Importing a car to the UK – customs, VAT & import duty documentation

Importing a car to the UK requires completion of various customs, VAT and import duty documentation. These can range from a simple form to a cars needing a ‘passport'(ATA Carnet), to the need to pay a big VAT tax bill on an imported modern classics. Brexit has also added another layer of complication and is an added headaches for those exporting collectible vehicles to and from Europe.

Below we will cover the most common questions relating to importing and exporting cars.

How much UK import duty and VAT will I have to pay when importing a vehicle?

Non EC manufactured cars – 10% import duty and 20% VAT for private and commercial imports.

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

Boats – generally 1.7% import duty and VAT.

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.

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

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

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.

Historic cars and vehicles (pre 1950) – 5% VAT

What effect has Brexit had on used vehicle imports?

The full impact of vehicle import and export is currently not clear. But since the 31st December 2020 every vehicle movement from the UK now requires an ATA (Access/Temporary Access) Carnet, which is the equivalent to a passport but for goods rather than individuals. The ATA Carnet is a bond that guarantees that your items won’t disappear after they enter the country.

The Carnet costs just a few hundred pounds, but a returnable bond payment of 40 per cent of vehicles value also has to be presented. You can find more guidance on this on the UK government’s website – How to use your ATA Carnet.

What paperwork do I need for a private car import into the UK?

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 section above. Required documents are a bill of sale, a copy certificate of title/logbook and a completed C384 Customs form.

What paperwork do I need to import into the UK as a commercial dealer?

Required documents are bill of sale, a copy certificate of title and VAT number. Commercial import taxes are charged at 10% import duty & 20% VAT.

Do I have to pay VAT when importing a modern or classic car from the EU to the UK?

Since the 31 December 2020, VAT is now payable on any modern or classic vehicle being imported from the EU to the UK.

How much import duty will I have to pay on a vehicle over 30 years old in the UK?

Typically the vehicle would incur VAT at 5% and an import duty of 10% if the vehicle was manufactured outside of the EU, and had not previously been registered in the EU.

Importing a personal vehicle – 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 of a motor vehicle to the UK

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 to the UK

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. This may have changed since the 31st December 2020 due to Brexit and a vehicle may now require a ATA Carnet. The UK government cover the subject here – How to use a ATA Carnet.

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 as outlined above.

How much import duty do you pay on cars imported from outside the E.U.

Import duties on a car being brought into the UK from outside of the EC are charged at 10% and are calculated on bill of sale (purchase price) + freight. VAT is then payable on bill of sale + freight + duty paid. The individual duty rates are outlined above.

Importing vehicles originally registered or manufactured for use in the E.U.

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. The NOVA system links directly to the DVLA so if you haven’t completed the notification the DVLA will reject your new registration application.

Instances Requiring VAT and Vehicle Tax

  • You are importing a new vehicle you have owned less than 6 months
  • You are 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 to moving to the U.K.
  • You purchased the vehicle under a duty or tax free scheme

Conclusion

The importation of vehicles has always been a complicated subject often filled with misconceptions and mistruths. But in most situations the required paperwork, forms and taxes are straight forward and easy to understand. The government have plenty of information available online and there are various specialist business available to help with vehicle importation.

The big unknown is still Brexit will continue to have and effect on the car market, with the additional need for a Carnet and its requirement of a 40% deposits leading to uncertain times for some sectors. Notably the classic car market and the international car auction industry. But it is too early to tell what effect this will have on the Uk motor trade as whole.