Reader question: A recent article said there is ‘Returned Goods Relief’ to provide exemption from British VAT and duty on items taken into France and then returned. I want to repatriate items from my house in France to London. They were mostly brought over 15 years ago. How do I obtain this? M.S.
This, where applicable, ensures that UK customs does not treat the items as being ordinary French-bought ones which could attract UK VAT and, in some cases, import duty.
It relates to items exported less than three years ago, but official rules state that this can be waived (on request) for the personal property of a UK resident that is being returned for personal use. This includes furnishings and equipment for use within your household.
This is separate to the ‘personal allowance’ values that travellers may bring with them tax-free, and is also different from the rules applying when moving back to the UK from France, referred to as ‘transfer of residence relief’.
According to the guidelines, you may ‘claim’ Returned Goods Relief simply by going through a green (nothing to declare) border channel, or by making an oral declaration.
Under some circumstances, however, it may be necessary to fill out paperwork, which can be found on the link above. If you need to enter commodity codes for items, they can be found here.
To avoid issues, we suggest asking HMRC directly for advice on your individual case.
It could be that they will allow you to use the rule without paperwork, based on your own declaration of the facts.
Note that, in future, people wanting to bring in gardening or DIY equipment and other larger items to a French second home for temporary use that might attract the attention of French customs could look into the French process of a carnet ATA temporary import document.
This provides exemption from French import VAT and duty on items not being brought in permanently (see here).