires the importer to be authorised for simplified declarations for imports or to appoint an agent who is so authorised.

If you’re already authorised for simplified declarations for imports or already have someone dealing with customs for you, you’re expected to make this non-statutory supplementary import declaration as soon as possible.

If you do not have authorisation to use simplified declarations for imports, you’re expected to get someone to deal with customs for you or get an authorisation as soon as possible after you become aware of the need to make the declaration. We expect that this should take no longer than 4 months. You will need to retain evidence of the steps you’re taking to pay your outstanding liabilities in case those goods movements are subject to compliance checks in the period before the supplementary import declaration is made.

In either case if you want to make a tariff rate quota claim then this needs to be included in the declaration submitted. But as most tariff quotas work on a first come, first served basis there is the risk that the quota may have already been used up.

This approach can also be used to declare goods to free-circulation in a case where a transit movement has not been correctly closed. Submission of the non-statutory declaration can be used as evidence that the correct duties have been paid for these movements which should help get the movements discharged in the country of origin. They will not, however, ‘retrospectively’ close the transit movement - so these movements will still go into the transit enquiry process.

As goods have been imported non-compliantly, it is not possible for VAT registered importers to use postponed VAT accounting to account for import VAT on their VAT Return. You will therefore need to pay your import VAT when the non-statutory declaration is submitted.


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