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Importing a Car to the UK – Customs, VAT & Import Duty UK Documentation

Importing a car to the UK requires completion of Customs, VAT and Import Duty documentation. Specialised Shipping Services (UK) Ltd can manage the entire car shipping process on your behalf, including completion of all Customs, VAT and Import Duty documentation, or a part of the process if that is all that is required.

Customs Clearance - How do I ‘Customs Clear’ my car import?

Your car import is Customs cleared depending upon the circumstances it is entering the UK, the main categories are:

Private import:

A Private Import is the most common type of car import for a purchase outside of the EC for private use. Import taxes are dependent on vehicle type, explained in the next section – How are Customs Taxes calculated? Required documents are a bill of sale, a copy certificate of title and a completed C384 Customs form.

Commercial import:

As above but the vehicle is being imported by a VAT registered trader. Required documents are bill of sale, a copy certificate of title and VAT number.

Transfer of Residence:

Vehicle(s) may gain tax relief should the importer fulfil certain criteria, namely the importer has lived outside of the EC for over 1 continuous year and the vehicle has been owned and used by the importer for over 6 months. Supporting documentation and a completed C104a form is required by HM Customs & Excise.

Temporary import:

A vehicle may enter the EC for a period of up to 6 months tax free on a Temporary import, generally for an importer travelling the EC in their vehicle, then returning with it outside of the EC. Required documents are copy certificate of title, copy passport and completed C108 Customs form. A C110 Customs form may also be required in Southampton.

Re-importation of a private motor vehicle:

For a UK registered vehicle returning to the EC without changing ownership, required documents are a copy V5 and completed C179b Customs form to gain tax relief.

How are Customs taxes calculated?

If your vehicle import is a purchase coming into the UK from outside the EC, Customs taxes are generally payable on the import with the exception of Transfer of Residence

Cars imported from outside the E.U.

Import duties on a car being brought into the UK from outside of the EC are calculated on bill of sale (purchase price) + freight. The individual duty rates are outlined below. VAT is then payable on bill of sale + freight + duty paid. We are happy to offer advice on Customs tax procedures.

How much UK Import Duty and VAT will I have to pay?

Non EC Manufactured Cars - 10% import duty and 20% VAT for private and commercial imports.

Pick-Up Trucks - classified as a commercial vehicle; 22% import duty and 20% VAT for private and commercial imports. Some pick-up trucks with smaller bed sizes may qualify as a car import, securing a lower import rate of duty.

Motorcycles - generally 6% import duty or 8% import duty for smaller engine size and 20% VAT.

Boats - generally 1.7% import duty and VAT.

R.V's - 10% import duty & 20% VAT for private and commercial imports.

Travel Trailers (habitable trailers) - >7m long or 2.3m wide is 2.7% import duty + VAT <2%, otherwise VAT @ 20%

Historic Cars and Vehicles (pre 1950) - 5% VAT

EC Manufactured Cars - as of May 2005 import duty & VAT is currently calculated as follows;

Private import - £50.00 flat rate of import duty accompanied by a letter of origin to prove country of manufacture (from Volkswagen, Porsche, Jaguar, etc) & 20% VAT.

Commercial import (VAT registered trader) - 10% import duty & 20% VAT.

Vehicles originally registered or manufactured for use in the E.U.

When importing the car, there are different scenarios that will dictate what charges you incur upon arrival.

These depend on whether you're relocating and changing primary residency, you are importing a previously exported vehicle or it's a temporary import. Specifics are listed below.

Relocation – NOVA (Notification of Vehicle arrival) submissions

Generally duties are not payable for entry on transfer of residence to the U.K. but it is vital that the NOVA entry is recorded on the HMRC NOVA system within 14 days of the vehicle arriving in the UK. Failure to do so will result in a  late notification penalty of £5 per day. We have an online portal where we can make your NOVA notification directly to HMRC on your behalf. The NOVA system links directly to the DVLA so if you haven’t completed the notification the DVLA will reject your new registration application.We can complete the entry as a stand-alone service or as part of the total registration process.

Instances Requiring VAT and Vehicle Tax

  • You are importing a new vehicle, less than 6 months of drive time
  • Staying for a period of time over 12 months and you normally live outside the EU
  • You received a refund on the VAT or sales tax of the vehicle prior
  • You purchased the vehicle under a duty or tax free scheme      

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