How to import goods to the UK

How to import goods to the UK

How to import goods to the UK and avoid problems despite Brexit and the changing landscape of the UK import and export industries? 

Importing goods has always been a vital part of the United Kingdom’s economy. Yet, now, after leaving the EU, there are more things to bear in mind that will save money as well as time when importing. 

Whether you are importing goods from within the EU or beyond its boundaries, there are some pitfalls. Read on to find out about the common ones and how to address them.

How to import goods to the UK from within the European Union

If international imports from within the EU are an essential part of your business, here are the most important things to consider:

Obtaining EORI number

An EORI (Economic Operator Registration and Identification) number is essential if you are looking to move goods from the EU to the UK. The number must start with the letters “GB”. If your current one doesn’t, you must apply for a new one to avoid the increased costs of delays and storage fees. This can take around five working days.

Licensing your goods correctly

Certain imported goods need special licenses or certificates and might even be subject to inspection fees before entering the UK. You can find an in-depth list of such goods on the UK government’s dedicated website.

Making import declarations

From 1 January 2021, UK-based businesses that bring or receive goods from the EU must complete an import declaration. You need to do this in 90 days after you’ve presented the imported goods to HM Customs. You can do it yourself, hire a specialist, or even do it electronically via the Customs Handling of Import and Export Freight system.

VAT and custom duties

All imported goods from within the EU are subject to VAT and custom duties. These tariffs may change, depending on the deal between the UK and EU about Brexit. There will be temporary rates for approximately one year before a more permanent system is introduced by the UK government.

You may be able to ask for a refund after you’ve made your declaration if:

  • you do not travel,
  • your goods are lost or destroyed before they reach the UK,
  • you made a mistake when you worked out your duty

To get a refund, you must apply within:

  • 3 years of making the overpayment of Customs Duty or import VAT,
  • 12 months for duty you’ve paid on damaged or defective goods,
  • 3 years if after making a declaration you did not actually travel.

How to import goods to the UK from beyond the European Union

If you import goods into the UK from outside the EU, you should keep in mind the following:

The registration process

An EORI number is important here as well. If your business exceeds the threshold for VAT (£85,000 in the last twelve months), then you must also register for VAT. You can do this within 30 days of the month when you exceed the threshold.

Moving goods and making declarations

You can handle the declarations yourself, or similarly to importing within the EU, you can use a third party. The transportation process needs careful thought and planning to set up. It might be a good idea to  work with a customs or transport agent to handle the logistics of transporting goods. 

Classifying and valuing your goods

The goods you import need a specific commodity code in order to pay the correct amount of duty and import VAT. Some commodities, such as pharmaceutical products, plastics or edible products, can be hard to classify.

Valuing your goods is also important to incur the correct duties. There are several different ways you can value your goods. You can find out which one might be right for you on the UK government’s website.

Paying for your goods

Whether you import from within the EU or beyond, you should consider how you pay for goods. This can save you time and money. For example, bank transfers to overseas suppliers can incur fees and don’t always give the best exchange rates.

Be up to date  

Brexit will undoubtedly change the face of international trade for the UK. Stay informed and pay attention to the points above. For additional advice on importing goods to the UK in an efficient and cost-effective way, read our blog section.


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