Importation of goods for charitable and humanitarian organisations

Charitable and humanitarian organisations can import certain goods from outside the European Union (EU) without payment of Customs Duty and Value-Added Tax (VAT).

The goods may include the following:

  • Basic necessities for people in need, for example, food, medicine, clothing and bedclothes. In order to qualify for relief from VAT the goods must be supplied free of charge.
  • Items sent free of charge by a person or an organisation established outside the EU. These goods must be used for fund-raising at occasional charity events for the benefit of people who are in need.
  • Equipment and office materials sent free of charge by a person or an organisation established outside the EU. These goods must be used solely to meet the operating needs or to carry out the aims of the organisation or charity.

There is no relief allowed on alcohol and tobacco products or on motor vehicles other than ambulances.

Procedure at importation

You will need to support your claim for relief.

If you import basic necessities for people in need you will need a declaration by the importer. This declaration should confirm the goods are for distribution free of charge to people in need.

If you import:

  • goods for fund-raising at occasional charity events for the benefit of people in need
  • or
  • equipment or office materials for use by your charity or organisation

you will need a letter confirming that the goods are sent free of charge with no commercial intent and one of the following, as appropriate:

  • a declaration by the importer stating that the goods are for fund-raising at occasional charity events for the benefit of people in need
  • or
  • a declaration by the importer stating that the goods are to be used to meet their operating needs or to carry out their charitable aims.

You should attach the relevant documents listed above to the outside of the parcel and mark them 'customs documents'.

If you import your goods by post, the declaration on the parcel should state the following:
'Goods for charitable purposes: exemption from import charges claimed'.

If you import your goods other than by post, for example, by courier, you should:

You may not transfer, lend or hire out these goods unless you notify Revenue and pay the import duties. However, you may lend or hire the goods to organisations that would qualify for the relief. You must tell Revenue before any transfer takes place.

Further information

If you require further information, contact the Authorisations and Reliefs Unit.