Importing From Europe to the UK: A Guide for Businesses


Europe is one of the wealthiest areas in the world, and the EU is the largest economy in the world, as well as the world’s largest trading block.

Inside the EU

If you’re moving goods within the EU, then they are technically referred to as ‘acquisitions’ as opposed to ‘imports’. However, there are still hoops that you have to jump through, and regulations to follow to ensure that your acquisitions are successful.


Commodity Codes

Whether you’re moving goods inside or outside of the EU to the UK, then you need a commodity code. This code classifies your goods and makes sure that you’re paying the right amount of tax and are following the right regulations. The government’s online Trade Tariff tool will help you find the right code for your goods. You can also get help classifying goods here too.


There are many restrictions on what you can bring in to the UK. Some goods are completely banned, such as illegal drugs, and others are merely restricted. If they are restricted, you may need an import licence.
However, most goods don’t need an import license when they’re being brought in from another EU country. Some restricted items, such as firearms, do. You can learn how to check whether you need import licences here.


VAT and Duty

If you’re registered for VAT in the UK, then you’ll pay VAT at the time the goods enter the UK. You’ll need to notify the supplier of your VAT registration number, which means that you’ll avoid being charged for the equivalent tax in your supplier’s country.


If you’re not VAT registered, then you can expect to be charged both the UK VAT rate and the country’s equivalent to VAT.


You will not have to pay duty on your goods if you are transporting them yourself, keeping or giving away items and paid the duty or tax on them in the country they’re from.

Outside the EU

Not all countries within Europe are part of the EU. Countries such as Iceland, Norway, Switzerland and Turkey are not subject to the same regulations, but still fall within Europe.


Commodity Codes

As above, your goods need a commodity code in order to be classified, and to ensure that you’re paying the correct tax or duties, and following the right regulations.


Import Licences

Again, some goods might need an import licence, and you should make sure that you check that you’re not breaching any of the restrictions.

Declaring Goods

If you’re importing from outside of the EU, then you must declare all imports to HMRC using the Single Administration Document through CHIEF. CHIEF is an electronic system that records the declaration of goods by land, sea and air to Customs, making it more accurate and efficient. For more information on CHIEF, take a look at the government website here.


VAT and Duty

You will have to pay VAT directly to HMRC on goods when they’re first brought in to the EU. As the goods are going to be used in business, you can reclaim the VAT paid on your VAT return. You’ll need the import tax certificate (form C79) to prove you paid it.


You will normally have to pay duty on goods imported from non-EU countries when they’re first brought in to the EU. This will depend on the types of goods and how they are classified according to the online Trade Tariff.

Alternative Options

If you are looking to save time, then an alternative option is to employ a third party such as TNT to manage your imports from Europe, both in and out of the EU.


For more information, please take a look at our more detailed individual country importation pages.