Importing From Germany to the UK: A Guide for Business

Germany possesses the fourth largest economy in the world and the biggest in the EU, making it a driving force behind many of the Eurozone’s monetary policies.

Exporting has played a big part in building up the country’s economy after the end of the Second World War, to the point that in 2014 the nation’s top export was €239 billion worth of vehicles.


In total exports from Germany amounted to around €1.35 trillion in the same year. Machines, engines, electronic equipment and pharmaceuticals are some of the country’s most popular exports. With a reputation for efficiency and all the benefits that being a fellow EU nation provides for trade, importing from Germany is a highly attractive option for many businesses.


Germany Fact File:

Official Language: German
Currency: Euro
Central Bank: Deutsche Bundesbank
Calling Code: 49
Capital City: Berlin
Largest City: Berlin
Population: 81 million

VAT, Import Taxes and Duty

Importing products from any EU country into the UK follows a similar procedure as movement of goods between EU nations and falls under the same regulations. This means there is little difference between importing items from Germany and other EU countries regarding VAT, duty and taxes.


VAT registered UK businesses should supply the German company they are importing from with their UK VAT registration number. This is so the supplier doesn’t add the German Mehrwertsteuer (MwSt, their equivalent to VAT). If MwSt is charged a UK business can’t reclaim it on a VAT return or claim to German tax authorities. The business pays the UK VAT on such imports but can then reclaim it from HMRC in a VAT return form.


For UK businesses which aren’t VAT registered the local VAT rate will be added by your supplier. This will be included in the invoice and cost more than for a VAT registered company importing goods from Germany.


Duties and Taxes

Duty and tax does not need to be paid on goods brought in from Germany and the rest of the EU if you transport them yourself, are keeping or giving away items or paid duty or tax in the country acquired. Goods produced in the EU are in free circulation, along with those imported into another EU country with duty paid.


Excise duty applies to importing alcohol and tobacco and when importing from Germany. It is important to check this has been included in the price, otherwise the goods may be seized. If you import goods from a non-EU country that are not in free circulation into Germany and then onto the UK you are responsible for paying VAT and import duty. The supplier is responsible if they have imported into Germany before exporting.

Commodity Codes

In order to classify goods for import and ensure you pay the correct tax and duty the appropriate commodity code is required. Use the online Trade Tariff to find this and explore other information it provides, such as import licences, duty and tax reliefs on your imports.


Restrictions and Limits

All the commonly restricted items such as illegal drugs and offensive weapons are banned from being imported into the UK from Germany. Endangered animals, rough diamonds and obscene materials are some other banned imports. Food and plant products not grown in the EU or free from pests and diseases are restricted. There is no restriction on alcohol and tobacco but questions will be asked about undeclared, significantly large shipments.

Shipping Costs from Germany

Such close proximity to the UK means shipping costs are kept relatively low. There are three main shipping methods for getting your goods out of Germany and into the UK, all available through TNT. Each one provides different benefits depending on your budget, time limit and products being imported.


  • Air freight – The quickest method for importing your goods but also the most expensive. Economical options are available depending on size and speed.
  • Sea Freight – The best option for large deliveries, this is a low cost solution for less urgent but heavier shipments.
  • Road freight – Door-to-door delivery of imports from Germany are available for goods of all sizes where immediate delivery is not required.


Make the most of TNT’s importing services to ensure you stay safe bringing in the required goods for your business from Germany.