Key takeaways from UNW's recent VAT update webinar

Insight /  3 March 2021

Several weeks since the end of the Brexit transition period on 31st December 2020, many businesses are still trying to get to grips with implications of the UK’s exit from the EU single market.

On Thursday 18th February 2021, UNW’s specialist VAT team of Mark Hetherington and Ian Coulthard delivered a VAT Update webinar to over 120 attendees to offer some clarity on the consequences of Brexit and specifically what it means in terms of VAT and import duties.

Mark began the session by providing a useful overview of the timescales surrounding Brexit, recapping the history of the UK’s membership of, firstly the common market, and then the EU single market over a period of 48 years. He was keen to highlight the fact that the UK’s removal from the single market was condensed into a period of just 8 days at the end of 2020, putting into perspective how difficult it has been for UK businesses to adapt to the changes from 1st January 2021.

The presentation then moved on to cover a number of topics, with Mark and Ian delving into the detail of the various implications of Brexit.

Ian acknowledged that we have now seen a return to how things were pre-1993 (when the UK joined the EU single market) and discussed how that has had an effect on the treatment of imported and exported goods between the UK and the rest of the EU.

Mark went on to underline the importance of Incoterms, a globally recognised abbreviation of terms in relation to the commercial aspect of the cross-border supply of goods. He also provided an overview of the UK Free Trade Agreement and emphasised how Rules of Origin now take on extreme importance.

As the session continued, Ian discussed the requirements for overseas VAT registration and provided details on the simplifications that HMRC has announced around duty deferment accounts and guarantees.

Further topics covered during the webinar included how leaving the EU has had a major impact on UK online retailers selling to customers throughout the EU, as well as the difficulties that couriers have had in correctly processing customs entries. Mark ended the presentation by offering some useful insight into the complexities surrounding the supply of goods to Northern Ireland.

A 30-minute Q&A session followed the presentation, giving attendees the opportunity to ask Mark and Ian a variety of questions.

Key takeaways:

  1. Incoterms are of extreme importance in the cross-border supply of goods, particularly when dealing with business suppliers or customers in the EU, therefore you must agree Incoterms with your suppliers and customers.
  2. Give clear instructions to freight forwarders and couriers on the basis of what the Incoterms are, and challenge any charge for import duty and import VAT, or indeed overseas duty and VAT.
  3. Pay particular attention to Rules of Origin that determine whether import duty is payable on imports between the UK and EU and vice-versa. This area is not straightforward and there is a real risk of paying double duty charges.
  4. Do not overlook Customs Special Procedures, but duty savings need to be balanced against the increased compliance costs.

If you would like further guidance on any of the topics covered in the webinar, please do not hesitate to contact our VAT Specialists Mark Hetherington, VAT Partner, at; or Ian Coulthard, VAT Senior Manager, at