Importing Goods Into the UK: Your Complete Checklist

December 6, 2023
17 min read

Importing goods into the UK can be a complex and challenging process, but fear not – we’ve created this guide to walk you through everything you need to know to navigate the intricacies of UK imports with confidence and efficiency.

From understanding the fundamental concepts of importing to complying with regulatory requirements, calculating import duties, and managing VAT, we've got you covered. Whether you're a seasoned importer or new to the world of international trade, this guide will provide valuable insights to optimise your import operations and set the stage for success in the dynamic UK market.

Let's delve into the critical steps and factors that guarantee a smooth, economical, and compliant importing journey. With Bezos's end-to-end logistics services, including customs brokerage, freight forwarding, and regulatory expertise, your business can navigate UK import intricacies effortlessly. 

Prepare to unlock your business's full potential through these seamless and efficient import processes, all facilitated by the comprehensive solutions that Bezos brings to your fingertips! 

Understanding the Basics of Importing Goods Into the UK

When it comes to international trade, 'importing' refers to the process of bringing goods from a foreign country into the UK for commercial purposes. This process can involve a variety of products, ranging from raw materials to finished goods, which are sourced from overseas suppliers and delivered to businesses or consumers within the UK.

In the UK, importing encompasses the legal procedures and customs regulations governing the entry of goods into the country. It involves interactions with HMRC (Her Majesty's Revenue and Customs) and adherence to specific import requirements, such as tariffs, duties, and product standards.

Benefits of Importing for Both Businesses and the Broader Economy in the UK

Importing plays a pivotal role in boosting the UK's economy and provides numerous advantages for businesses:

Access to Global MarketsAllows businesses to access a wide variety of products and raw materials from around the world.Increases the diversity of products available in the market.
Cost-Effective SourcingEnables businesses to source products and materials at competitive prices, reducing production costs.Can lead to lower prices for consumers.
Enhanced CompetitionImporting exposes businesses to global competition, driving innovation and efficiency.Encourages domestic companies to innovate and compete.
Diversification of RiskBy sourcing from various countries, businesses can reduce dependency on one supplier or region, mitigating risks.Reduces the economy's vulnerability to regional shocks.
Stimulating Economic GrowthImporting can open up new markets for businesses, leading to growth and expansion.Supports economic growth through increased trade and investment.
Increased Quality and ChoiceBusinesses can offer higher quality or specialised products that might not be domestically produced.Enhances the quality and variety of goods for consumers.
Job Creation and Skill DevelopmentImporting may lead to the creation of new jobs and the development of skills in areas related to international trade.Contributes to employment growth and workforce development.

What Is the Role of HMRC in UK Imports?

In importing goods into the UK, HMRC plays a central and vital role, as it is the government department responsible for managing customs and tax-related matters in the country. Regarding imports, HMRC's role is multifaceted and essential for ensuring a smooth and lawful flow of goods into the country.

Customs Declarations and Clearance

HMRC oversee the processing of customs declarations for all goods entering the UK. Importers must submit accurate and timely statements to HMRC, providing essential information about the imported goods, their value, origin, and classification.

Tariffs, Duties, and Taxes

HMRC determines the applicable tariffs, duties, and taxes on imported goods. These charges can vary depending on the product's classification and origin, and they are essential for maintaining a level playing field for domestic industries and ensuring a fair trading environment.

Trade Compliance and Enforcement

HMRC enforces compliance with trade regulations, including product standards, safety requirements, and restrictions on specific goods. These measures protect consumers, the environment, and domestic industries from potential risks associated with substandard or prohibited products.

Risk Assessment and Border Security

HMRC conducts risk assessments to identify and address potential threats to importing illegal or prohibited goods. The agency collaborates with other authorities to enhance border security and prevent the entry of counterfeit products and illicit goods.

Import Licences and Certificates

HMRC oversees the issuance of import licences and certificates for certain types of goods. Importers may need these documents to demonstrate compliance with specific regulations or to trade with certain countries subject to licensing requirements.

Facilitating Trade and Simplified Procedures

HMRC works to streamline customs procedures, making it easier for legitimate businesses to import goods efficiently. Eligible traders can benefit from faster clearance and reduced administrative burdens through authorised economic operator programs and simplified customs procedures.

What Is an EORI Number and Why Is It Important?

An EORI number, standing for Economic Operators Registration and Identification, is a unique code assigned to businesses and individuals engaged in customs activities within the European Union, including the UK. The EORI number is crucial for customs authorities to track and monitor import and export transactions.

