Customs Associates



There are different sets of origin rules depending upon the trade policy that is being implemented. The legislation covering rules of origin also varies from product to product and country to country and may be dependent on the type of processing involved. It is important to get the origin right to determine whether a license is required, whether a preferential rate of duty can be claimed, whether anti-dumping duties apply or whether certain documentation is needed / may be issued. An imported product may have different origins for preferential tariff and non-preferential tariff purposes.


Erroneous declarations of origin probably account for the largest back duty demands issued by HMRC.


Tariff preferences and free trade agreements

Goods from certain countries may be imported duty free or at reduced rates of duty, so as to encourage exports from those countries and to promote international trade. The Generalised System of Preferences, or GSP, allows duty free access for the least developed countries in the world and reduced tariffs for more developed countries.


Preferential duty arrangements also apply to many other countries, or groups of countries, which the UK seeks to favour for political or economic reasons. These arrangements will have been negotiated as part of a bi-lateral free trade agreement and, in some cases, reduced duty or duty free importation may be limited to certain tariff headings but only if the goods are deemed to originate in the country concerned. Detailed rules of origin for goods based on their tariff coding will have been negotiated in the trade deal.


The preferential origin arrangements in all trade agreements are complex and the arrangements in the EU-UK TCA have been particularly challenging for business.


Anyone importing goods at a reduced rate with a preferential certificate of origin such as a GSP Form A or EUR 1, must ensure that it is a valid document, ie, that the goods comply with the relevant rules of origin in the trade agreement between the UK and the exporting country. Some trade agreements, such as the ones with the EU and with Japan, do not specifically require there to be any documentation and instead the importer can simply claim the tariff preference if he knows that the goods originate in the country of export.


Non-preferential origin

It can be difficult to determine the origin of goods that have been manufactured in more than one country or made from components from various countries. Whereas the universal rule of ‘country of last substantial process’ is adopted by the UK, the UK has introduced the same legislation as the EU which provides a set of rules, by tariff heading, which are similar to those used for tariff preferences.


It is important to ensure compliance with the non-preferential origin rules when completing documentation, especially if the goods could, for example, be potentially liable to anti-dumping duty.