On 11 April 2019, HMRC published new guidance Revenue and Customs Brief 2 (2019) setting out their view on the deduction of import VAT by a person who does not own the imported goods.

This guidance is of significant importance if you are:

• a non-owner who reclaims import VAT on goods imported into the UK;

• a ‘toll operator’; or

• advisers or agents dealing with businesses importing goods to the UK.

According to this new guidance, HMRC are of the view that the correct procedure is for the owner of the goods to act as the importer of record and reclaim the import VAT on the C79 and not the non-owner in toll-manufacturing arrangements and arrangements involving a supplier who transfers title in goods pre-import. HMRC acknowledge that this was not clear in its previous guidance and is giving business until 15 July 2019 to change their arrangements. HMRC will only accept claims for import tax deduction made by owners of goods after this date.

 Although the guidance only mentions two specific scenarios if the principle is applied by HMRC more widely, the new guidance would mean there is limited flexibility as regards: (i) changing the importer of record for imports into the UK post-Brexit to meet the requirement for the importer to qualify as ‘established’ in the UK; and (ii) who can act as the importer of record when goods are removed from a customs warehouse and entered into free circulation, including when they have been sold to customers while in the customs warehouse.

Businesses should review their current arrangements and any proposed post-Brexit structure to ensure there is no unintended VAT cost on imports.


Jessica's practice focuses on international trade and anti-bribery work, encompassing customs, export control and sanctions matters. Jessica's trade work includes advising international clients on fast-moving and evolving EU and UN sanctions, notably in respect of Iran and Russia, and on compliance with UK and EU export controls. Her trade experience also includes advising on tariff classification and customs valuations. Jessica's anti-bribery experience includes assisting with investigations, and advising clients on compliance with anti-bribery laws. Jessica has also taken a lead role in monitoring Brexit-related developments; analysing how they will affect the UK's trading position generally, and clients' businesses specifically. She has helped clients begin to conduct risk assessments of how Brexit will impact their businesses, and has assisted them in developing tailored Brexit strategies. Jessica also presents at various seminars, webinars, and conferences on the complexities of Brexit. Jessica advises global clients on complex issues arising from international transactions and works with clients across a number of sectors including pharmaceuticals, defence, finance, aviation, energy, and telecommunications. Jessica has also worked previously in Paris, and is fluent in French.

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