An easy explainer of how and when your goods to NI are not at risk and can be imported duty-free to NI (without paying EU customs duty)
If you are unable to make a declaration based on knowledge of the specific destination of all the goods in a consignment (for example, a large number of screws), you may still be able to declare based on expectations of which of your goods should not be considered 'at risk' at the time you bring them into Northern Ireland.
You may be able to declare a portion of your consignment as not 'at risk' if your supply chains or sales are stable enough to allow you to accurately assess what portion of the consignment will be sold to, or ultimately used by, end consumers in Northern Ireland (or England, Scotland, or Wales), based on historical performance or future contracts. You must be able to present evidence to back your assertions and establish that the declarations you have made are correct.
If you make a declaration based on expected outcomes, you must notify HMRC if the actual use of your goods differs from what you anticipated when you made your declaration, and you must pay any difference in tax owing at a later date. More information on how to accomplish this will be provided in due time.
To disclose on this basis, you must be approved under the UK Trader Scheme and notify HMRC that you intend to use anticipated outcomes as the basis for your statements. When submitting your application for authorization, include this information in your covering email.
Download a detailed presentation on the practical details of how to make sure your goods are NOT at risk - including UK Trader Support System and how to waive goods.
Why does it matter if goods are deemed "at-risk" or not?
The Protocol-I-NI enables tariffs to be collected on goods at risk of entering the EU’s Single Market at ports of entry, rather than at the land border. The authorities would, consequently, need to charge customs duty for products deemed “at-risk” of being moved from GB (or “outside the EU”), via NI into the EU. Goods are considered to be at risk if the goods under two conditions:
i. They are subject to “commercial processing” in NI; and
ii. They fulfil the criteria established by the so-called “Joint Committee”.
How can businesses avoid paying duties when coming to NI?
From 2021, goods entering Northern Ireland from Great Britain or a country outside of the EU may be liable to pay EU customs duty. This will depend on a number of factors such as where the goods are coming from and whether they are considered ‘at risk’ of onward movement to the EU or not.
HMG has, through the Joint Committee and other mechanisms, secured a number of options for business to ensure they pay the correct customs duty on goods movements from GB-NI.
These are as follows;
Traders are eligible to claim a waiver – this is likely to be a helpful solution for smaller businesses; or
Goods are not ‘at risk’ of onward movement to the European Union.
When is a good "at risk"?
According to the UK, a good will always be considered ‘at risk’ if:
It was brought into Northern Ireland for onward movement outside of the UK (including the Republic of Ireland, the rest of the EU or rest of the world). This is unless the good is brought into NI from another country outside of the UK and EU and the applicable UK duty is higher or the same as the applicable EU duty.
It is subject to EU trade defence measures. In the case of movements from another country outside of the UK and the EU, this is unless the equivalent UK trade defence measures is higher.
It was brought into NI for commercial processing, though there are exceptions to this rule. Please see my blog entry from yesterday on the new law of what constitutes "Northern Ireland" qualifying goods.
It was brought in from another country outside of the UK and EU, and the EU duty is more than 3% greater than UK duty.
When will a good NOT be at risk?
The Joint Committee has established the conditions for considering that a good brought into Northern Ireland is not at risk of moving into the EU and will not be subject to commercial processing in Northern Ireland.
But the answer may depend on who you ask
Good "Not at Risk" according to the UK
According to the UK, a good can be considered not ‘at risk’ if:
The UK duty is equal to or higher than the EU duty. As there are no UK duties between GB – NI, this covers where the EU duty is zero.
It is declared not ‘at risk’ by a UK Trader Scheme-authorised trader where the good is for:
sale to consumers in Northern Ireland (for example, a sale in a retail store) business use in Northern Ireland (for example, a business purchasing stationary, or a farmer purchasing a tractor, for their own use)
sale to consumers or for business use in Great Britain (only where the good was originally brought into NI from GB).
3. It is not be considered to be subject to commercial processing. This is where:
the importer had a total annual turnover of less than £500,000 in its most recent complete financial year; or
the processing is in Northern Ireland and is for the sole purpose of:
(i) the sale of food to an end-consumer in the United Kingdom;
(ii) construction, where the processed goods form a permanent part of a structure that is constructed and located in Northern Ireland by the importer;
(iii) direct provision to the recipient of health or care services by the importer in Northern Ireland;
(iv) not for profit activities in Northern Ireland, where there is no subsequent sale of the processed good by the importer, or
(v) the final use of animal feed on premises located in Northern Ireland by the importer.
How does the EU define goods "not at risk"? Is there any difference?
According to the EU, a good also will not be considered to be at risk of entering the EU Single Market in two scenarios:
SCENARIO 1: GB->NI In the case of goods brought into Northern Ireland from another part of the United Kingdom by direct transport under two conditions:
(i) the duty payable according to the Union Common Customs Tariff is equal to zero, or
(ii) the importer is a recognised “Trusted Trader” who is importing that good for its sale to, or final use by, end-consumers located in the UK.
