United Kingdom imports hit £.484.27 million worth of goods from around the globe in 2016, up by 15.2% since 2009 and up by 0.9% from 2015 to 2016.Most businesses use a courier or freight forwarder to import goods from overseas.
When moving goods from European Union (EU) countries, you need to get a commodity code and pay VAT, but not import duty. You don’t normally need an import licence.
UK Imports within the EU are called ‘acquisitions’.
You need a commodity code if you’re moving goods from other EU countries. The code classifies your goods for tax and regulations.
You won’t normally need an import licence for imports from the EU. However, some goods like firearms may require one.
Paying VAT for EU acquisitions
If you move goods from another EU country you must add these acquisitions and any tax due to your VAT Return. You can reclaim the VAT paid if the goods are for you to make taxable supplies or use in your business.
Importing from non-EU countries
When importing goods from non-EU countries, you’ll need to:
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find out the commodity code to classify your goods for tax and regulations
register for an EORI number if you don’t 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 UK 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.
- Machinery including computers: US$80.7 billion (12.7% of total imports)
- Vehicles: $74.4 billion (11.7%)
- Gems, precious metals: $70.5 billion (11.1%)
- Electrical machinery, equipment: $58.4 billion (9.2%)
- Mineral fuels including oil: $39.2 billion (6.2%)
- Pharmaceuticals: $32.8 billion (5.2%)
- Aircraft, spacecraft: $18.9 billion (3%)
- Optical, technical, medical apparatus: $17.5 billion (2.8%)
- Plastics, plastic articles: $17.1 billion (2.7%)
- Furniture, bedding, lighting , signs, prefab buildings: $11 billion (1.7%)
- Turbo-jets: US$17.2 billion (up 55.1%)
- Computers, optical readers: $12.2 billion (down -9.6%)
- Computer parts, accessories: $7.1 billion (up 59%)
- Piston engine parts: $3.3 billion (up 35.8%)
- Printing machinery: $3 billion (up 1,218%)
- Taps, valves, similar appliances: $2.9 billion (up 19.4%)
- Engines (diesel): $2.3 billion (up 57.9%)
- Liquid pumps and elevators: $2 billion (up 10.6%)
- Air or vacuum pumps: $1.9 billion (up 38.3%)
- Centrifuges, filters and purifiers: $1.8 billion (up 49.5%)
- Cars: US$45.5 billion (up 61.7%)
- Automobile parts/accessories: $15.5 billion (up 77%)
- Trucks: $7 billion (up 135%)
- Tractors: $1.5 billion (up 41.1%)
- Trailers: $793.7 million (up 43.4%)
- Motorcycles: $557.1 million (down -24.2%)
- Motorcycle parts/accessories: $535 million (up 16.3%)
- Automobile bodies: $526.1 million (up 117.5%)
- Bicycles, other non-motorized cycles: $499.6 million (down -15.4%)
- Public-transport vehicles: $361.3 million (up 27.4%)
- Gold (unwrought): US$58.3 billion (up 5,704%)
- Jewelry: $3.1 billion (up 0.1%)
- Silver (unwrought): $2.3 billion (down -43%)
- Platinum (unwrought): $2.2 billion (up 43.2%)
- Diamonds (unmounted/unset): $2 billion (down -66.2%)
- Precious metal waste, scrap: $1.5 billion (up 15.6%)
- Imitation jewelry: $357.2 million (down -35.5%)
- Precious/semi-precious stones (unstrung): $182.3 million (down -12%)
- Natural pearl/precious stone items: $42.9 million (up 39.7%)
- Other precious metal items: $29.8 million (down -7.3%)
- Phone system devices including smartphones: US$16.7 billion (up 8,341%)
- TV receivers/monitors/projectors: $4.2 billion (up 1,267%)
- Insulated wire/cable: $4.1 billion (up 117.8%)
- Unrecorded sound media: $2.6 billion (up 1.1%)
- Lower-voltage switches, fuses: $2.5 billion (up 22.8%)
- Integrated circuits/microassemblies: $2.4 billion (up 2,378%)
- Electric water heaters, hair dryers: $2.2 billion (up 10.8%)
- Electrical converters/power units: $1.9 billion (up 22.2%)
- Electrical/optical circuit boards, panels: $1.5 billion (up 145.6%)
- Solar power diodes/semi-conductors: $1.4 billion (up 36.8%)