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How To Import Stock Into The UK For Your Business

How to Import Stock into the UK for your Business

Knowing how to import stock into the UK for your business can be difficult and time-consuming. It’s important to have the right knowledge and approvals in order to make this process as smooth as possible. Brexit has only further complicated matters and added even more steps to the importation procedures that your business must follow. If you don’t complete each step correctly, you will not be able to get your goods through customs and may even incur fines and charges.

In this article, we will take you through all of the steps needed to import stock successfully and legally.

Identify the Type of Stock You Want to Import

It’s important to understand the different types of goods that you can import when starting a new business. While some goods will be free from taxes, others may require additional paperwork and other fees before they are released into your possession. Here is an overview of each type:

Free Circulation Goods

Goods that fall under this category have paid all taxes and duties in another country before arriving so you don’t have to pay anything else prior to using them in the UK. This includes most goods such as clothing, food and medical supplies.

Special Procedures Goods

There are a number of goods that require special procedures before they can be imported into the UK. This may include things like animals, plants or alcohol. You will need to contact HMRC for more information on what falls under this category if you think your stock may require special procedures.

Inward Processing Goods

This is a process that can be performed if you know your goods will need to undergo repackaging or processing. The manufacturer, supplier or importer must apply for permission from HMRC in order to import the stock under this category.

Outward Processing Goods

The same rules and regulations apply here as they do with inward processing but it’s the opposite process. You will need to apply for permission from HMRC if you want to export goods that were processed in the UK back out of the country.

Out-of-Quota Goods

If your business is importing a number of different products and only one falls under this category, it’s possible that all other items may be imported without any additional taxes. However, it’s important to be aware of the quotas that are in place for each good and make sure you don’t go over your limit. You can contact HMRC to find out more information about specific quotas.

Exported Goods

If you don’t intend on selling your goods within the UK, you may qualify for an exemption from duty and tax. You will need to apply for an Authorised Economic Operator Status (AEO) number before you can receive permission from HMRC to import these goods into the UK (see below for application process). This will make it easier to get your stock in and allow you to save money on hefty fees that would normally be imposed.

Temporary Admission Goods

These are goods that don’t qualify for free circulation, special procedures or authorised use will fall under temporary admission. You must pay customs duties on these items when you import them into the UK unless your business is an approved trader.

When does Customs Duty Apply?

Customs duty is charged on all imports into the UK from outside of it, even if a shipment arrives in Britain with no commercial value. The duty is usually calculated as a percentage of the value of the goods, and the amount payable will depend on which country the goods are coming from.

Goods that are considered to be in free circulation do not have to pay customs duty. This includes most items that are imported for personal use, as noted above. However, if you are importing goods that have been produced outside the EU and qualify for preferential tax treatment, they will still need to pay customs duty.

How to Make an Import Declaration

Once you have determined the type of stock that you want to import, it’s time to make an import declaration. This document will list all of the information about your shipment including the type of goods, their value and where they are coming from. You must submit this form to HMRC before your goods arrive in the UK.

There are a few different ways to make an import declaration, but the most common is through computer software that can communicate with CHIEF (Customs Handling of Import and Export Freight). This system will allow you to submit your form electronically and receive updates on the status of your shipment.

You can also use HMRC’s online declaration system, known as ICS (Import Control System), to submit your form. However, this system is only available to businesses that have an EORI number (see below for more information).

register with HMRC

How to Register with HMRC

Before you can import any stock into the UK, you must be authorised with HMRC. This means registering for an Economic Operator Registration and Identification (EORI) number and completing the relevant customs declarations. An EORI number is a unique identifier for businesses that interact with customs. This number is used to track your business and ensure that you are complying with all the relevant regulations.

You can apply for an EORI number online or through HMRC’s dedicated helpline. You will need to have your business details on hand in order to complete the registration process. This includes a VAT number and contact information for both you and your business location(s).

To receive an EORI number, be sure that:

  • Your company has been registered with HMRC for at least three months.
  • If you’re a sole trader, your name and address are correct on the HMRC register.
  • You have a valid VAT number.
  • Your company is registered for customs duty.

Once you have an EORI number, you can begin importing stock into the UK without any hassle or delay. This number will also allow you to export goods from the UK without any issues.

