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The customs collection at Martyn Fiddler Aviation: Custom controls and aircraft maintenance

In this series of articles we will explain everything you need to know about customs duties, controls and reliefs. In particular we will explain who needs to know, how they apply to aircraft and what solutions are available.

What are customs controls? The acts performed by customs authorities to ensure compliance with rules governing the entry, exit, transit, storage and end-use of goods and their movement between different customs territories. This is a complex area and aircraft owners are often unaware of the network of customs rules applying to their aircraft as they cross borders.

At Martyn Fiddler Aviation we want to de-mystify this complex web of rules and provide you with the advice and solutions to ensure hassle free travel, whatever your purpose. In this article we will explain the requirements (and potential risks) for aircraft operators and their maintenance needs.

Maintenance of aircraft outside their home jurisdiction

While the departure of the United Kingdom from the European Union (also known as Brexit) is now a matter for the history books, the administrative and potential tax burdens are still having an impact on the aviation industry.

A key issue for business aircraft owners and operators worldwide is that of aircraft maintenance. If goods are brought into a customs territory, they need to come under some form of customs control; this could be a full importation or entry to a customs regime for a limited time. Often the goods are brought in for a specific purpose – in this article we will focus on maintenance.

Brexit resulted in a loss of customs privileges (free circulation) in either the UK or the EU for a number of aircraft. This has a knock-on effect by impacting customs requirements for aircraft maintenance. Where an aircraft does not hold import/free circulation status in the territory it is having maintenance in, then some form of customs control is required. In the UK and EU (as elsewhere globally), this is known as inward processing.

Temporary admission and maintenance. There is some confusion surrounding the use of ‘simplified temporary admission’ (a commonly used procedure for aircraft visiting a customs territory) and whether maintenance tasks can be carried out. While it is permissible to make unexpected repairs under temporary admission, it does not specifically allow aircraft to be brought into a territory for the purpose of repair. Additionally, temporary admission will not allow parts to be imported with similar relief to VAT & duty.

If you have an aircraft visiting under temporary admission and it unexpectedly requires significant repair, then a transfer to inward processing should be considered.

Inward processing

Inward processing is a customs special procedure that suspends any potential value added tax (VAT) and customs duties that would normally apply to maintenance works and also ensures wider customs compliance.

Some maintenance repair and overhaul facilities (MRO’s) are aware of these requirements, indeed, some facilities will provide inward processing cover to their client aircraft. However, many MRO’s (and aircraft operators) are not fully aware of the regulations and inadvertently fall foul of the rules as a result.

Aircraft operators and MRO’s must consider inward processing for aircraft arriving from outside their customs territory. While before Brexit the movement of aircraft between the UK and EU for maintenance was not an issue providing the aircraft was in free circulation, now an oversight or misunderstanding potentially exposes both parties to customs penalties which could be VAT (tax) on the current market value of the aircraft – in the UK this tax is 20%.

Does an aircraft need inward processing?

Recognising the need for obtaining customs cover (inward processing or otherwise) is essential for aircraft owners, operators and maintenance facilities.

Step 1: Understanding the customs status of the aircraft, namely, is the aircraft in free circulation in (a) the EU (if maintenance is in EU) or, (b) the UK (if maintenance is in the UK).

  • If aircraft is in free circulation in the relevant territory then no other customs cover is [HG1] required
  • If the aircraft is not in free circulation then it must be declared to customs control when crossing the border between territories

Step 2: Obtaining the cover required if the aircraft is not in free circulation. The following questions need to be asked:

  • Does the operator hold inward processing authorisation with the customs territory where maintenance is to be carried out?
  • Does the MRO which is being engaged for the maintenance work hold inward processing authorisation?

If the answer to either of above is “yes” the aircraft needs to be declared to this customs control on crossing the border.

If the answer is “no” it is not acceptable to simply ignore the requirement. At this stage (or prior to this!) you need to engage with an approved service provider who can extend their authorisation to you as either the operator or MRO.

Part of an end to end service

Martyn Fiddler Aviation provides inward processing as part of its end to end services. We work closely with all parties to ensure a seamless transaction in a compliant and risk mitigated way. We handle all the customs paperwork and administration on behalf of clients ensuring the entire process is conducted correctly and in full compliance of the applicable regulations.

Contact Phill Rawlins at to learn more about inward processing and all services available in our customs collection at Martyn Fiddler Aviation.


The information included in this article is considered true and correct at the date of publication; changes to rules and regulation made after the time of publication may impact on the accuracy of the information referenced or inferred to in this article. The information in the article may change without notice and Martyn Fiddler Aviation is in no way liable for the accuracy of any information printed or stored or in any way interpreted and used by the user. This article or the information contained in it is not provided or intended to be used as advice of any form.
If you have any doubts or would like to discuss any aspect of this article, please do not hesitate to contact one of our experts who will be happy to discuss your individual circumstance.
About the author

Phill Rawlins is the Customs and Tech Director at Martyn Fiddler Aviation and joined the team in 2014. He is an experienced customs practitioner who started ...

Contact Phill Rawlins
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