Detailed guide: Pay no import duties and VAT on miscellaneous documents and related articles

What you can claim relief on

Educational scientific and cultural materials

You can claim relief on import duty and VAT for miscellaneous documents and related articles which are of:

  • an educational nature

  • a scientific nature

  • a cultural nature

Examples of the goods are listed below with their Tariff classification.

Description Tariff classification
Microfilms of books, children’s picture books and drawing or colouring books, school exercise books (workbooks), crossword-puzzle books, newspapers and periodicals, printed documents or reports of a non-commercial character, and of loose illustrations, printed pages and reproduction proofs for the production of books 3705 20 00
Reproduction films for the production of books, excluding those for magazines, periodicals 3705 10 00
3705 90 00
Children’s picture, drawing or colouring books 4903 00 00
Maps, charts and diagrams of interest in scientific fields such as geology, zoology, botany, mineralogy, palaeontology, archaeology, ethnology, meteorology, climatology and geophysics 4905 99 00
Architectural, industrial or engineering plans and designs, and their reproductions 4906 00 00
Catalogues of books and publications offered for sale by publishers or booksellers established outside the UK
Catalogues of films, recording or other visual and auditory materials of an educational, scientific or cultural character
Posters for the promotion of tourism and tourist publications, brochures, guidebooks, timetables, pamphlets and like publications, including those published by private concerns, designed to encourage the public to travel outside the UK and EU, including microcopies
Bibliographical material for distribution free of charge
4911 10 90
Loose illustrations, printed pages and reproduction proofs to be used for the production of books, including microcopies
Microcopies of books, children’s picture books and drawing or colouring books, school exercise books (workbooks), crossword-puzzle books, newspapers and periodicals and of documents or reports of a non-commercial character
Publications designed to encourage the public to study outside the UK and EU, including microcopies
Meteorological and geophysical diagrams
4911 99 00
Maps and charts featuring in scientific fields such as geology, zoology, botany, mineralogy, palaeontology, archaeology, ethnology, meteorology, climatology and geophysics 9023 00 80
Other printed matter, including printed pictures and photographs, in relief for the blind and partially sighted 49 11 (various)

The exemption does not apply to articles that have advertising space covering more than 25% of the surface. For publications and posters that promote tourism, this percentage only applies to non-related commercial publicity.

Miscellaneous goods of a general nature

You can also claim relief from import duty and VAT for miscellaneous documents and related articles which are of a more general nature.

These goods must:

  • be the goods described in the Tariff classification shown below

  • be used for the purposes described in this notice and meet the conditions laid down

  • follow specific import limits, including weight or volume restrictions

Description Tariff classification
(1) Documents sent free of charge to the public services of UK
(2) Publications of foreign governments and official international bodies intended for distribution without charge
(3) Ballot papers for elections organised by bodies set up in foreign countries
(4) Specimen signatures and printed circulars concerning signatures sent as part of customary exchanges of information between public services or banking establishments
(5) Official printed matter sent to the central banks of the UK or EU
(6) Reports, statements, notes, prospectuses, application forms and other documents (including valid issued share and bond certificates) drawn up by companies registered outside the UK and EU and sent to the bearers or subscribers of securities issued by such companies

Note: share and bond certificates which require registration by the fiscal agent before becoming valid are not eligible for relief

Chapters 48 and 49 and any other relevant headings
(7) Files, archives, printed forms and other documents to be used in international meetings, conferences or congresses, and reports on such gatherings
(8) Plans, technical drawings, traced designs, descriptions and other similar documents imported with a view to obtaining or fulfilling orders outside the UK or to participating in a competition held in the customs territory of the UK and EU
(9) Documents to be used in examinations held in the customs territory of the UK and EU by institutions set up outside the UK and EU
Chapters 48 and 49 and any other relevant headings
(10) Printed forms to be used as official documents in the international movement of vehicles or goods, within the framework of international conventions  
(11) Printed forms, labels, tickets and similar documents sent by transport undertakings or by undertakings of the hotel industry in a foreign country to travel agencies set up in the customs territory of the UK and EU (Travel agencies include airlines, railway undertakings, ferry operators and similar organisations)  
(12) Printed forms and tickets, bills of lading, waybills and other commercial or office documents which have been used  
(13) Official printed forms from third country or international authorities, and printed matter conforming to international standards sent for distribution by third country associations to corresponding associations located in the customs territory of the Community  
(14) Tax and similar stamps proving payment of charges outside the UK and EU 49.07 and any other relevant headings
(15) Photographs, slides and stereotype mats for photographs, whether or not captioned, sent to press agencies or newspaper or magazine publishers 37.05, 49.11 or 84.42 50 and any other relevant headings
(16) Recorded media (for example, microfilms, punched cards, punched paper tape and sound recordings) used for the transmission of information sent free of charge to the addressee, in so far as duty free admission does not give rise to abuse or to major distortions of competition All relevant headings
(17) Objects to be submitted as evidence or for like purposes to the courts or other official agencies of the UK or EU All headings
(18) Printed advertising material including catalogues, price lists, directions for use or brochures, relating to goods for sale or hire, transport, commercial insurance or banking services offered by a person carrying on a business outside the UK whose name is clearly displayed thereon, provided that each document or, in the case of a consignment comprising several copies of the same document, the total gross weight, does not exceed 1 kilogram. Bulked consignments from one sender to a single recipient are not eligible for relief 49.11
(19) Articles for advertising purposes (other than covered by (18) above), of no intrinsic commercial value, sent free of charge by suppliers to their customers, which apart from their advertising function, are not capable of being used otherwise All relevant headings
(20) Trademark, patterns or designs and their supporting documents, as well as applications for patents for invention or the like, to be submitted to the competent bodies to deal with protection of copyrights or the protection of industrial or commercial patent rights All relevant headings
(21) Documents sent to be distributed free of charge for the purpose of encouraging persons to visit foreign countries, in particular to attend cultural, tourist, sporting, religious, trade or professional meetings or events, including foreign hotel lists, and yearbooks published by or on behalf of official tourist agencies and timetables for foreign transport services, provided the documents do not contain more than 25% of private advertising (excluding advertising for community firms) 49.10 and 49.11 and any other relevant headings

