What is Returned Goods Relief and how can we use it for UK-EU trade?

return goods

Subject to specific conditions, Returned Goods Relief (RGR) removes or reduces the repayment of import duties for goods that are re-imported into the same customs territory that they have already been exported from.

Currently, many GB businesses are experiencing EU customers being unwilling to pay extra import duty and goods are being returned to GB businesses.

RGR, initially, seemed a valid option to avoid incurring import duty on goods entering the EU from GB then returning to GB. It has proved complicated, however.

Proof of export issue

Up until January 2021, the UK was an EU member state. What we today call an international goods movement (import or export) used to be a domestic EU movement.

After Brexit, one of the key criteria for RGR, a ‘proof of export’, could not be satisfied.

Goods movements did not have the required export document: the export declaration or wet-stamped INF3 form issued by the exporting EU MS customs administration.

Temporary simplification

Fortunately, the UK and EU have recently agreed a temporary simplification to the criteria for RGR, removing the need for proof of export on returned goods returning until 30 June 2022. 

This arrangement is reciprocal meaning any EU goods returning to the EU may also benefit from this simplification. 

The three-year time limit for return of goods, does not apply.  


For goods returning to the EU, the goods either must have been in GB at the end of the transition period. There also needs to be proof that they were previously in the EU, before the end of 2020.

In line with the above provision, as per Notice 236, Returned Goods Relief, 4.2 RGR is available for Non-Union goods that used to be Union goods.

RGR is, in some cases, available for use with non-union goods, as per Notice 236, December 2018, Returned Goods Relief, 4.2, which states:

 “Non-Union goods which, having originally been exported as Union goods from the Customs territory of the Union, are returned to that territory within a period of three years and declared for release for free circulation shall, upon application by the person concerned, be granted relief from import duty.” 

Which goods are eligible for RGR?  

As per government guidance, the following are the criteria to claim RGR:  

  • goods must have been either:
  • exported from GB (exclusions apply to certain goods exported from Northern Ireland)
  • moved from NI to GB and returned to NI 
  • exported from the EU to GB and moved into NI, or
  • exported from NI to any country outside the EU and returned to NI 

To claim the relief on the import VAT, the exporter and importer must be the same person. The goods must be re-imported in an unaltered state – i.e. no upgrades, alterations, or repairs, apart from any work carried out to maintain the goods in working order.

RGR legislation 

As per Notice 236, December 2018, Returned Goods Relief, 1.1: https://library.croneri.co.uk/cch_uk/purple/notices-gen-misc-notice-236

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