HMRC have changed the way we import personal effects into the UK and in doing so, has made life that little bit more difficult.  Here’s what we know about it:

What was the C3, what is a ToR and why should I care?

Until 1st April 2017, when you moved to the UK and brought unaccompanied goods (your personal belongings and household effects), you would have completed a pretty simple C3 form and provided a copy of your passport. Approval was pretty straightforward and headaches were few and far between.

From 1st of April 2017 however, the C3 has been replaced by the Transfer of Residence. This is an online application which, providing you meet the criteria detailed below, enables you to bring your effects into the UK with relief from customs duty and VAT. Let’s face it; no one wants to pay duty and VAT!

Officially know as “ToR01 Application for Transfer of Residence”, the form can be completed online, printed off and e-mailed to HMRC. In due course the process will be completely online without the need to print off and e-mail, but currently HM Customs are behind schedule with this. Once approved, you are sent a Unique Reference Number (URN), which will need to be provided to your moving company/shipper so that they can make their declaration on your behalf when the goods physically arrive at the port/airport.

This is the process HMRC have set out and there is no way around it (unless you’re a diplomat). The only other option is face a hefty bill for duty, VAT, port storage, demurrage, temporary accommodation costs, purchase of new/replacement items that are still stuck in your container, etc.

It’s worth noting also that the ToR applies to bringing pets and motor vehicles into the UK also, replacing the C5 and C104a forms.

What do I need in order to complete the process?

Patience! It’s not the quickest form you’ll ever complete, so set aside a good hour or so. You will also need to have a number of documents to hand. It’s worth having these before you begin, as you cannot save a partially completed form.

The following should be included with your application:

  • A copy of your passport, including your visa if necessary
  • Proof of registration – this document should show you’ve taken up residence in the UK or another country of the European Union (EU), and the date on which you did so, you may also send some other, comparable document which provides reasonable evidence for this purpose
  • Two signed lists of goods. State the goods you wish to import on this list. You can group together items such as men’s clothing, women’s clothing, shoes, bedding, pots & pans, kitchenware, china and glass – there’s no need to itemise every single item you own. Some clients have asked if they can wait and use the packing list the crew will make during the pack up. You can, but this likely to cause a delay in your goods being shipped, so we would suggest you get on with the application and create your own.
  • If you have any, invoices or proofs of guarantee etc. for the goods you wish to import they would be helpful, but are not essential.
  • Your tenancy or purchase agreement of your home outside the UK.

You will also need to provide proof that you’re going to live in the UK. Examples could be your employment contract, a statement from your employer, work permit or your tenancy or purchase agreement for the home you plan to live in. HMRC will also accept any alternative evidence if you don’t have the above documents.

You must also:

  • Have lived outside the EU for at least the last 12 consecutive months.
  • Have used and had possession of the goods for at least the last 6 consecutive months.
  • Have used the goods and are going to continue using them in the new place of residence in the UK for at least the next 12 months.
  • Be importing the goods within 12 months of coming to live in the UK
  • Not lend out, pledge, give away, hire out or transfer the goods within the first 12 months after the date on which they were imported

Ok, I’ve completed the form… now what!?

Congratulations – you’re halfway to claiming back your sanity! You can now either post or email your application back to HMRC. We would recommend email though as this is obviously quicker and you will receive (or you should receive) a confirmation email to let you know its been received and is being reviewed.

Once you have received your URN, keep it safe and importantly, let your shipping company have it ASAP so they can get your shipment moving.

What happens if my belongings are shipped before the URN is received?

So someone told you it would be ok and that you can get around it? Or maybe you just didn’t listen in the first place? Essentially, if the goods arrive in the UK without the URN, they can’t clear customs. So what happens then? Well, the container/consignment will be moved under Bond from the port/airport of entry to a Bonded warehouse – usually the moving company’s warehouse. There it will be unloaded and stored until the URN is available, when clearance and subsequent delivery can be arranged.

Guess what… That incurs extra costs! These can mount up quite quickly and can include the following:

  • Port charges
  • Rent and demurrage on the container
  • Warehouse handling
  • Storage charges
  • Re-delivery charges
  • Admin charges

You could easily be facing a bill of thousands of pounds and that’s before you take into account the knock-on effect of you not being able to work to your full potential because you don’t have all your belongings, or you’re having to spend time during the day trying to arrange additional accommodation etc.

There is another way however… you could send your shipment, pay any import charges and proceed as normal, then try to reclaim these once the URN is received. We mention this only as HMRC have advised it is possible, but we really do not recommended it.

To summarise:

  • Plan ahead! Apply for this 3-4 weeks before you hope to leave.
  • Have all your documents ready before you begin the application process.
  • Email your application.
  • Do NOT send your shipment before you have received your URN!
  • Forward the URN to your shipper as soon as you have it.
  • Be patient and try not to get stressed about it (easier said than done, we know!).

Where do I get help?

Still struggling? You’re not alone. First speak to your moving company – these guys are doing this daily and have come across most scenarios by now.

HMRC have a contact number which is worth trying – 03000 588 453. You can also click on the following link: Customs and Excise General Enquiries.  We recommend clicking the ‘speak to an adviser now’ link where you will find a chat box that is very responsive and knowledgeable.  Link to ToR Application Form – Application Form

This  article was written by GB Liners – one of our tried and tested removal companies.  For further details, they can be contacted on +44 (0)20 8574 1285