This article was published before we became the Chartered Institute of Export & International Trade on 10 July 2024, and this is reflected in references to our old brand and name. For more information about us becoming Chartered, visit our dedicated webpage on the change here.

As the government continues to announce reliefs available on import duty and import VAT, here the Institute of Export & International Trade’s director of stakeholder engagement, Kevin Shakespeare, summarises the key points as to when relief on duty and VAT can apply. 


1. Conditions for obtaining relief


Relief on import duty and import VAT can be claimed by any person importing goods into the UK if the conditions below are met:


 Relief will apply to imports of protective equipment (PPE), other relevant medical devices or equipment for the coronavirus (COVID-19) outbreak set out in the COVID-19 Commodity Code list as provided by government.


 Goods must be imported by or on behalf of an organisation based in the UK which 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

General approval applies to the following charitable and philanthropic organisations:

  • 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 occurring in countries within 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 emailing .

2. How to claim

If you are importing goods on behalf of one of the organisations listed, you need to obtain authorisation to claim this relief from the National Import Relief Unit (NIRU).

You can email for an application form, though in every instance you should always check if your import meets the above criteria.

Goods can be imported on behalf of one of the organisations if they are to be donated or sold (directly or indirectly) to them.

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.