Global menu

Our global pages


Coronavirus - Import duty and VAT on medical supplies, equipment and protective clothing - Europe

  • United Kingdom
  • Europe
  • Coronavirus - Tax issues
  • Tax planning and consultancy


In order to help in the fight against COVID-19, the European Commission has adopted a Decision, addressed to the Member States, which allows for tax authorities across Europe to offer import tax reliefs to importers of personal protective equipment (“PPE”) and other medical supplies which are to be supplied freely to people at risk of contracting COVID-19.  This Decision is a retrospective decision which allows the relief to apply to approved importers in respect of imports made from 30 January 2020.  In the UK, HMRC has seemingly stated that the relief can apply to imports of PPE and medical supplies which are imported for onward sale to the NHS.  Although the application of the Decision should be applied consistently throughout Europe, the precise nature of the reliefs may vary from jurisdiction to jurisdiction, as may the relevant criteria needed for approvals.   Eversheds Sutherland are well placed to advise across Europe if you are an importer of such items.

To illustrate the types of measures being implemented, we set out below the measures that HMRC is implementing in the UK.  

HMRC has, on 31 March 2020 issued guidance on the import VAT and customs duties position on imports and the impact of this guidance is that state bodies (such as the NHS) and other non-state bodies (that are pre-authorised by HMRC) can, from now until 31 July 2020, get VAT and import duty relief on their imports of these products if they are:


  • For distribution free of charge to those affected, at risk from or involved in combating COVID-19;
  • To be made available free of charge to those affected by, at risk from or involved in combating the coronavirus (COVID-19) outbreak, while remaining the property of the organisations importing them;
  • To be imported and then donated to the NHS; or
  • To be imported and sold on to the NHS.


Under the current rules, importers require a duty deferment account with HMRC backed by a guarantee. Importers of these critical goods would need to increase the level of their guarantee to cover any additional duty due.  This new approach will allow companies to import goods critical for the fight against coronavirus at a faster rate and reduce costs significantly.

Please note that if you produce and sell such items in the UK, then the relief does not apply, and VAT must be charged as normal.  This measure only applies to those goods which are being used for combating COVID-19, and import VAT and duties will be due on products that are loaned or sold to bodies or individuals for other uses.  All imports will continue to arrive through the same channels and face the same checks as before.

If you are not an authorised body, you must contact the National Import Relief Unit (“NIRU”), a department of HMRC, for an application form (contact details can be found here).  Details of how the relief can be claimed is also contained within the guidance.

HMRC on 1 April 2020 has also issued further guidance on customs procedures, which can be found at the links below: 

If you need any more information on the UK tax impacts of COVID-19 on your importations or supply chain, please contact James Lindop, Giles Salmond, Ed Griffiths or Courtney Mackness.

For further information on the EU tax impacts please contact Jacques Mestoudijan or Clement Jouanolle.