Free Circulation Customs Procedure

Customs Procedures | A quick guide to importing goods using the Free Circulation customs procedure


When you import goods into the United Kingdom, you have to bring them into Free Circulation. Free Circulation means that Customs clear the goods, and you can sell them to or use them in the United Kingdom.

Free Circulation customs procedure refers to the basic declaration of non-UK and non-EU goods for domestic use and Free Circulation by paying or accounting for Customs Duty, whether dutiable, duty-free, or temporarily suspended from duty, and any other import charges, regardless of whether a preferential rate of duty is claimed.

How Does Free Circulation Work?

Step 1: Goods are transported to the UK and unloaded from the ship or aircraft. They can be temporarily stored until Customs clears them.

Step 2: The importing company/economic operator/declarant ensures that all necessary supporting documentation is in place, ensuring that the cargo goods are not subject to any limitations or bans. The import licence, certificates of origin, and business invoices are all examples of supporting documents. Following that, the products are presented to the Customs Authority.

Step 3: The Customs Authority next assesses the risk and, in some instances, inspects the products. If the items pass the evaluation and inspections, the importing company is notified of the decision about their free circulation.

Step 4: The importing company/declarant pays the import duties and any other applicable charges or guarantees the payment of the duties. Along with customs duties, there are VAT, excise, and, in some cases, anti-dumping duties.

Step 5: The Customs Authority then allows the products to circulate freely.

Exceptions to the Payment of Import Duties

Returned Goods: These are items exported from the UK but have been returned for any reason. Certain limits apply in this case. For instance, the products must be returned to the UK’s customs territory within three years and cleared for free circulation. The products should be in the same condition as when exported. The return shipment may contain merely a portion of the goods that were originally exported.

Inward processing of non-UK goods: These are non-UK products imported into the UK for the purpose of repairing. After processing, the products can be re-exported or sent into free circulation via the normal process.

Useful information

  • Customs Procedure Code for Free Circulation: Customs procedure codes starting with “40 00” are used for free circulation.
  • Security Requirements: No security is required for free or temporarily exempt imports unless accompanying documentation cannot establish the claim to those rates. Release may occur in violation of the appropriate security.
  • VAT Requirements: If the goods are chargeable at a positive rate, VAT must be paid at importation. The VAT certificate will include these details. Individuals who are exempt from VAT – VAT must be paid at importation if the products are chargeable at a positive rate.

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