Reasons to Have an EORI Number When Importing Goods Into the UK

There are multiple reasons to have an EORI number when importing products into the UK. These include the following: 

  • Customs Clearance and Declarations

An EORI number is mandatory for businesses engaged in international trade with the UK. It must be included in all customs declarations submitted to HMRC, allowing for seamless identification and processing of import transactions.

  • EU-Wide Recognition

The EORI number is recognised and utilised across all EU member states. If your business trades beyond the UK, having an EORI number ensures smooth customs procedures throughout the EU.

  • Customs Security and Risk Management

The EORI number plays a vital role in customs risk management. Authorities can use it to assess the compliance and legitimacy of traders, ensuring the security of cross-border movements and preventing illegal trade practices.

  • Applying for Licences and Certificates

When applying for specific import licences in the UK, having an EORI number is often a prerequisite. It demonstrates that your business is registered and authorised for customs activities.

Regulatory Requirements for Importing Goods Into the UK

Importing goods into the United Kingdom presents diverse business opportunities, providing access to different products and international markets. However, this process is subject to many UK standards and regulations that importers must navigate to ensure a seamless flow of goods across borders. 

This section will explore essential legal requirements and regulations and the importance of adhering to these guidelines.

Compliance With UK Standards and Regulations

The UK has established stringent measures to safeguard consumers, protect the environment, and maintain fair trade practices. Comply with these standards to avoid customs clearance delays, goods confiscation, or even legal penalties. They include:

  • Product Safety Standards: Importers must verify that the products they import comply with UK safety regulations and are appropriately labelled with the required safety certifications.
  • Environmental Regulations: Businesses importing goods must comply with restrictions on hazardous substances, waste management, and packaging materials.
  • Trade-Specific Regulations: Some industries or product categories may have specific regulations that importers must follow. For example, food products must meet particular hygiene and labelling requirements, while pharmaceuticals and medical devices require approvals from the Medicines and Healthcare Products Regulatory Agency (MHRA).
  • Consumer Protection: Importers are responsible for protecting consumers from counterfeit or unsafe products. Ensuring the authenticity and quality of goods is essential for maintaining consumer trust and loyalty.

Understanding Commodity Codes and Why They Matter

Commodity codes, or Harmonised System (HS) codes, are standardised numerical identifiers assigned to specific products. These codes are used worldwide to classify and categorise goods during customs clearance and international trade.

To determine the correct commodity code for a product, businesses can consult official customs databases or seek assistance from customs authorities or trade experts. The following are reasons why you must classify goods using commodity codes: 

  • Accurate Import Duties and Taxes:  Incorrect classification may lead to overpayment or underpayment of duties, potentially resulting in financial losses or customs audits.
  • Regulatory Compliance: Accurate classification ensures that goods comply with the relevant standards, safety requirements, and licensing obligations.
  • Minimising Customs Delays: Accurate commodity codes help customs authorities quickly identify and process goods, reducing the risk of delays or inspections at the border.
  • Avoiding Penalties and Fines: Complying with proper classification helps importers avoid penalties, fines, or potential legal consequences resulting from errors or intentional misrepresentation.

Understanding Import Duties and VAT in the UK

As you venture into the world of importing goods into the UK, you must comprehend two significant components that directly impact your financial considerations: import duties and Value Added Tax (VAT). 

In this segment, we will delve into the intricacies of import duties and VAT in the UK, providing you with valuable insights to confidently navigate these aspects of importing goods into the UK.

3 Types of Import Duties 

Import duties can be categorised into three main types:

  • Ad Valorem Duties: These duties are calculated as a percentage of the customs value of the imported goods. The rate varies based on the product's classification under the HS codes.
  • Specific Duties: Specific duties are calculated based on the quantity or weight of the goods, regardless of their value.
  • Compound Duties: Certain goods may attract a combination of both ad valorem and specific duties.

Calculation of Import Duties and VATs

Calculating costs associated with UK import requirements is a straightforward process, thanks to various features the government has put in place. The following steps will guide you.

  1. Find Commodity Code

First, you need to find the commodity code for your goods, the 10-digit number that classifies your goods according to the UK Trade Tariff. You can use an online tool to look up the commodity code for your interests or ask your supplier or freight agent for help.

