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Import Export Hub


Moving goods across international borders creates an import/export and there are reporting obligations and customs declarations as well as potential import VAT and duty liabilities, unless reliefs can be claimed.

This is the case even if there is no commercial sale (e.g., samples or donations). Universities often send goods out of the UK and re-import them, for example:

  • for repair or servicing
  • to use on field trips
  • to use in research projects
  • for exhibitions
  • on loan to a third party

Available reliefs and facilitative measures

The following reliefs may be available at the point that the goods are re-imported, or imported if the intention is that they will be re-exported.

Please note that these reliefs may require advanced authorisation and/or some form of financial guarantee being in place with HMRC before use and are not always obtainable. Please contact the for further information. 

Temporary Admission – Import VAT and duty-free entry (HMRC authorisation required)

Temporary Admission relieves both import VAT and duty on import when the goods are being re-exported within, typically, 2 years.  There are different time limits for different types of goods.  There are some strict criteria to be satisfied if this relief is to be used successfully:

  • It is likely that a deposit would have to be lodged with HMRC equivalent to any import VAT due – this would be refundable, however, if re-export requirements have been satisfied 
  • HMRC authorisation is required prior to import. You should apply online at least one month before you start importing. 
  • On the re-export, the entry must be linked to the original import entry to discharge Temporary Admission arrangements. 

Please note that goods being temporarily imported for processing or repair are not permitted under Temporary Admission.

If you have any questions, please contact

ATA Carnets

ATA Carnets (known as a “passport for goods”), facilitate temporary exports to foreign countries and re-importation into the UK. By presenting an ATA Carnet document to customs, goods travel duty free and import VAT free into another country for up to 1 year. 

They can be appropriate for sending goods overseas in instances where there is no third party in the country of destination to act as importer, such as field trips or research projects.

There are a wide variety of stipulations that need to be adhered to and using an ATA Carnet does not remove any obligation to comply with licensing controls or requirements for restricted or prohibited goods. If you are unsure whether your goods require a licence, the Import Export Hub can assist by guiding you to the relevant department(s).

Only a certain number of countries accept the use of ATA Carnets, and the full list can be accessed here. Please also note that only certain equipment is permitted on an ATA Carnet and, there is a cost to obtain one. 

Obtaining and using a Carnet

The Carnet is purchased through a Chamber of Commerce, e.g.:

Information on how to use an ATA Carnet can be accessed here
Please contact the if you require any further information.

Returned Goods Relief (RGR) for import VAT and duty (claim on re-import)

Example uses:

  • goods returned after being exported on exhibition or loan; 
  • after use in a field trip or research project

The goods must be re-imported in an unaltered state, apart from any work that may have been carried out to maintain the goods in working order, the goods cannot have been upgraded to increase their value. 

Returned Goods Relief cannot be used on goods that have been repaired or processed.

If you think RGR may be applicable to your shipment, please contact for details on how to claim.

Outward Processing Relief (OPR) for reduced import VAT and duty (HMRC authorisation required)

Example use: goods returned to the UK following export for repair or replacement.

One way to reduce the amount of import VAT and duty payable is to use Outward Processing Relief (OPR).  This does not eliminate the tax liability completely but it significantly reduces the amount payable.  The value on re-import becomes that of the ‘added value’.

Use of OPR requires authorisation from HMRC.  The University is authorised to use OPR for certain types of goods where certain criteria have been met. A full audit trail is required to ensure compliance with HMRC regulations.

Guidance is available on sending items overseas for repairs.

If you have any questions, please contact

Inward Processing Relief (IPR) for import VAT and duty (HMRC authorisation needed)

Example use: importing goods to process or repair and then re-exporting from the UK. 

Please note that the University does not hold HMRC authorisation to use IPR and is not able to use this relief.

If you have any questions, please contact

Taking goods with you in your baggage (Merchandise in Baggage)

Merchandise in Baggage is where you are carrying commercial goods in your accompanied baggage (on a flight, ferry etc.) rather than the commercial transport operator carrying them for you (i.e. the goods are not recorded on the ship, train or aircraft manifest as freight).

Import and export declarations may still be required.  For more information, please click here


A further consideration is insurance.  

The different delivery terms used for international shipments (Incoterms) will determine who is responsible for different elements of the cost of freight and insurance.  

You may need to check that you have adequate insurance to cover your movement of goods – particularly in non-standard situations such as moving own goods, donated goods and research collaborations.

Please contact the Insurance Team on to  discuss goods being covered during transit.

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