Starting to import
Importing from non-EU countries
If the UK leaves the EU without a deal, you’ll need to follow these rules for importing goods from anywhere outside the UK.
When importing goods from non-EU countries, you’ll need to:
- find out the commodity code to classify your goods for tax and regulations
- register for an EORI number if you do not have one – it usually takes 3 working days
- declare your imports to customs – most businesses use a courier or freight forwarder to do this for them
- pay VAT and duty
You may also need an import licence for restricted goods like firearms.
Import declarations to customs
Most businesses use a courier or freight forwarder to make customs declarations for them.
It’s possible to make your own customs declarations, but the process is more complicated and only suitable for more experienced importers.
If your goods go through another EU country before coming to the UK, your supplier or the business responsible for transport must make an Entry Summary Declaration in the country. Check that this is done because the receiving business can be responsible for it.
Paying duty on imports from non-EU countries
You normally have to pay duty on goods imported from non-EU countries when they’re first brought into the EU.
The amount of duty you pay depends on how the goods are classified under the UK Trade Tariff and how they’ll be used.
You may be able to apply for reduced or zero rate duty for goods from certain countries as long as you can prove their origin. This is known as ‘preference’.
Your goods will not be released by customs until you’ve paid all duty and UK VAT.
You might be able to claim duty charges and VAT back or delay payments for some imports from outside the EU, for example if you are temporarily importing goods with the intention of moving them to another EU country.
It’s possible to import goods from non-EU countries without paying duty or VAT as long as they stay in a customs warehouse. These warehouses are places where duty is suspended.
For example, you could import goods from the USA, store them in a customs warehouse in the UK and move them into a customs warehouse in Spain without paying duty.
Import Duty and VAT will only be paid when the goods are put into free circulation within the EU.
Paying VAT on imports from non-EU countries
You’ll have to pay VAT directly to HM Revenue and Customs (HMRC) at UK rates on goods imported from outside the EU when they’re first brought into the EU.
To work out the value of the goods you’ve imported so you know how much VAT to pay, include:
- the costs of importing the goods, such as commission, packing, transport and insurance
- any duties or levies payable on importation into the UK
Read more on the value of goods imported from outside the EU.
If the goods are for you to make taxable supplies or use in your business, you can reclaim the VAT paid on your VAT Return. You’ll need the import tax certificate (form C79) to prove you paid the import VAT. HMRC will send you this form.
You can import works of art, antiques, and collectors’ items from outside the EU at a reduced rate of VAT.