There are different import procedures depending on where your goods are coming from.

Trade with countries outside the EU

If you are importing goods from outside the European Union you will need to declare them by making an entry and delivering it to Customs. You can do this yourself or through an agent. Approved traders and agents can input this data directly into Customs’ computerised entry processing system, known as Direct Trader Input (DTI).

In order to make an entry you will need to classify your goods with the correct ‘class’ or commodity code, in accordance with the HM Customs and Excise Integrated Tariff of the United Kingdom. You can obtain a copy of the Tariff from government bookshops or telephone 01702 366077 for help with your Tariff classification.

It is your legal responsibility to ensure that the correct Tariff classification is used, even if you use an agent to handle your customs entries. Failure to classify correctly could incur penalties. If you are unsure, you can apply to the Tariff and Statistical Office (TSO) for a free Binding Tariff Information (BTI) decision on the correct commodity code for your goods, valid for up to six years from the date of issue. Application forms (C103) are obtainable by contacting HM Revenue & Customs.

Once you have obtained the correct commodity code for your goods, you will be able to find out from the Tariff:

  • Any DTI licensing requirements that apply to your goods
  • The rate of import duty applicable to goods
  • The rate of import Value Added Tax (VAT) applicable to your goods
  • Any other fiscal measures (eg excise or anti-dumping duties) that apply to your goods
  • If a temporary suspension of duty may be available
  • If a preferential rate of duty or quota may be available

Trade with EU states

If you import goods from another EU state you are no longer required to make a customs entry. However, you may be required to complete an Intrastat supplementary declaration if your EU imports exceed an annual value threshold. Find out more about Intrastat here.

Deferring payment of customs charges

When importing goods you must pay any charges of duty, VAT, levies, etc which are liable under UK or EC law. However, you can defer paying most import charges for an average of 30 days. To be approved for deferment, you must meet certain rules and agree to pay by direct debit. Find out more here.

Reduced rates of duty

Some goods can be imported at a nil or reduced rate of customs duty because they:

  • Originated in a preference country – find out more here
  • Are from a non-Community country and qualify for a temporary suspension of Customs duty – find out more here

Transit and transhipment

If your business involves moving imported goods through the UK to a final destination abroad, then the simplified transit and transhipment procedures will apply. These allow goods to be taken through the UK without payment of import charges. While in the UK the goods can – under certain conditions – be regrouped or repacked. They must not, however, be altered and must be removed from the UK within one month unless a longer period is agreed with Customs.