The Procedures for Companies Importing to the UK

importing your goodsAre you thinking about importing goods into the UK?

Before you start importing goods into the UK, you will need to consider your warehousing and logistics options. We assist many customers with logistics solutions for their goods, whether that be wet bonded goods, chilled or ambient, we can source suitable logistics partners for you via our network.

Overseas imports are treated differently depending on whether the goods come from an EU country or from elsewhere around the globe. Most goods within the EU can be imported with minimal customs control and for a great part with no import duty or VAT to pay. Most goods within the EU are in free circulation therefore sometimes importing goods from the EU is not referred to as “importing” but simply referred to as a “movement or acquisition of goods”. Within the EU goods can be moved freely but VAT and excise duty within the member states should be taken into consideration. Goods which count as being in free circulation can be shipped from country to country with minimal custom control. If these are goods which are subject to excise duty such as alcohol or licensing requirements like agricultural goods these usually cross borders without special taxes and with minimal import paperwork.

Imports that are going outside the boundaries of the EU are treated differently:

  • you must make an import declaration to customs
  • you generally have to pay import duty and import VAT (plus VAT on import duty), although use of some customs procedures may suspend or relieve you from these taxes

International Trade and Importing

Businesses that deal with international trade and have an Economic Operator Registration and Identification Number (EORI), may wish to consider registering with HM Revenue & Customs (HMRC) as an Authorized Economic Operator (AEO). Companies registered as AEOs can take advantage of simplified customs procedures that relate to the security and safety of their imported goods in transit.

Imports coming from outside the EU into the UK must be declared to HMRC. This is usually done using the Single Administrative Document (SAD) which is also known as form C88. SADs can be submitted either electronically using the Customs Handling of Import and Export Freight (CHIEF) system, or manually (although manual submissions may take longer to process). Make sure you have the correct customs classification and check on all of the commodity codes and other measures that apply to imports and exports. The declaration also includes a customs procedure code that will explain what is done with the goods like import to free circulation or the use of such customs procedures like temporary admission. Along with the commodity code it helps to decide what kind of rate or type of import duty will be charged and how the goods will be treated.

If you like, you could always use an agent that could make a declaration for you. This will make it simpler to import products. It is possible to register for some electronic Customs declaration processes online. Since January 1, 2011 there have been new safety and security laws in effect and it means that goods destined to arrive in the EU must be declared to the Office of First Entry to the EU – that member state’s Import Control System (ICS) – within set time limits. The carrier of the goods must make the ICS declaration, however the carrier may, with its explicit knowledge and consent, delegate this activity to the importer and/or his agent. As such, an Entry Summary Declaration must be made for your goods..

Community Transit (CT) is a customs procedure that lets customs and excise duties and VAT on imported goods to be suspended until the goods either reach their point of destination in the community or are exported out of it. The CT procedure can also be used for movements to and from the European Free Trade Association (EFTA) countries, and is then known as common transit. The EFTA countries are Switzerland, Liechtenstein, Norway and Iceland.

The New Computerized Transit System (NCTS) must be used for all community/common transit declarations except for private travellers (with goods in excess of their allowances) and for some authorized simplifications. Any potential taxes and duties on the goods must be guaranteed. Use of NCTS does not normally preclude use of other customs procedures such as customs warehousing.

Traders approved as AEOs can gain access to certain simplifications in customs procedures like guarantee waivers and approval to start NCTS movements at their own premises (Authorized Consignors) or end the movements there (Authorized Consignees) without having to produce the goods to Customs.

If this adventure starts outside the borders of EU, in order to move the products between countries, Transport Internationaux Routiers procedures will be followed. The goods will be travelling by vehicle under customs seal and they will contain a TIR carnet document. The freight forwarder will need to be authorized to use TIR.

Imports may be liable to import duty it all depends on the classification of the goods and where they come from. Your goods might also be liable to additional duties such as anti-dumping duties. It is possible to pay a reduced or zero rate of import duty on imports of particular goods from some countries however there might be a limited annual quota. You must provide documentary proof that shows where these imports originated from. Goods are not usually released by HMRC until all of the charges due are paid but you can also defer payment. It is also possible to claim a relief letting you pay lower charges or none whatsoever. You’ll find that VAT is charged on goods imported from outside the EU at the same rate as if you bought the goods in the UK. VAT-registered businesses can reclaim the VAT as input tax in the same way as VAT is paid on UK purchases. You will also have to pay VAT on any import duty. You can use this as evidence of the VAT paid on your VAT return; authorized traders may also be able to use the deferred accounting scheme to pay VAT. There are a wide array of procedures that can help traders save money and time. Please note that imported goods are not usually released until duty and VAT have been paid. Import duty is one of the two main duties that are collected by HMRC. The other excise duty is a tax on alcohol and tobacco. Businesses that import regularly can set up a deferment account with HMRC letting them pay monthly in arrears. You have to provide a financial guarantee from a bank, insurance company or building society to cover the charges which you owe.


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