Home Business Insights & Advice UK imports: What goods can you bring into the UK?

UK imports: What goods can you bring into the UK?

by John Saunders
9th Dec 19 10:52 am

If you are looking to import good into the UK, it is important that you are aware of the rules and restrictions that apply, as these differ, depending on the country you are importing from. If you don’t adhere to the home Office laws and guidelines, you may find your goods are seized and you might face questioning, depending on the nature of the goods.

Restricted or banned

You can bring most goods into the UK, but there are some restrictions.  You cannot bring illegal drugs into the UK for obvious reasons and if you attempt this, you could be facing a lot more than charges. Offensive weapons, including flick knives are banned, as are self-defence sprays. Indecent or obscene materials are banned and endangered animal and plant species. Food and plant products from outside of the EU are also restricted. It is also important to be aware of importing pirate copies of movies or music, as they could be seized.

EU countries

If you are importing goods to the UK from countries within the European Union, you will not pay tax or duty as long you have paid this in the country you bought them, they are transported by yourself and are for you, or being given as a gift. If you are transporting goods to sell, you will be responsible for paying tax or duty, so you must declare these. There are no limits on alcohol or cigarettes, but you may be asked questions by customs if the quantities are over a certain level. If you are a business importing into the UK from the EU, you have favourable conditions (unlike the businesses importing from outside of the UK. They will need the endorsing bodies to sit on their start up visa before thinking of importing into the UK), so you will need to have relevant documentation to be able to prove this. In some cases, the goods may be from a country situated outside the EU, but are going across EU countries to get to the UK. The import duty should be paid at the country of origin, and you may need to show proof of payment to satisfy customs at the point of delivery.

Importing as a business

There are many businesses inside and outside the EU who import goods into the UK. This can help grow their business and increase competitiveness. If you are planning to import goods into the UK, you need to know about import duty, if you are situated outside the EU. This may eventually be the case for countries within the EU, when the UK exits the EU. You should also be aware of VAT, minimum thresholds, invoice payments and international payments.

Outside the EU

There is a duty-free allowance which applies to a specific amount of goods, if you are importing from outside the EU. You must be transporting them yourself and they must be for yourself or as a gift. You may be subject to questioning from customs if you have a quantity which looks like more than the amount you are permitted. If you are importing goods for sale from outside the EU, you may need to register your business for importing, decide on customs declarations and transport of goods, classify and value goods and obtain a licence if required.

Declaration to customs

If you are over your duty-free allowance, you have goods which are banned or restricted or you plan to sell items, you must proceed to the ‘something to declare’ area when you arrive at the airport of your destination. Depending on the goods and the purpose, you may be asked to pay tax or duty, give up banned goods or provide any documents related to the goods.

No-deal Brexit

In case of a no-deal Brexit, the rules will change temporarily for countries within the EU importing to the UK. At present, the regulations are that you will continue to pay the required tax and duties in the country you made the purchase, and you will be able to bring back unlimited amounts of most goods. You will also be able to use your duty-free allowance for bringing back a specified quantity of goods without duty or tax. The allowance will be the same as the goods from non-EU countries. You will also be able to claim a refund on the VAT paid where the goods were purchased. It is difficult to say what the conditions will be when Brexit happens at the end of January, as this will depend on the deal reached between the EU and the UK.

Transport options

If you are importing goods into the UK, there are several options available. You may choose air freight, if your items are small and high value, or you need them to be transported quickly. As you would expect, the costs are higher but the overall process is much quicker. Your options are to buy a space on a flight or an entire plane, depending on your budget and the amount of goods you are looking to transport. Sea freight is another option for transporting goods into the UK. It is less costly than air freight and it can be a good way to move around large amounts of products. It’s a much longer journey, but it is more cost effective and a popular choice if you have a high volume of goods to move. Rail transport can be another effective way to import your products into the UK, however, it can also prove to be quite costly, and is less flexible than other options. Road haulage is popular, but it can be unreliable, as you never know how the roads will be. The costs are lower than other options, but you need to consider fuel costs too. It is definitely not ideal if you want to get your goods to the UK quickly.

If you are importing goods into the UK, you should be aware of the costs and any documentation you require. It is important to be aware of the restrictions on certain items and make sure you declare anything that be questionable. This isn’t just restricted to the type of goods, but also the quantity.

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