How to Import into the UK: Everything You’ll Need to Know

29th April 2020, 1:01pm in Shipping Advice by Eva Malpass

Importing is big business and it's getting bigger – in the UK in 2018 the value of imports of goods and services reached a huge £56 billion in one month! Lots of these imports are of course cars from Germany and manufactured products of China and the Netherlands but importing for small businesses can reduce costs and improve the range of goods you can offer!

Importing into the UK can sometimes be confusing and getting started can seem like a mountain to climb but done well you can give your business a real edge on the competition. We've made this guide so you can learn how to choose the right service for you and start importing effectively without hours of research!

Import Duty

The first thing you'll need to know about is import duty. There are varying rules around importing goods into the UK from the EU or elsewhere. We all know that we're on our way out of the EU but as of yet none of these rules have changed.

Import duty is a fee payable on goods moved into the UK from outside the EU. Most of the time goods imported from the EU into the UK are not liable to import duty so are formally known as acquisitions.

Importing into the UK from the EU

packaging labels

When you import from within the EU you can often ship for less with our services. We provide you with all the documents that you will need to import items, but you'll have to fill these out accurately. These will require information about what the item is, what it's intended use will be, it's country of origin and what it's worth - make sure these details are correct because if they aren't customs could well apply surcharges if it's held or a fee if its returned to you! After you've done this you'll just need to print three copies and attach them to the outside of your parcel in a waterproof plastic wallet - sandwich bags can work great for this purpose!

You'll also need a commodity code to clarify the type of goods you're sending for tax and regulation purposes – you can get your code free here

Using the wrong code can cause serious legal consequences. You might be fined or find you have an outstanding duty to pay – and if you're trying to use the incorrect commodity code to import something restricted or hazardous, you're liable to prosecution, too.

If, however, your imported items originated from outside the EU, but need to cross EU country borders to arrive in the UK, the import duty should have been paid when it first came into the EU. That'll be down to you as the importer to pay, so make sure this has been arranged before sending.

Plus make sure you check our prohibited and restricted item list for the UK specfically to make sure you can import your items safely and without restrictions or delays.

Importing into the UK from outside the EU

All businesses importing from outside the EU into the UK will need to register for an EORI code. This stands for Economic Operator Registration and Identification number and is issued by the government for VAT calculations and tax purposes. Getting an EORI number is free but can take up to three days so make sure you do this ahead of time to avoid delays!

By importing into the UK with our services, Interparcel makes the whole process simple. Usually you would need to find the correct declaration forms for each item you intend to import, but with us all you'll need to do is fill in the forms we provide you with the correct information and attach them to your shipment! As easy as 1,2,3.


VAT stands for Value Added Tax and is added to more or less all goods and services bought and sold in the EU. Most of the time this value is added to the cost of the items on the occasion of sale, so the recipient knows exactly how much VAT they have paid.

VAT when importing into the UK from the EU

Goods shipped into the UK from the EU won't be charged VAT going through customs. These items are in 'free circulation', denoting goods or services being sent within the EU. When using our wide range of courier services, the full cost of sending plus VAT is calculated for you so you won't have to worry! Plus, once your items have reached the UK you can send them nationwide for just £2.39 – and that's VAT included!

VAT when importing outside the EU


When importing goods from outside the EU with Interparcel, VAT won't an included charge for your shipment. However, these goods will most likely be charged customs fees. You'll need to disclose this potential payment to the recipient as it will be their responsibility to pay before the item is delivered.

Customs clearances can take time which may affect delivery estimates. Unfortunately, we have no control over this process, but we do provide services such as FedEx Import Priority which can deliver up to 50kg and 150cm, delivering from across the globe into the UK in between 1-5 days. Or TNT Import Express which can handle shipments up to 50kg and 240cm in length, delivering directly to the UK in 1-3 working day to mainland Europe and 3-5 worldwide to get your parcels to their destination with time to spare.

Importing goods and services can be a tricky system so the UK Government has a wealth of information for you to sift through if you have any more questions or concerns. Plus keep in mind that although these VAT and import duty rules are this way now, they will be subject to change on the 31st of December 2020 when the UK implements the negotiated trade deals they are currently arranging in the Brexit transition period.

Despite any outcome or occasion, Interparcel will always be here to help you stay connected – from within the EU or outside of it we want you to avoid any pitfalls or difficulties you might have when importing into the UK. Give us a call, a message on live chat or a quick email and we'll be able to answer any questions you have from 8am – 8pm Monday to Friday and between 9am - 1pm at the weekend.

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