Before you claim

You should check if your goods are strictly controlled and if you will need an import licence. When you get the commodity code for your goods using the tariff it will tell you if you need a license.

How to claim

You should claim relief at the time of import. If you do not do this, we may accept a late claim and repay the appropriate charges subject to conditions.

Goods imported in baggage

If you import the goods in your baggage you must:

  • declare them to us at the Customs Red Channel or Red Point

  • produce evidence to show you’ve met the relief conditions

  • claim relief by completing an import declaration

If you cannot produce the necessary supporting documentation or evidence to show you are entitled to this relief, you must give us financial security (normally a cash deposit or a banker’s guarantee) to cover the duty and/or VAT before we will release the goods. We will discharge the security later if we are satisfied you qualify for relief.

Goods imported as freight

If your goods are imported as freight or in baggage you must claim relief by completing an import declaration.

Enter one of the following Customs Procedure Codes in box 37:

  • CPC 40 00 C11 – for goods of an educational, scientific or cultural nature imported from outside the UK to claim relief from import duty

  • CPC 40 00 C31 – for goods of a general nature imported from outside the UK to claim relief from import duty and VAT

  • 40 00 C34 – for importing trademarks, patterns or designs, and their supporting documents, as well as applications for patents for inventions, submitted to the official bodies competent to deal with protection of copyright or of industrial or commercial patent rights

  • 40 00 C35 – for importing tourist information literature to be distributed free of charge for the purpose of encouraging people to visit foreign countries, provided that the document do not contain more than 25% of private advertising (excluding advertising for UK and EU firms)

  • 40 00 C36 – for importing miscellaneous documents and articles as described in Volume 1 Part 10.3.5 of the Tariff, not covered by any other CPC

  • 49 00 C31 – for importing printed advertising material (catalogues, price lists, brochures) from the Channel Islands

  • 49 00 C34 – for importing trademarks, patterns or designs, and their supporting documents, as well as applications for patents for inventions from the Channel Islands, submitted to the official bodies competent to deal with protection of copyright or of industrial or commercial patent rights

  • 49 00 C35 – for importing tourist information literature to be distributed free of charge for the purpose of encouraging people to visit foreign countries from the Channel Islands, provided that the document do not contain more than 25% of private advertising (excluding advertising for UK and EU firms)

  • 49 00 C36 – for importing miscellaneous documents and articles from the Channel Islands, as described in Volume 1 Part 10.3.5 of the Tariff, not covered by any other CPC

Goods imported by post

Ask the sender to write clearly on the package and its accompanying customs declaration (CN22 or CN23).

For goods of an educational, scientific or cultural nature eligible for import duty relief write:

‘Miscellaneous documents/ articles- duty relief claimed’

For goods of a general nature, eligible for VAT and import duty relief write:

‘Miscellaneous documents/articles- duty and VAT relief claimed’

We may send you a simplified form to complete and return.

If the package is not clearly marked, it may not be delivered until you have paid the duty and VAT. You should pay the charges and then write to customs at the postal depot where the charges were raised. Say what happened and enclose the document showing the charges. If we are satisfied that the goods qualify for relief, we will repay the duty, and VAT if appropriate.

Find out more information about importing goods by post.

Getting someone else to complete your customs declaration

You can use someone else to complete entries on your behalf but you must make sure you give clear written instructions for the goods that you’re claiming relief on.

After you’ve claimed

If you dispose of your goods

You must tell the National Imports Reliefs Unit (NIRU) if you dispose or transfer your goods to another entity.

Records you must keep

You will need to provide the following information if requested by us:

  • details of the import declaration entering your goods to this customs procedure, especially the value of those goods

  • evidence of ownership

  • when, where and how the goods are used

  • how the goods are identified – such as manufacturers marks, serial numbers, technical descriptions or illustrations

  • evidence of disposal

You need to keep additional records if:

  • you transfer goods to another approved entity – keep any official documentation detailing the transfer between you and other entity

  • you re-export the goods – keep the New Export System declaration details or export documentation providing information about the date of export

  • your goods are stolen, lost or destroyed – keep police or insurance incident reports, or official documentation providing details of the date of the incident or loss

You must keep all records for a minimum of 4 years.

If you break the conditions of the relief

If you no longer meet the conditions of the relief, you must immediately notify NIRU.

Provide full details of the importation and why you think the conditions of the relief have been breached.

If you want to appeal

Appeal if you disagree with a decision made by HMRC.

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