SCENARIO 2: WORLD -> NI In the case of goods brought into Northern Ireland by direct transport from outside the UK or EU under these two conditions
(i) the duty payable according to the Union Common Customs Tariff is equal to or less than the duty payable according to the customs tariff of the United Kingdom, or
(ii) the importer is a Trusted Trader who is importing that good for its sale to, or final use by, end-consumers located in Northern Ireland (including where that good has been subject to non-commercial processing before its sale to, or final use by, end-consumers), and the difference between the duty payable according to the Union Common Customs Tariff and the duty payable according to the customs tariff of the United Kingdom is lower than 3% of the customs value of the good.
How long will this “goods not at risk” solution last for?
These provisions regarding “goods not at risk” will cease to apply from 1 August 2024, unless the Joint Committee decides before 1 April 2024 to continue their application. If this situation were to occur, the Joint Committee is tasked with finding an alternative solution as of 1 August 2024.
If either the EU or the UK considers there is significant diversion of trade, or fraud or other illegal activities, it can inform the other Party in the Joint Committee by 1 August 2023, and the Parties shall use their best endeavours to find a mutually satisfactory resolution.
UK Trader Scheme
Traders will be able to join the UK Trader Scheme if they are:
Established in NI; OR Established in GB and have an indirect rep in NI, and have a fixed place of business in NI where records are available and where goods are sold to, or provided for final use by, end-consumers
Have no history of serious customs or tax infringements or other similar criminal offences of an economic nature; and
Have sufficient control of their operations and record keeping capability to ensure they can provide evidence to support their not ‘at risk’ declarations.
If your business fits these criteria, you will need to provide HMRC with basic information
including details of the business and directors, EORI number, VAT number, date of
establishment, and address. You will be able to submit applications from mid-December.
HMRC may provisionally authorise traders who have submitted their applications before
January for up to four months while their application is processed.
De Minimis Waiver
You may also be able to claim a de minis duty waiver. De minimis aid allows a certain
amount of aid to be provided to businesses. The general allowance is €200,000 over three fiscal years, but certain sectors have different allowances. More detailed guidance can be found on gov.uk.
So else did they agree on?
An agreement in principle has been found in the following areas, amongst others:
Border Control Posts/Entry Points specifically for checks on animals, plants and derived products,
the supply of medicines,
the supply of chilled meats,
and other food products to supermarkets,
and clarification on the application of State aid under the terms of the Protocol.
EU Customs Controls in NI?
They found practical arrangements regarding the EU's presence in Northern Ireland when UK authorities implement checks and controls under the Protocol.
The exemption of agricultural and fish subsidies from State aid rules,
The finalization of the list of chairpersons of the arbitration panel for the dispute settlement mechanism so that the arbitration panel can start operating as of next year, as well as
The correction of errors and omissions in Annex 2 of the Protocol.
What is decided about the “EU presence” in Northern Ireland?
Under the Protocol on Ireland and Northern Ireland, the EU has the right to be present during any activities related to its implementation, such as customs and veterinary checks carried out by UK authorities.
The EU's overarching objective was to have in place a set of practical, operational arrangements that will enable EU representatives to effectively carry out their tasks under the Protocol. The Joint Committee formally adopted today the concrete working arrangements for this.
While today's decision does not amount to the establishment of a permanent EU office in Northern Ireland, the solution found will provide the EU with the necessary capabilities to monitor that the Protocol is implemented correctly by the UK authorities in Northern Ireland, thereby protecting the integrity of the EU Single Market.
In practice, this means that the EU can be physically present at places where goods and animals enter or exit Northern Ireland through ports or airports. The UK has agreed to provide adequate equipment and facilities, as well as continuous, real-time access to their relevant IT systems and databases, both on the ground and remotely.
The exercise of these rights is notably not limited to the territory of Northern Ireland but relates to any activities carried out by United Kingdom authorities in the implementation of the Protocol irrespective of their location.
Press Release EU: Brexit: Withdrawal Agreement to be fully operational on 1 January 2021:
Statement from the Joint Committee
New UK law: How to turn a GB product into an NI product without paying customs duty!?!
Time to get serious about Northern Ireland Trade!
GB-Northern Ireland Trade: Trader Support Service (TSS) More Details Emerge
PRE-LODGEMENT MODEL GOODS VEHICLE MOVEMENT SERVICE (GVMS) Great Britain & Northern Ireland Explained
Brexit: Trade between Northern Ireland and Republic of Ireland post Brexit (Technical Briefing)
Essential, online Customs & Global Trade Support
get advice on our Information Hubs.
find out how to determine the relevant duty rates and commodity codes for your goods in our Classification Hub
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