Postponed VAT Accounting: cash flow help when you import goods

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Dear customer,

Adapting to the new rules for trading with the EU can be daunting but we’re here to help you. Customers are telling us that using Postponed VAT Accounting (PVA) is an area that they need help with, so this week’s email is focused on how PVA works.

Accounting for import VAT on your VAT return (also called Postponed VAT Accounting) means you’ll account for and recover import VAT on the same VAT return, rather than having to pay it upfront and recover it later.

In this email you’ll find out about the steps that you can take to make sure you benefit when you’re importing goods into Great Britain or Northern Ireland, from any country. We’ll tell you:

  1. About PVA
  2. How to tell HMRC that you want to use PVA
  3. How to complete your VAT return when using PVA
  4. How to get the statement that you will need to complete your VAT return
  5. Where to find help and support

Question 1: I’ve heard about PVA, but I’m not sure if it’s for me. Why should I use it, and where can I find out more about it?

Answer: PVA allows UK VAT registered importers to account for and recover import VAT on their VAT return. PVA is available permanently and we expect that most businesses will choose to use it, because it provides significant cash flow benefits compared to the alternative of paying the import VAT when the goods are imported.

Different rules apply in different situations. In some cases, you must account for import VAT on your VAT return – for example, if you delay your customs declaration

You can go to GOV‌‌‌‌.UK to check when you must use PVA to account for import VAT on your VAT return, and when it is optional. 

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Question 2: How do I tell HMRC that I want to use PVA?

Answer: There isn’t an application process for PVA, and you do not need to tell HMRC in advance if you want to start accounting for import VAT on your VAT return. You need to confirm in your customs declaration that you are using PVA. 

If you use the Customs Handling of Import and Export Freight (CHIEF) system

On your declaration, enter:

  • your EORI number starting with ‘GB’ which includes your VAT registration number into box 8 (Header Consignee), or, if applicable, your VAT registration number in box 44h (Registered Consignee)
  • 'G' (Postponed accounting for VAT approved) as the method of payment in Box 47e.

If you use the Customs Declaration Service (CDS)

On your declaration, enter:

  • your VAT registration number at header level in data element 3/40.

Please note that VAT will be recorded against your EORI and will be at declaration level only.

If someone else is doing your customs declarations for you such as a freight forwarder, customs agent, broker or fast parcel operator you must tell them you want to use PVA. Tell them that you want to use PVA to account for import VAT on the imported goods, so that they can complete the customs declaration correctly on your behalf. Keep a written record of what is agreed for your records.

Whoever completes the declaration must take care when selecting how to account for import VAT on the customs declaration, as this cannot be changed once the declaration has been submitted.

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Question 3: How do I complete my VAT return if I’m using PVA?

Answer: After you have selected PVA on your customs declaration you will need to account for import VAT when you complete your VAT return.

To complete your VAT return, you will need:

  • details of any customs entries you have made in your own records
  • copies of your monthly postponed import VAT statement, when available.

Unless you have delayed your customs declaration, each of your statements will show the total import VAT postponed for the previous month.

If you are delaying your customs declarations:

  • you must account for import VAT on the return which includes the date you imported the goods
  • to complete the boxes on your return, you’ll need to estimate the import VAT due from your records of imported goods
  • when you submit your delayed declaration, you must select that you’re accounting for your VAT on your return.

Your next online monthly statement will show the amount of import VAT due on that declaration. You’ll then be able to:

  • adjust your estimate
  • account for any difference on your next return.

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Question 4: How do I get the statement I need to complete my VAT return?   

Answer: If you account for your import VAT on your VAT return, you’ll need to get a postponed import VAT statement online.

Unless you have delayed your customs declaration, each statement will show the total import VAT postponed for the previous month.

Your statements will usually be available to view by the 6th working day of the month.

To view your statements, you’ll need a Government Gateway user ID and password which is linked to your EORI number. If you do not have a user ID and password, you can create your account on GOV‌‌‌‌.UK.

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Where to find help and support about importing and exporting

We have a range of customer support, online guidance and tutorials available to help you. Here’s some of the support that’s available for you:

YouTube videos

Watch our short videos on HMRC's YouTube channel to familiarise yourself with customs processes and what you need to do before trading goods with the EU.

Live webinars

You can attend our webinars about:

  • Customs Import Declarations: An overview
  • Exporting: what you need to do to keep your goods moving
  • Importing: what you need to know about Staged Controls
  • Trader responsibilities when using an intermediary.

If you’d like to attend a webinar you can register here.

Check out our forums

To ask and get answers to specific questions about HMRC processes for importing or exporting, please visit our customer forums.

Give us a call

Our customer service advisors are available to answer your queries on the Customs and International Trade helpline. They’ll help you with importing, exporting and customs reliefs. The helpline is open from 8‌‌‌‌am to 10‌‌‌‌pm Monday‌‌‌ to‌‌‌ Friday and from 8‌‌‌‌am to 4‌‌‌‌pm at weekends. Call to speak to an advisor on 0300‌‌‌‌ ‌322‌‌‌‌‌‌‌ ‌9434.

We will continue to provide guidance and support to help you and your business, including information on GOV‌‌‌‌‌‌‌.UK, our popular live webinars and through this weekly email.

If you know of a business who would also find these weekly emails helpful, please forward it on, or suggest they register to get these updates directly to their inbox.

Yours sincerely

Katherine Green and Sophie Dean

Katherine Green and Sophie Dean 

Directors General, Borders and Trade, HMRC