UK Customs Transfer of Residence (ToR)

UK Customs Transfer of Residence (ToR)

The C3 is dead, long live the ToR! Yes, HMRC have changed the way we import personal effects into the UK and in doing so made life that little bit harder. So, here’s what we know and our experience with it to-date.

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

Until 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 fairly straight forward and headaches were few and far between.

Effective 1st of April, the C3 has been replaced by the Transfer of Residence. This is now 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 known as “ToR01 Application for Transfer of Residence”, the form should be completed online, printed off and e-mailed to HMRC. In due course the process will be all online without the need to print off and e-mail but currently HMRC are behind schedule. 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), so the only other option is face a heft 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 respectively.

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. Its worth having these before you begin as you cannot save a partially completed form and pick up where you left off. 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, comparabledocument 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/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 is likely to cause a delay in your goods being shipped, so we would suggest you get on with the application and create your own well before moving day.
  • If you have any, invoices or proofs of guarantee etc. for the goods you wish to import would be a help, but 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 being reviewed.

Some people early on in the process will have been using one email address. There has since been a new address set up to help speed up applications. So to avoid confusion…only send your application to this email address:

This new address is specific for applications and HMRC have increased their staff numbers to deal with a fairly sizeable backlog. There has also been a commitment by HMRC to Fast-track the simple basic applications in an effort to speed up the process.

Currently applications seem to be taking between 25 and 30 days before a URN is received, so please do keep this in mind when planning your move to the UK.

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 it as HMRC have advised it is possible, but we really do not recommended it.

In summary

  • Plan ahead! Apply for this 3-4 weeks before you hope to leave to be safe
  • Have all your documents ready before you begin
  • Email your application
  • Do NOT send your shipment before you have received your URN!
  • Forward the URN to your shipper asap
  • Be patient and try not to stress yourself out (easier said than done, we know).

Where do I find help?

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

HMRC have a contact number which is worth trying - 03000 588 453

What is also very useful is the following link - We recommend clicking the ‘speak to an adviser now’ link and there is a chat box that is very responsive and knowledgeable.

Link to the ToR Application Form

Written by Andy Hawtin from GB Liners. Contact +44 (0)20 8574 1285

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