  1. Specify Import Duty

Second, determine the rate of import duty that applies to your goods, which is a percentage of the value of your goods. You can use the same online tool to check the import duty rate for your commodity code or refer to the UK Global Tariff for more information. Some goods may have a tariff-rate quota (TRQ), meaning you can import a limited amount at a zero or reduced import duty rate.

  1. Total Goods Value

The next step is to calculate the total value of your goods. Consider the price of the goods, plus any postage, packaging, insurance, and other costs. You may need to convert the currency to GBP using the HMRC exchange rate. Also, factor in any excise duty if your goods are alcohol or tobacco.

  1. Summing Up

Fourth, you need to multiply the total value of your goods by the import duty rate to get the approximate amount of import duty you have to pay. For example, if your goods are worth £1000 and the import duty rate is 10%, then you have to pay £100 as import duty.

  1. Add VATs

Lastly, add VAT to your goods. VAT is charged on most goods imported into the UK, except for gifts worth £39 or less. The standard rate of VAT is 20%, but some goods may have a reduced or zero rate. You must pay VAT on the total value of your interests and the import duty. For example, if your goods are worth £1000 and the import duty is £100, then you have to pay £220 as VAT (20% of £1100).

How Bezos Can Streamline Your Import Process

At Bezos, we understand the complexities and challenges of importing goods into the UK. Our eCommerce fulfilment services are designed to help businesses streamline their import process and achieve efficient inventory management from start to finish.

Seamless Integration With eCommerce Platforms

Bezos integrates seamlessly with popular eCommerce platforms like Shopify, WooCommerce, Squarespace, and more, allowing businesses to automate order fulfilment and inventory tracking.

Warehousing and Storage Solutions

With our state-of-the-art warehousing facilities, we ensure safe and secure storage of your inventory, minimising the risk of damage and loss.

Order Picking and Packing

Our advanced order fulfilment system efficiently picks and packs products for shipping, ensuring accuracy and speed in order processing.

Global Shipping and Delivery

When you select Bezos for eCommerce fulfilment, you're assured reliable shipping options for both domestic and international deliveries, optimising shipping routes for cost-effective and timely deliveries.

Take the stress out of your import process and streamline your eCommerce fulfilment with Bezos. Contact us today to experience hassle-free import operations and unlock the full potential of your business in the UK market.

Wrap Up

Successfully importing goods into the United Kingdom requires a thorough understanding of the process and compliance with regulatory requirements. Adhering to product safety standards, obtaining necessary licences, and accurately calculating import duties and VAT in UK imports are crucial for a seamless experience.

Partnering with Bezos for eCommerce fulfilment can significantly streamline your import process. Our seamless integration with popular eCommerce platforms, state-of-the-art warehousing, efficient order fulfilment, and reliable global shipping options allow you to focus on your business while entrusting the complexities of import to our expert team.

Stay well-informed, seek expert advice, and leverage the right tools and partners to navigate the intricacies of international trade confidently. With Bezos as your reliable partner, you can unlock the full potential of your business in the dynamic UK market. Contact us now!


What documents are needed to import goods into the UK?

When importing goods into the UK, several essential documents are required for smooth customs clearance. These docs typically include the commercial invoice, packing list, bill of lading or airway bill, and any necessary certificates or licences, depending on the nature of the goods.

How long does the import process take in the UK?

The duration of the import process can vary depending on several factors, such as the shipping method, customs clearance procedures, and the complexity of the imported goods. Importers should consider these timelines when planning inventory levels and product availability to meet customer demand.

Can I import goods into the UK without an EORI number?

No, an EORI (Economic Operators Registration and Identification) number is mandatory for businesses importing goods into the UK. This unique identifier is used in customs declarations and facilitates efficient customs processing. Without an EORI number, customs clearance cannot be completed, and importing goods into the UK would not be possible.

How can Bezos aid in my import process?

Bezos offers comprehensive eCommerce fulfilment services that can significantly streamline your import process. Our seamless integration with popular eCommerce platforms, state-of-the-art warehousing facilities, efficient order picking and packing systems, and reliable global shipping options ensure efficient inventory management from start to finish.

Are there any restrictions or prohibitions on certain goods when importing into the UK?

The UK imposes restrictions and prohibitions on importing certain goods to protect public safety, national security, and the environment. These restricted items can include firearms, certain types of chemicals, endangered species, and counterfeit goods. Importers must familiarise themselves with the UK's list of restricted and prohibited items and obtain necessary permits or licences before importing such goods.

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