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Government consults on creating UK freeports

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The government is consulting on proposals to create ten freeports across the UK, offering customs and tariff benefits and a possible range of tax incentives.

Freeports are secure customs zones located at ports where business can be carried out inside a country’s land border, but where different customs rules apply. They can reduce administrative burdens and tariff controls, provide relief from duties and import taxes, and ease tax and planning regulations. Typically, goods brought into a freeport do not attract a requirement to pay duties until they leave the freeport and enter the domestic market. No duty is payable at all if the goods are re-exported.

The government is considering a bespoke UK freeport model which would include multiple customs zones located within or away from a port, as well as a type of special economic zone (SEZ) designated over or around the customs zones and intends to work with the devolved administrations to develop proposals to allow freeports to be created in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland, in addition to those in England.

The proposals include the following core customs and tariff benefits for businesses bringing goods into in a freeport site:

  • duty suspension, with no tariffs, import VAT or excise to be paid on goods brought into a freeport from overseas until they leave the freeport and enter the UK’s domestic market;
  • duty inversion, where the duty on a finished product is lower than that on the component parts, allowing companies to benefit by importing components duty free, manufacture the final product in the freeport, and then pay the duty at the rate of the finished product when it enters the UK’s domestic market;
  • duty exemption for re-exports, allowing companies to import components duty free, manufacture the final product in the freeport and pay no tariffs on the components when the final product is re-exported; and
  • simplified customs procedures for businesses accessing freeports.

The consultation also seeks views on possible incentives across a range of taxes, including:

  • business rate discounts (currently available in enterprise zones);
  • stamp duty land tax;
  • R&D tax credits;
  • employer NICs;
  • facilitative solutions on VAT and excise duties for goods within freeports; and
  • enhanced capital allowances (currently available in enterprise zones).

The deadline for responses to the consultation is 20 April 2020. See

Issue: 1475
Categories: News