Importing from France to the UK: A Guide for Business

France is one of the biggest exporters and importers in Europe, second only to Germany, and the world’s fifth largest economy.

France is one of the biggest exporters and importers in Europe, second only to Germany, and the world’s fifth largest economy.

Its main exports include aircraft, food, chemicals, industrial machinery, iron and steel. With France’s reputation for great food, you can understand why this features amongst one of its main exports.


If you’re looking to import from France, then this guide will tell you exactly what you need to successfully import your goods securely and correctly.


France Fact File:

Official Language: French
Currency: Euro
Central Bank: Banque de France
Calling Code: +33
Capital City: Paris
Largest City: Paris
Population: 67,087,000


VAT, Import Taxes and Duty

As members of the EU, importing from France to the UK follows the same procedure and falls under the same regulations as any movement of goods between EU countries. Imports within the EU are technically referred to as ‘acquisitions’.


Commodity Codes

When you’re moving goods from other EU countries, including France, then you’ll need a commodity code. This classifies your goods, to ensure that you’re paying the right tax and duty and are following the right regulations. Use the online Trade Tariff to search for the right commodity code for your goods.


The UK VAT registered business should give the French supplier of the goods its UK VAT registration number, with the GB prefix. This means that the French TVA (the French equivalent of VAT) will not get charged. If this does not happen and the TVA is charged, then the UK business cannot reclaim it on their UK VAT return or claim it from the French authorities.

If your business is not VAT registered, then the business will usually be charged TVA by the French supplier on the imports, but may be charged UK VAT, depending on whether the French business is UK VAT registered. Either way, there is no way to reclaim the TVA or the VAT if the business is not VAT registered.


Duties and Taxes

If you are importing from France, then you do not need to pay duty and tax on goods, as it is throughout the EU. However, this does depend on whether you’re transporting it yourself, you’re keeping or giving away items and whether you have paid duty or tax in the country acquired.

If you are importing alcohol and tobacco from France then you may have to pay excise duty, but it should be included in the price. Check that the sender has done this.


Certain items are banned from being imported into the UK from France, as with any member of the EU state, including illegal drugs, obscene materials and offensive weapons.

Some items are merely restricted, so you can only import a certain number of a certain type of goods. You may need a licence to import particular goods into the UK, such as firearms. Check whether you need a licence on the government website here.



If you fail to follow the correct rules and regulations, then you put your business at risk of (potentially severe, depending on the breach) government penalties. However, TNT offer import management services which means that you don’t have to worry about VAT or import licences, as we take care of everything for you.


We work with over 175 different countries, with a variety of different shipping methods designed to suit your budget, time limit and the goods being imported, including air, sea and road freight. We can help you in ensuring that your imports from France are completely in order, at an economical rate.


For more information, visit TNT’s express import services page.