Clients are asking us: when is VAT payable on pets entering Great Britain (GB)?

We’re not VAT experts, but have consulted with our customs agents to try and help our clients understand the post-Brexit situation. Below is a summary of the situation as we understand it (but note that it’s evolving), provided simply as a service. For definitive, up-to-date information, please check the UK government sources listed at the end.

Note that Animalcouriers cannot complete VAT-related paperwork on behalf of our clients.

Repatriating family pets to GB

If your pet left the UK with you and is returning to the UK with you following a period of living abroad, there will generally be no VAT to pay, provided you apply in advance for Transfer of Residence (ToR) relief (see below) and include your pet on it. This means your pet will be classed as a personal effect.

If you’re returning to the UK with a pet you adopted or bought while living abroad, VAT may be payable, unless you’ve owned your pet for at least six months, in which case you can apply for ToR relief.

Generally speaking, you must have lived abroad for at least 12 months.

If VAT is payable, it will usually be calculated on a nominal value assigned to the pet, as follows:

  • Around £60 for a cat
  • Around £100 for a dog

Transfer of Residence (ToR) relief

To apply, complete the ToR01 form. You’ll receive a reference number from HMRC (the UK Customs office) that should allow you to bring your pet into GB without paying VAT.

If you don’t receive your ToR reference number before you and your pet arrive, you’ll have to pay VAT on deposit on arrival. You should then be able claim it back once you have your ToR reference number.

Imports of family pets from abroad as described above are classed as non-commercial.

Do bear in mind that, in some cases, VAT may be payable even if you have a ToR reference number.

Pets travelling to GB to join new owners

If your cat or dog is entering the UK without you (because, for example, you’ve bought it from an overseas breeder or adopted it from an overseas shelter), you’ll need to use the Import of Products, Animals, Food and Feed System (IPAFFS) to notify the Animal and Plant Health Agency (APHA) about the import.

VAT may be payable on these imported dogs and cats, and will be calculated as follows.

  • If the pet has effectively cost you nothing (eg adoption, gift), VAT will be calculated on the pet’s nominal value (typically around £60 for a cat and around £100 for a dog) or its perceived value.
  • If you bought the pet from a breeder or other seller, VAT will be calculated on its actual value and on a percentage of the transport costs (the actual percentage hasn’t yet been confirmed, but could be between 20% and 50%). You’ll need to provide invoices or receipts showing the cost of the pet and of its transport.

Note that breeders in the EU have always been able to charge their UK clients VAT on the purchase price of a cat or dog. Previously, the breeder collected the VAT by adding it to the sales invoice. Now, the breeder’s invoice excludes VAT, and the UK government collects the VAT directly from the new owner instead.

Imports of pets purchased abroad are classed as commercial.

What this means for Animalcouriers clients

Before we can enter GB with a client’s cat, dog, kitten or puppy, we have to apply for customs clearance. The documentation we have to present includes information from the owner covering the purchase, valuation and transport of the pet, and the owner’s name and GB address.

If VAT applies to the pet, the owner must pay it before we can apply for customs clearance. Our customs agent will inform our clients in good time of any VAT amount payable. Pets can’t be cleared until VAT has been paid or a ToR reference number provided.

UK government sources for more information

For definitive, up-to-date information, please check these UK government sources, which take precedence over the guidance above:

Animalcouriers is not responsible for the information available via the above links.

when is VAT payable