Import VAT and duty freeze on medical supplies

HMRC will not collect import VAT and duty for some organisations importing medical supplies that will be made available to those affected by the coronavirus outbreak.

There are several important points of detail here that affected organisations must be aware of to ensure they maximise the relief available under this announcement.

What are these measures?

HMRC has announced with immediate effect and until 31 July 2020, specified bodies will be entitled to import VAT and import duty relief on protective equipment, medical supplies and equipment which will ultimately be made available to those involved in combating the coronavirus outbreak.

There is significant detail that must be considered to ensure that your organisation will qualify. This applies to imports only, and goods arriving in the UK from EU member states will be unaffected by this relief.

Who can claim the relief?

Only two groups are eligible to claim the relief.

  1. Any state organisation or public body governed by public law, including local authorities, NHS bodies or NHS Clinical Commissioning Groups
  2. Non-state bodies importing specified goods, but only if such bodies are specifically authorised following application to HMRC’s National Import Relief Unit. 

What goods are affected?

Assuming your organisation is eligible to receive the relief, the goods in question must meet two separate criteria.

  1. The goods must be classified for customs duty purposes under specific commodity codes a full list of which can be found here. 
  2. The goods must be distributed, made available free of charge, donated or sold to the NHS to those ‘affected by, at risk from or involved in combating the coronavirus’.

The usual VAT rules apply to the onward sale goods in the UK to the NHS. This means that  qualifying goods will be imported free of import VAT and duty but subject to the standard rate of VAT when sold to the NHS. Under current guidelines, such VAT charged to the NHS will unfortunately be an irrecoverable cost for them.

How to claim relief on goods imported as freight

Relief is claimed on the import declaration prepared in HMRC’s CHIEF system. The customs procedure code (in box 37 of the import declaration), used must be 40 00 C26. In box 44 the declaration/notes should use document codes 9AID and / or 9AIV and states codes JP or UP.

Your customs agent will be able to make this declaration on your behalf subject to your specific instructions.

For more information, please contact

Philip Munn Philip Munn

Partner