VAT – a timely reminder to obtain evidence of export

The export or removal of goods from the UK can be treated as a zero-rated supply for VAT purposes but only when the relevant evidence of export has been obtained in accordance with the guidelines set out by HMRC, which may differ depending on the export type.  

The evidential requirements are set out in Section 6, VAT Notice 703, which lists what will be accepted as evidence to show that goods have been removed. Please note that three or four documents are usually needed.   

If you would like to understand these evidential requirements, please click here. 

However, in addition to the evidential requirements, there is one further condition that must be met, which is often overlooked: this evidence needs to be obtained within three months of the time the goods were supplied from the UK. A recent VAT Tribunal case of H Ripley & Co Limited v HMRC highlights the importance of adhering to this timeframe.


Background to the case

The issue concerned whether the appellant (H Ripley & Co Limited) had provided satisfactory evidence to support the zero-rating of exported goods, specifically scrap metal.

HMRC contested the zero-rating on the basis that the appellant failed to provide satisfactory evidence clearly demonstrating the removal of the scrap metal from the UK within the three-month period. Furthermore, providing evidence after three months was not an option to support the zero rating.

HMRC requested additional information due to an inquiry from the Belgian tax authorities. However, HMRC deemed the evidence provided by the appellant insufficient, rejecting zero-rating VAT treatment and requiring the client to pay UK VAT on the value of the exported goods.   



The burden of proof rested on the appellant to demonstrate compliance with the conditions in Notice 703 within three months of the supply.

The First Tier Tribunal emphasised that evidence of removal must be obtained within the stipulated three-month period and cannot be obtained and produced at a later date.

Specifically considered as evidence were sales invoices, bank statements, weighbridge tickets, P&O boarding cards, and other evidence of communications with the customer. In HMRC’s view, supported by the Tribunal, none of these documents provided conclusive evidence of the goods leaving the UK.

The appeal was dismissed as none of the documents, individually or collectively, met the requisite for zero-rating nor obtained within three months.

The case highlights the critical importance of obtaining evidence of export within the required timeframe and maintaining accurate documentation to support the zero-rating of supplies of goods overseas.

More than merely demonstrating that your customer is located overseas and goods have left the UK is required; strict adherence to detailed evidence is essential.


How we can help you

If you would like to find out further information about the rules around the exportation of goods and the potential implications for your business, please get in touch with our Head of VAT, Jessica Mason, who can support you in navigating compliance with the relevant regulations.


Email: [email protected]

Phone: 01926 422292


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