Customs Changes for Imports from the European Union into the UK

Andy Spencer
February 14, 2022

Whilst the UK leaving the European Union (EU) on 31 December 2020 seems like a long time ago, UK businesses still have to deal with changes to the processes in place when importing goods from suppliers in the EU.

Customs Declarations

Throughout 2021, goods imported into Great Britain from the EU were subject to several easements from a customs perspective. This was to reduce the burden of completing full customs declarations and dealing with all of the consequences of importing goods that were previously not subject to import documentation and controls.

UK businesses were unprepared, partly due to impacts from the COVID-19 pandemic, so these simplifications were extended a few times during 2021. As of 1 January 2022, goods moving between the EU and Great Britain will be subject to full customs declarations and controls. Subsequently, there is no longer the ability to defer customs declarations as was previously the case.

Additionally, any customs duty due on goods will be due at the time of entry rather than when the customs declaration is submitted, as was the case in 2021. Businesses can achieve delayed payment of the customs duty by applying for a duty deferment account with HMRC. In some instances, it can be achieved without the need for a financial guarantee to be lodged, so it is worth considering.

Due to the negotiations between the UK government and the EU on the Northern Ireland Protocol, imports of non-controlled goods from Ireland and Northern Ireland will not be subject to these changes. The previous easements will still apply. This means that customs declarations can be delayed for up to 175 days. The UK government will make further announcements once the discussions on the Protocol have been completed. We will update further when that happens.

Import VAT

Regarding import VAT, Postponed Import VAT Accounting (PIVA) remains available and, whilst not compulsory, it is recommended, as it provides a valuable cashflow benefit.  It applies to imports from all countries and not just the EU. Unlike in some EU countries, it is not automatically applied and has to be claimed when the import declaration is submitted. Therefore, the importer must advise whoever submits the declaration to complete it accordingly. If it is not claimed, import VAT is payable at the time of entry and will have to be recovered on the VAT return – HMRC continues to issue the C79 certificate when VAT is paid at the border, and it is required evidence to recover VAT.

Businesses will also need to remember to download the monthly PIVA statement from HMRC’s website – this is required to determine the amount of import VAT payable on the VAT return. This needs to be done within six months as it is not available after that time.

Intrastat declarations

Another change is regarding Intrastat reporting for imports into Great Britain from the EU.  Arrivals declarations were required during 2021 to provide the UK government with trade statistics, given that importers could delay submitting full customs declarations. Intrastat arrivals are now only required for goods moving from the EU to Northern Ireland – this is because Northern Ireland is still considered part of the EU for goods.

The EU-UK Trade and Cooperation Agreement provisions have to be considered when importing goods from the EU especially regarding the origin of the goods and whether the import is tariff-free. This has been in place since 1 January 2021, but there are practical changes that are considered further in our article which discusses the origin of goods and claiming relief on trade between the EU and UK. These changes mean that imports from the EU are treated in the same way as imports from any other country, except for goods from Ireland and Northern Ireland, which are still subject to special arrangements.

Take Action

Keen to know how changes between the EU and UK will impact your VAT compliance obligations? Contact us to find out more.

Sign up for Email Updates

Stay up to date with the latest tax and compliance updates that may impact your business.


Andy Spencer

Andy is a highly experienced indirect tax professional who has worked in VAT for over twenty five years. Andy joined Sovos in 2009 and has responsibility for the consulting and compliance teams. Within the consulting team, he is involved in delivering major international VAT projects for blue-chip clients, bringing expertise in both structural compliance and commercial efficiency. Andy specialises in providing clients with bespoke VAT reviews that help them develop into new territories with the appropriate controls in place to manage VAT effectively. Andy has developed expertise in international VAT throughout his career and has advised on a broad range of issues in many countries. Within the compliance team, Andy is responsible for the integrity and professionalism of Sovos’ compliance offering working with the team to ensure clients meet their compliance obligations around the EU and beyond. Andy began his career with HM Customs & Excise and before joining Sovos was VAT Director at Baker Tilly’s Southern UK operation, a Senior VAT Manager at KPMG for six years, and a Senior VAT Manager at Ernst & Young for seven.
Share This Post

E-Invoicing Compliance Mexico
February 1, 2023
Mexico’s Resolution Miscellanea Fiscal 2023 and CFDI matters

What is CDFI? CFDI, which stands for Comprobante Fiscal Digital por Internet, is the electronic billing schema defined by the Mexican federal tax code. It has been mandatory for companies that do business in Mexico since 2011. CFDI aims to increase visibility into companies’ tax liabilities so the government can ensure it is receiving accurate […]

EMEA VAT & Fiscal Reporting
January 25, 2023
Understanding VAT Between European Countries

All European countries charge VAT on goods and services. VAT is a consumption tax added during each production stage of goods or services. Although VAT is near-universal according to the EU VAT Directive, VAT rates within the EU do differ. This is because the EU VAT Directive allows Member States to choose whether to implement […]

EMEA iOSS OSS VAT & Fiscal Reporting
January 18, 2023
What Non-EU countries need to know about IOSS & OSS

The EU VAT E-Commerce package has been in place since 1 July 2021. This applies to intra-EU B2C supplies of goods and imports of low value goods. Three schemes make up the package. These are based on the value of goods and the location of the sale of goods. All OSS schemes are currently optional. […]

EMEA VAT & Fiscal Reporting
January 10, 2023
An Introduction to EU VAT

Nearly every major economy has a form of VAT. That’s 165 countries, each with its own compliance and reporting rules. The main exception is the United States. VAT is by far the most significant indirect tax for nearly all the world’s countries. Globally VAT contributes more than 30% of all government revenue. Levying VAT is […]

January 6, 2023
4 Things You Need to Know about Portugal’s Billing SAF-T

Changes are coming to Portugal’s Billing SAF-T reporting requirements for non-resident taxpayers that trade in the country. The process may be stringent but that doesn’t mean it has to be difficult for your company. Here are four things you need to be aware of about Portugal’s billing SAF-T obligations. 1: Non-resident taxpayers must file the […]