You will also need to know how to make a customs declaration for the goods that you wish to import. This document must be submitted with your EORI number at least 24 hours before the shipment arrives in the UK. You can do this online through CHIEF or by mailing it directly to HMRC’s National Clearance Hub (NCH). The NCH is located in Doncaster and handles all import declarations for Northern Ireland, Scotland, Wales and England. You will receive an email or letter confirming the arrival of your shipment and whether any additional steps need to be taken.

What is a Simplified Declaration Procedure?

Simplified declaration procedures are a way of making the import process easier and faster for your business. This scheme allows you to declare all of the goods in one shipment at once, rather than listing them individually on your import declaration form. You must be authorised with HMRC to use this process and the goods must be going into free circulation. You can find more information about simplified declarations on page 26 of HMRC’s Trade Tariff: Simplified Procedures for Importing Commercial Goods from Non-EU Countries.

Authorised Economic Operator Status (AEO) Procedures

AEO status is a way of simplifying and speeding up the customs process for businesses that have a good compliance record. This status is granted to companies that can demonstrate a high level of compliance with all relevant regulations. AEO procedures allow you to:

  • Make simplified declarations.
  • Receive priority treatment from HMRC.
  • Use the customs deferment account scheme (see below).
  • Use the Authorised Economic Operator seal on your commercial documents.

To be granted AEO status, you must go through an application process and meet all of the necessary requirements. This includes proving that you are familiar with customs law and have a good compliance record. You will also need to provide details about your business operations, including:

  • Your company structure.
  • Who in your company is responsible for customs compliance.
  • How you will keep records of your import and export transactions.

Once your application has been approved, HMRC will send a letter to let you know that AEO status has been granted.

Duty Deferment Accounts

If your business imports goods on a regular basis, you may be interested in setting up a duty deferment account. This is a way of storing the import duties that are due on those goods until they are actually sold. This can save your business money and hassle, as you will not need to pay the import duties until the goods have been sold. You can submit an application for a duty deferment account online through CHIEF or by mailing it directly to NCH in Doncaster.

After your application has been approved, you will be sent a letter confirming your account details. You can then begin importing goods into the UK without having to worry about paying import duties on them immediately.

keep up to date records

The Importance of Keeping Up-To-Date Records

It is vital that you keep track of all of your imports and exports, as you will need to submit regular VAT returns and duty payments. This will enable you to maintain a good customs compliance record which is very important in order to maintain your AEO status.

To maintain a good compliance record, you will need to keep records of all of your import and export transactions for five years after they are produced or six months after an HMRC officer requests them. If there are any issues, HMRC may request copies of your records for inspection. Potential penalties for non-compliance may include:

  • Loss of your AEO status.
  • Heavy fines imposed by HMRC.
  • Prosecution in a criminal court.

What to Do if Your Shipment Arrives with Customs Charges Due?

If any goods arrive at your business’s premises and customs charges are due, an email will be sent or a letter delivered asking you to pay the charges. You will have 20 days to pay if you are using a deferred payment account or 30 days from when HMRC writes to your company (potentially longer if you’re based abroad). If you do not respond within this time frame, an inland customs charge notice will be issued and sent directly to one of your registered addresses. This notice will include an amount to pay and a deadline for payment.

If you are unable to pay the customs charges in full, you may be able to enter into a payment arrangement with HMRC. This will allow you to spread the cost of the payments over an agreed period of time. For more information about this process, you can contact your local HMRC office. If you do not pay the customs charges by the specified date, your goods will be seized and sold at auction to cover the amount due.

Other Things to Consider Before Importing Stock

Once you have decided to import goods, there are a few additional things that you should think about. These include:

  • What kind of items you will be importing
  • How much these items cost
  • What your margin will be on each item sold in the UK market
  • Where will you be importing from
  • How much transport costs will affect your overall profit margins
  • Whether you plan to sell the goods within the UK or export them abroad
  • Whether you need to make an import declaration in the first place

If you are unsure about any of these things, it is best to speak to an experienced customs broker who can help you navigate through the process. Remember that breaching importation regulations can result in heavy fines, loss of your AEO status and even prosecution so it is very important that you take the time to understand these regulations before importing any goods into the UK.

shipping containers

Final Thoughts

Bringing goods in from overseas can be a complicated process, but knowing how to import stock into the UK for your business will help you to avoid any issues. Imported stock will enable you to take advantage of lower international costs and provide a wider range of products and services to your customers. By following the tips in this article, you will be able to import stock without any major problems and save your business money in the process.


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