Guidance: Pay no import duty and VAT on medical supplies, equipment and protective garments (COVID-19)

7 August 2020


Find out how to pay no import duty and VAT on protective equipment, relevant medical devices or equipment brought into the UK from non-EU countries during the coronavirus (COVID-19) outbreak.

Who can claim this relief

This relief can be claimed by any person importing goods into the UK if the conditions set out below are met.

The relief will apply to imports of protective equipment, other relevant medical devices or equipment for the coronavirus (COVID-19) outbreak set out in the COVID-19 Commodity Code list.

The goods must be imported by or on behalf of an organisation based in the UK who are:

  • state organisations, including state bodies, public bodies and other bodies governed by public law
  • other charitable or philanthropic organisations approved by the competent authorities

In line with notice 317, we have given general approval to the following charitable and philanthropic organisations:

  • those registered by the Charities Commission or the Office of the Scottish Charities Regulator
  • state organisations which are devoted to welfare
  • the following, as long as they are non-profit making and their objective is the welfare of those in need:
    • hospitals
    • youth organisations
    • clubs, homes and hostels for the aged
    • orphanages and children’s homes
    • organisations set up for the relief of distress caused by particular disasters in the Customs Union
    • organisations concerned with the relief of distress generally (such as the British Red Cross Society or the Salvation Army)

If you are not sure whether or not you fall within the categories above, you can request confirmation by contacting the National Import Relief Unit (NIRU) by email

Goods can be imported on behalf of one of the organisations if they are to be donated or sold (directly or indirectly) to them. The importer must have arrangements in place to sell or donate the goods to one of the organisations at the time that they are imported into the UK.

If you are importing goods on behalf of one of the organisations listed, you need to get authorisation to claim this relief from NIRU. You can email for an application form.

If you have imported the items on behalf of another organisation, to claim the relief as the importer you must hold clear evidence that demonstrates the end user of the goods was one of the eligible organisations. This evidence must also allow HMRC to trace the goods from their initial import through to their ultimate end use by one of these organisations.

Failure to provide this evidence, may result in you having to pay duty and import VAT.

If you’re a disaster relief agency, and are importing the goods for free circulation to meet your needs during the coronavirus (COVID-19) outbreak, you can also claim relief.

Goods you can claim relief on

You can claim this relief on goods that are imported for free circulation and intended:

  • for distribution free of charge to those affected by, at risk from or involved in combating the coronavirus (COVID- 19) outbreak
  • to be made available free of charge to those affected by, at risk from or involved in combating the coronavirus outbreak, while remaining the property of the organisations using them

The relief will apply to imports of protective equipment, other relevant medical devices or equipment for the coronavirus (COVID-19) outbreak.

Use the commodity code list to find all goods you can claim relief on. Some codes are duplicated as multiple items are covered by the same code.

COVID-19 Commodity Codes List

This list has been updated, we will keep the list under review and may add to this in future if additional goods which can benefit from this relief are identified.

The relief applies to imports into the UK from 30 January 2020 until 31 October 2020.

If your goods are loaned, hired out or transferred to an organisation eligible for the relief, the relief will remain in place as long as the conditions continue to be met.

VAT on domestic supplies is not affected by this relief. You must charge and account for VAT on the onward sale at the normal rate. We will be publishing further guidance on how to treat these supplies in your VAT business records.

If your goods stop being used by those affected by coronavirus (COVID-19), you cannot loan, hire out or transfer your goods, for consideration or free of charge, unless we are notified in advance.

You will need to pay import duties and VAT if you loan, hire out or transfer your goods to organisations or individuals not affected by coronavirus (COVID-19) outbreak.

When the relief does not apply

You may be able to apply a zero rate of VAT to imports and sales of PPE. This could apply if you import or sell PPE and do not meet the criteria to claim relief for import duties and VAT. More guidance is in the Revenue and Customs Brief 4 (2020): temporary VAT zero rating of PPE.

How to claim relief on goods imported as freight

To claim this relief you must first have been authorised by NIRU who will then issue you with a unique certificate.

You must claim relief by completing an import declaration in CHIEF.

You can claim relief on your declaration in CHIEF by entering in:

  • box 37 the customs procedure code 40 00 C26
  • box 44, declaration/notes, enter document codes 9AID and/or 9AIV and status codes JP or UP as appropriate
  • box 44 enter the NIRU certificate number as a GEN 13 Additional Information statement

How to claim relief on goods that have already been imported

If you imported goods on or after 30 January 2020 but did not claim relief, you may be eligible able to reclaim payment of import duties.

You will need to request authorisation by contacting the National Import Relief Unit (NIRU) by emailing for an application form.

Once you’re authorised by NIRU, you can submit your claim to the National Duty Repayment Centre (NDRC) for repayment of overpaid customs duty and import VAT.

You will need to provide the following:

  • a copy of your duty and VAT relief certificate
  • a copy of your order or other supporting documents evidencing your eligibility for this relief

If you’re VAT registered and seeking repayment of overpaid import VAT, you must do this via your claim to the NDRC rather than adjusting your VAT return. You should provide a disclaimer that the import VAT has not been/will not be reclaimed, in part or in whole, as input tax on your VAT return.

If you’re a fully taxable trader, have already had your C79 and claimed VAT through your return, you should do nothing regarding the VAT and only reclaim the customs duty.

If you have:

  • restricted input tax recovery
  • already claimed the eligible tax on a VAT return
  • plans to claim the previously irrecoverable import VAT

You can make a claim to the NDRC for the full amount of tax. You need to:

  • adjust the relevant input tax claim on your VAT return to nil
  • provide a disclaimer that you have adjusted your VAT account so that no input tax has been recovered on the imports

Your claim should not just be for the previously irrecoverable import VAT.

Find further information about submitting your claim.


Kindly supplied by GOV.UK


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