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How to import goods for the first time

Source: HM Revenue & Customs | | 14/11/2017

Businesses that are starting to import goods for the first time need to be aware of a myriad of special rules that apply. Whilst most smaller businesses importing goods will use a courier or freight forwarder, it is still important to be aware of the duties and VAT implications.

Businesses importing goods must be able to distinguish between importing goods from outside the EU or within the EU. Intra-EU movements of goods that are imported are referred to as ‘acquisitions’ and goods that are exported to the EU are known as ‘dispatches’.

For the time being, prior to the Brexit negotiations being settled, it is generally more straightforward to handle acquisitions from within the EU and there is no import duty payable. However, the VAT accounting can be complex especially where multiple countries are involved. There is also a separate requirement to complete Intrastat declarations, which are used to collect information on the movement of goods from the UK to other EU countries and vice versa. An Intrastat declaration is only required if the value of the goods arriving in the UK exceeds £1.5 million annually. 

Businesses that start to import goods from outside the EU will be required to apply for an Economic Operators' Registration and Identification System (EORI), that helps businesses communicate with customs officials when they are importing and exporting goods. They will also need to ensure they correctly classify any imported goods, declare the goods to customs and pay any VAT and duty that is due.

This is a complex area and we would be happy to help any new importers to ensure that they are managing the various aspects as listed above.

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