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I have a unique import question from NI!

I have a two-part question. Can you offer clarification on the distinction between registering a car vs importing a car to NI/ROI after the Brexit cut-off date? Back story: I have a GB reg car and I've been the registered keeper of it for more than two years. I took it to NI in Sep 2020, before the Brexit cut off date of 1 Jan 2021. However, it has still been registered at a GB address, whilst I move between the two countries. I am now ready to register the car in NI at a permanent address.

1) Are there UK custom duties and VAT now attached to this if I register it in NI? Or because the car was taken (can I say imported?) to NI before the cut off date - just not registered - is the process the same pre-Brexit? It is still registered at an English address. I would specifically like to check if registering the vehicle in NI before the cut off date was necessary to avoid the extra UK import fees due to Brexit?

2) When I subsequently move to the ROI, will the car be subjected to Irish Customs Duty, VAT and VRT? I keep reading used cars from Northern Ireland will not be subjected to the new customs/VAT fees but I'm not sure if this is applicable to the car detailed above. state: "You can register a vehicle registered before 1 January 2021 without any checks on the customs status if it was registered: i) in Northern Ireland or ii) to a person resident in Northern Ireland". So whilst it wasn't registered in Northern Ireland, it was registered to a person with an address in Northern Ireland before the cut off date.

Any information is gratefully received.


Caroline Ponsonby (Lisburn)

Mar 2021 Filed under: importing

Expert answer

Hi Caroline,

Right, this is a bit of a tricky one. The good news, first off, is that there’s no issue with moving a car between England and Northern Ireland — no duties nor VAT to pay, all you have to do is inform the DVLA of the change of address.

Bringing that car south might then represent a difficulty, but it will depend on how long you wait between your registering the car in the North and bringing it south. Technically, Revenue have told us that there is no specific timeline when it comes to having a car registered in Northern Ireland and not having to pay import duty and VAT when importing that car into the Republic. However, they have also said that they will be carefully monitoring the paper trail of each car to ensure that no-one is trying to game the system. If there’s only going to be a short gap between you registering the car in the North and then importing it into the South, that could get antennae twitching at Revenue, even if you’re technically above board. 

Revenue might also try to hit you with the requirement for proof of six months tax and insurance at your NI address for you to be able to import the car into the South as part of a change of address. That would theoretically allow you to avoid paying VRT as well as the VAT, but if you can’t show six months (at least) of tax and insurance in NI, you might run into some difficulties.

Neil Briscoe - Complete Car Advisor

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