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Returned Goods: How to bring repaired goods back into the EU

Returning repaired goods across borders requires awareness of customs rules to save duty and tax argues Arne Mielken of Customs Manager Ltd.

We are returning goods to the EU from our company abroad: How does this need to be treated from a customs perspective?

The goods were originally EU goods that were exported from the EU and that return within three years

• The 3 years may be extended to take into account special circumstances

• The goods may return into any part of the EU, i.e. they do not necessarily have to be brought back to the place from where they were exported.

The goods are returned in the state in which they were exported

The goods are “in the same state” they did not receive any treatment or handling at all. If you carried out some operation, goods are still the same where you repaired then or simply restored or maintained them in good condition. If you operate the outward processing procedure and you have to pay customs duty then the operations had a cost – thus you may have changed the article and this relief is no longer available. Broadly, think about treatment or handling that does not exceed what is strictly necessary to enable goods to be used in the same way as at the time of the export.

The fulfilment of these conditions is supported by documentary evidence to be provided by the declarant

The purpose is to allow the customs authorities to check that the goods exported are the same as the ones returning to the EU.

The declarant must provide information to the customs office where the declaration for release for free circulation is lodged. This can be done by:

  • access to the export declaration

  • using an INF3 document. This document can be requested to the customs office of export at the time of the export or after this moment.

In certain cases, like goods that can be declared orally or by any other act (for instance, means of transport).

What about faulty/broken goods?

For goods that are repaired in a third country, two cases must be distinguished:

  • Goods that were exported in a good state, have broken abroad and get repaired abroad (outside the EU). They can be considered as returned goods, provided that the repair operations do not entail any upgrade to the goods. So if an EU machine breaks down in the UK and you replace a broken part to make it operational again and send it back to the EU, it could still qualify as returned good upon re-entry.

  • Goods that are exported broken to be repaired in a third country and brought back to the Union cannot be considered as returned goods as they do not come back in the same state as they were exported. However, those goods might still be imported under duty-free relief under the conditions and procedural requirements of the outward processing procedure.

What about VAT?

Article 143(e) of VAT Directive provides for the exemption of import VAT upon the re-importation, by the person who exported them, of goods in the state in which they were exported, where those goods are exempt from customs duties.

Therefore, although overall, the VAT legislation follows the customs rules to determine whether the basic conditions for VAT exemption are fulfilled, the VAT exemption upon re-importation as returned goods is applicable only if the exporter and the importer of the goods are the same person.

Download the note from the EU Commission

For more information please download and consult the Notice by the EU Commission on the matter of 31 March 2021.

2021 Apr-note-on-returned-goods_en
Download PDF • 116KB

How we can help

Customs Manager Ltd is a specialist customs training and advisory company. We help SMEs, as well as large and complex multinational businesses, determine the correct customs value, processes and procedures to ensure they can clear customs borders quickly, reaching their customers faster. We cut red tape, paperwork and help design compliant processes and procedures, allowing our clients to reach their customer faster. If you have a particular concern regarding repairs or customs procedures in general, please get in touch at

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