Lesson 7

The Rundown on Importing into the UK

Getting set to import from the UK? This quick guide will give you an overview of all that you need to know. 

Goods imported into the UK require the following:

  • A completed C88 form
  • An attached copy of the supplier’s invoice
  • Goods classified appropriately in order to ensure that the correct tariff is applied
  • Any special licenses that may be required

What documentation needs to be attached to my merchandise?


Your merchandise needs to have a copy of the import C88 form (see more details below) and a copy of the supplier’s invoice, or a letter if their has been no sale. The invoice must clearly state what is in each package and contain a full description of the goods.

What is a C88?


A C88 is the customs declaration form all importers (or their agents) need to complete in order to to declare goods to Customs. The form asks you to specify information about the parties involved in the import, the means of transportation of the goods, and statistical data. A paper C88 form presented manually is certified when presented by being stamped by a Custom’s official. Alternatively, details can also be submitted electronically(through CHIEF), and if this is the case, Customs will issue an Entry Acceptance Advice in place of a stamp. This is proof that the entry was input and accepted by Customs.

What duties will apply?


Duties and tariffs depend on the nature of your merchandise and what classification it falls under. It is your responsibility to choose the appropriate classification for your goods based on an accurate description. Note that for some products you may need to apply for a special license – this is particularly relevant for goods imported from outside the EU.

Goods classification


Your goods will be processed through Customs more quickly if the correct classification has been applied. You can search for the commodity code and relevant import duty for your product. If you are unsure what the correct code should be for your goods, then you can contact the Tariff Classification help-line on 01702 366077 . The helpline gives a verbal reading on the appropriate code and respective import duty for a particular product.

A written ruling on the product's Commodity Code known as Binding Tariff Information (BTI) can also be obtained. This is advisable if you are importing goods such as complex food products. For these products, the classification process involves closer consideration of the product's composite ingredients and is legally binding.

There are a number of different duties that may apply:

  • Import duties
  • 'Additional duties' on flour and sugar
  • 'Countervailing charges' on fruit and vegetables
  • 'Variable charges' on processed goods
  • 'Compensatory charges' on oils and fats
  • 'Extra charges' on eggs, poultry or pig meat
  • 'Sugar levies' on processed goods with sugar in them
  • Value Added Tax (VAT)
  • Excise duty on alcoholic beverages


The UK standard rate of Value Added Tax (VAT) is 20%. Generally, retail food products do not have VAT on them. But the exceptions are:

  • Ice Cream and similar products and mixes for using them
  • Confectionery
  • Alcoholic beverages
  • Other beverages, and preparations for making them
  • Potato chips (crisps), roasted or salted nuts and some other savory snack products
  • Products for home brewing and wine making

What happens when my merchandise arrives at Customs?

Your merchandise will be checked by Customs to ensure that it applies with import regulations. Once an entry has been accepted by Customs it is issued with a unique Entry Number. This number will always follow the format of: three digits (port / airport code), followed by six digits (including zeros), followed by a letter, followed by the date of acceptance; for example 120 – 112034B 190302.

How do I pay my import duty?

Once an import C88 has been submitted and accepted by Customs and Excise, any monies payable against that import are due. You must pay all duties and tariffs before your goods will be released. Importers with goods arriving regulalry usually pay by using a Deferment Account for them or their agent. You can also pay by sterling traveller's cheques, Bankers Draft or Company Cheque.

For more information see:


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