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How to import from China to the UK?

Updated: Jul 19

A few basic steps are needed to ensure your goods reach the UK without any issues. Sometimes, importers choose to use a freight forwarder or customs broker to assist with these processes. Although there might be a fee, it can offer peace of mind and avoid delays or any unpleasant surprises.

If you are preparing on importing from China to the UK, there are a few things you’ll need to prepare in advance, including:

  • Find the correct commodity code for your goods. Commodity codes are used by customs authorities to identify the goods that arrive in the country and to ensure that the correct payment of duties and taxes and goods are legal and meets safety regulations.

  • You will also need to get an EORI Number. This is a requirement for any individual or business to import into the UK. On application, you receive your EORI number within a few days. This can be completed online with the UK tax authorities.

  • Check if you need an import license for the goods. Different types of goods require a license. It all depends on the goods you are importing. If you are importing anything hazardous, for military purposes or if your shipment includes any live animals or plants.

  • Customs declaration – Customs brokers or freight forwarders might be able to complete some or all of the customs processes on your behalf. The form to complete is the C88 or SAD – the single administrative document

  • Pay duties and VAT to have goods released by customs.

Find the right Commodity Code

You must find the relevant UK commodity for your goods. These are essential to the shipment. If the goods are labelled incorrectly, it could result in UK customs delaying or halting goods.


To find the correct commodity codes for the goods you need to import from China, go to UK Government Trade Tariff. Here you can up commodity codes as well as rates for duties and VAT. Commodity codes are vital in classifying the imported goods so that you can:

  • Check to see if you need to pay any duties.

  • Complete declarations as well as other paperwork.

  • Find out if you need to pay duties or VAT.

Find out the EORI number

You will also need to obtain an Economic Operator Registration Identification number. (EORI)


UK customs uses the EORI number as a means of keeping records of both imported and exported goods. When cargo is imported from China, UK businesses are required to have an EORI. This is required for a commercial invoice.


An EORI number is also needed if you’re using freight or courier forwarder. It was to apply for and take around 3 days to receive.


Check if you need a license

Before you try to import goods from China, ensure you have a license, especially if they fall under the surveillance control category. To find out whether you need a license or how to apply for one, visit the Department for International Trade.


Are your Chinese goods banned from being imported into the UK?

Certain goods are subject to import controls. Therefore, it’s important to check if any import controls affect your shipping. Presently, there are three types of controls:

  • Surveillance – ensure imports are monitored using licenses.

  • Bans – imports are forbidden.

  • Quotas – restrictions on the volume of goods.

Duty on Chinese Imports

When importing from China, you’ll need to pay duty and VAT on goods. The cost will depend on your goods. As it is a relatively complex system, importers tend to use freight forwarders or customs brokers to assist with the calculation of importing.


The duty paid depends on the goods you are importing to the UK. To check your duty rate, you’ll need to get the commodity code for your goods, you can find these on the government websites


When you declare your goods to customs in the UK, you’ll need to confirm your commodity code, which is used to calculate duties. Your goods will be held at UK customs pending payment of duty and Vat. Once the duty and vat have been paid, the goods would be released.


Paying VAT on goods from China

As well as duty, you’ll need to pay VAT on goods imported to


the UK. VAT is calculated on the cost of goods, the cost of transport and any duty paid. It’s charged at the UK rate which is currently 20 per cent.


China to UK import tax examples

To calculate the amount of duty and tax payable, you’ll first need to convert the price paid to GBP, Using the UK currency exchange rate. Which is changed regularly and can be found online.


Pay VAT fee

If you import from China to the UK, you’re required to top


ay VAT together with the total sum of import duty and customs value. Custom value equals the total cost of the imported products which includes any import duties, supplier and shipping costs.


Be sure to pay any pending VAT fee that is due. Also, you must pay VAT if you are registered. This can be claimed back through your standard VAT rate.


Include full details on invoices and labels.


Make sure that all of your item’s labels and invoices include the correct details:

  • Sender and receiver

  • Quantity of your goods

  • Value of your goods

  • A detailed description of your goods

  • Commodity codes

Customs Registration (CR) and Power of Attorney (POA)

If you are importing from China to the UK., you are required to have a Chinese CR number as well as POA for goods that are non-documented, regardless of the value. Both importers and exporters are required to register with customs authorities. This is to get a CR number which must be detailed on the commercial invoice for clearing customs.


How much does it cost to import from China to the UK?

Import duties, as well as import tax from China to the UK, affect the total cost of the goods. Importers are required to pay UK duty VAT unless


the goods are eligible for duty-free. For example, if you pay your supplier 4000 for the goods, 600 for the shipping fee and the UKs duty rating is around 3.5 per cent, the duty fee would be 140


VAT of 20 per cent of the duty fee (140), plus shipping (600) plus the total cost of the goods (4000) This equals to 20 per cent of the 4,740 comes to 948


The total cost of importing goods would come to

4000 + UK Duty (140) + VAT (948) = 5,088


Do Chinese goods require a UKCA mark?


A UKCA mark must be on the packaging in the categories listed below and must bear the UKCA mark from January 2021.


The product areas listed below are covered by the UKCA making:

Pressure Equipment

  • Personal Protective Equipment

  • Gas Appliances

  • Machinery

  • Equipment for use Outdoors

  • Ecodesign

  • Aerosols

  • Low Voltage Electrical Equipment

  • Hazardous Substance

  • Toy Safety

  • Recreational Craft and Personal Watercraft

  • Simple Pressure Vessels

  • Electromagnetic compatibility

  • Non-Automatic Weighing Instruments

  • Measuring Tools

  • Lifts

  • ATEX

  • Radio Equipment

However, before you start importing these types of goods be sure to inform suppliers in China of the specific requirements for labelling. You must offer your supplier the correct positioning and graphic files for each product.

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