Importing Glossary

Importing is an important part of many businesses, read more below

Whether it’s sourcing materials to create the products your company produces and sells, or simply bringing in exotic items to sell on a new market, knowing your way around importing is essential to avoid making any costly and time-wasting mistakes.


At TNT we know all about importing into the UK, and have put together this helpful importing glossary. Hopefully you will already be familiar with much of the importing terminology, but if not, then the following importing jargon will help ensure the whole process runs smoothly for your business.



Acceptance is one of the importing terms that can have various different meanings. It can be related to a time draft/bill of exchange that the importer is obligated to pay at maturity. The draft must first be presented for the importer to become the acceptor, with ‘accepted’, the date and place of payment written on the draft. Acceptance can also refer to the act of receiving a draft (and therefore the obligation) or a more general agreement to purchase goods under certain terms (and therefore import them).


CHIEF System

The Customs Handling of Import and Export Freight (CHIEF) system allows the required information about all imports into the UK to be entered electronically. Calculation of duties, errors, currency, and quantity conversions are all taken care of, and information can be submitted yourself or through a third party.


Clean Bill of Lading

There are various bills of lading found in any importing dictionary. A clean bill of lading is the receipt for goods issued by a carrier which demonstrates the goods were received in good condition without damage or other problems. A foul bill of lading shows they were received in poor condition.

Customs Duty

The current state regarding the UK’s membership of the EU may change the process of paying customs duty in the future. At the moment, goods sent from outside of the EU to the UK are subject to paying customs duty unless the value of goods falls below £135 or the actual duty is less than £7.


Dock Receipt

This is issued by an ocean carrier to confirm the receipt of a shipment at the dock or warehouse facility destination where it should be. It is an important element when importing to ensure goods arrive on time and to the right location.


Excise Duty

Excise duty will be charged at current rates when importing the likes of tobacco and alcohol from outside of the EU. Anything imported from within the EU will have excise duty included in the price, although if it’s not imported from the EU, then goods can be seized.


Free-Trade Zone

A free-trade zone is a designated port by the government of a country that allows duty-free entry of any non-prohibited goods. Items can be stored, used for manufacturing, and used for other purposes within the zone without having to pay duties. Only when the goods pass into an area of a country subject to customs do duties have to be paid.

Import Licence

An import licence is required in certain countries and issued by national governments to authorise the importation of goods into that nation. It is the responsibility of the importer to ensure they have this where needed.



There are importing restrictions in place for certain countries and goods. A quota is the maximum number of specific goods that a country allows to be imported without any additional duties having to be paid or restrictions put in place.


Transaction Statement

A transaction statement is essential for importers, as it sets out the terms and conditions agreed upon between the importer and exporter, to protect both sides.



Value Added Tax (VAT) is paid on importation from goods that arrive from non-EU countries and EU special territories if they’re gifts worth more than £34 or other goods over £15 in value. Alcohol, tobacco and fragrances are subject to VAT whatever their value. VAT is charged based on the price paid for the goods, postage and packaging costs, plus any duty owed.


This is a charge assessed and applied by a pier or dock owner for handling incoming or outgoing goods. Importers will be subject to this for any incoming cargo.



Formerly the General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade (GATT), the World Trade Organisation (WTO) is responsible for a multilateral treaty that aims to reduce trade barriers between signatory countries and promote trade through tariff concessions.


Hopefully this importing glossary will improve your knowledge of importing words and ensure the whole process goes smoothly for your business.