Medicines temporarily Imported by Charity - VAT Relief

Medicines temporarily Imported by Charity - VAT...
A small religious charity sends field workers (all unpaid volunteers) to Africa.  The charity holds a small stock of anti-malaria medication for its field workers to take with them both for their own use and for free-of-charge distribution to needy people in Africa.  The charity can source the medication more cheaply abroad, but has it sent to the UK for dispatch to workers going to different parts of Africa .  None of the medication is used in the UK - it is simply brought in and distributed to workers as and when they go on field trips.  They then take it abroad for use outside the UK (and outside the EC). 
Can this medication be brought into the UK without incurring VAT and import duties?  HMRC have been consulted, but different officers have given conflicting advice.


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13th Aug 2012 16:21

Temporary AdmissionHMRC Reference:Notice 200 (March 2012)



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to The Highlander
13th Aug 2012 17:13


I looked at that too. Where they may get stuck is the need to prove the medicines have been exported again. It's hard to tell for the question , but if the medication is going out piecemeal, possibly in staff luggage, it will be hard to obtain the evidence, and even if it is, then reconciling bulk imports to numerous small exports may be a time consuming exercise, and more costly than paying the VAT

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Thanks for your comments.


Yes, you've understood the situation correctly.  The medicines do go out piecemeal in the field workers' luggage.  The charity has no establishment of its own and UK 'HQ' staff are also unpaid volunteers, so that until needed, stocks are stored in the Welfare Officer's private home or at his 'day job' premises - unrelated to the charity.  They are locked away and can be inspected by HMRC.


Notice 200 on Temporary Admission goes on at length about items brought into the country for temporary use here rather than simply for storage prior to distribution abroad.  Also, it lists the types of goods to which it applies, and medicines don't seem to fit into any of the categories listed.  Am I getting into customs warehousing territory?  Perhaps you're right that the admin defeats the object.

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14th Aug 2012 10:03

I can't see it working as a temporary import

Customs will want to see an import document and a corresponding export document, I think for the SAME total consignment from memory!  So you loose on two counts:-

1) the consignment(s) do not get re-exported intact/modified.

2) You don't have any export documents anyway.

Worth throwing yourself at the feet of HMRC and see whether they are able to 'help'(!).  Otherwise your MP may be able to help; it depends on the sums involved really.

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14th Aug 2012 10:06

Just a thought!

You could contact Medecin sans Frontieres and ask them what they do!

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