Claiming preferential origin in the UK: what you need to know

Looking at ways to save money is standard practice for most business owners, but did you know that you can sometimes do this during the import clearance? Depending on what you are importing, where you are buying it from, and how your goods have been processed, claiming preferential origin could be an option for improving your margins. Find out how preference works, and what to watch out for, in this article.

How does preferential origin work?


Preferential origin is where the import duty rate for a commodity is reduced or eliminated because it has come from a country with a trade agreement. 

There are two methods of determining preferential origin: either your goods were manufactured/processed in that country or they were already entered into free circulation there. Not all commodities or countries accept both methods, so you will need to check the tariff to determine which conditions must be met.

Assuming that your goods meet the conditions for claiming preferential duty, you still need to have proof on your documents. Without this, your customs clearance agent must enter the goods with full duty applicable.

How can I prove my goods have preferential origin in the UK?


Since Brexit, methods of determining preferential origin in the UK have changed. The Generalised System of Preference (GSP), a key agreement whilst the UK was within the European Union, is due to be replaced with the Developing Countries Trading Scheme from 16th June, and ATR1 certificates are no longer used for claiming a preferential duty rate when trading with Turkey.

So, how do you prove your goods have preferential origin when importing to the UK?

To claim preferential duty, you must have a statement of origin on your paperwork that follows this outline:

“The exporter of the products covered by this document (Exporter Reference No … (2)) declares that,
except where otherwise clearly indicated, these products are of … (3) preferential origin.
…………………………………………………………………. (4) (Place and date)
………………………………………………………………….. (Name of the exporter)”

What risks do I face with statements of origin?


Since Brexit, many importers have claimed a preferential duty rate using statements that cannot be verified in an audit. There are two main reasons why the exporter has put a false claim on their paperwork:

– You, or another buyer in the UK, has asked for it so preference can be claimed.
– The exporter knows that they need to put this on their paperwork to sell the goods to the UK, but they are not knowledgeable enough in customs formalities to know whether this is correct or not.

In either scenario, you as the importer are liable for duty if the origin cannot be proved.

The goods were manufactured in the seller’s country. Do they automatically qualify?


No. Although the product may originate in that country, preferential origin is separate to generic origin. This is particularly true when it comes to manufactured goods, or any commodities where many parts can be combined or processed to create something new.

For example, if you have a solar panel that combines components from China, India, and Europe in a 20/35/45 ratio, the majority of the finished product is European and you could state it was made in Europe. However, the tariff may state that over 50% of the components must be from Europe to claim preferential duty in the UK.

To determine whether your goods qualify for preferential origin, you must check the tariff and confirm that the correct volumes or processes have been used to determine new origin. Note that the rules of determining preferential origin may vary from country to country, even within the EU.

Need help with UK or EU customs clearance?

Universal Customs Clearance provide import and 
export clearance for all major UK ports, and are partnered with other agents throughout Europe. If you’d like to talk to us about claiming preferential origin in the UK, contact us for more information.


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