How to import goods from the EU to the UK cost-effectively

How to import goods from the EU to the UK

Monday, 17 October 2022, 4 minute read

For many UK companies, importing goods has always been an essential part of doing business. It’s a great way to source cheaper prices for products, and to broaden the range of goods you have access to. 

However, following Brexit, the past couple of years have seen some significant changes to regulations around importing goods into the UK. When importing from the EU, it can feel like there are a lot of new rules to adapt to.

In this article, we’ll be breaking down everything you need to know before importing goods from the EU to the UK. We’ll be giving you a comprehensive checklist for importing goods from the EU, and sharing our tips on how to save time and money in the process. 

How to import goods from the EU to the UK

Apply for an EORI number

Since 1st January 2021, all UK businesses have needed an EORI (Economic Operator Registration and Identification) number to import goods from the EU. This number will be 12 digits long and start with the letters GB. Once you’ve applied for your EORI number, it should take no longer than 5 working days to arrive. You can find out how to start the application process on the government’s website.

Look up your goods’ commodity code and work out their value 

Next, you’ll need to find out the commodity code of the goods you’re importing, as well as their combined value, which you can calculate on the government’s website. Your commodity code will tell you how much duty you’ll need to pay, and whether you need to apply for an import license. You can use the government’s official Trade Tariff tool to look up the commodity code of your goods.

Make sure you’re licensed to import your goods

Some EU goods, such as animal or plant products, require a special license or certificate to import. You may also need to pay an inspection fee. The full list of these restricted goods is published on the government’s website, but the commodity code of your goods will tell you whether or not this step is necessary. 

Read more: How to apply for an import licence in the UK

Read more: How to get an export licence in the UK

Check your tax and Custom Duty rates 

You’ll need to pay tax and Customs Duty on all goods you import from the EU. Your commodity code will tell you how much import duty you need to pay for your goods. 

Ensure the EU business can export to the UK

Once you’re ready to import your goods from the EU, you need to check that the business selling the goods is as prepared as you are. In some cases, EU businesses may need a special license or certificate to export certain goods to the UK, or they may need to make their own export declarations. 

Make your customs declarations

Finally, you’ll need to make customs declarations for all of the goods you’re importing from the EU. You can choose to handle this step yourself, but most businesses use a third-party transporter or customs agent to make customs declarations and handle the transportation of the goods. The government has published a list of official expert agencies who can help you complete this final step, and you can read their guide to declaring goods if you’d prefer to make your customs declarations yourself. 2

How to lower the cost of importing goods from the EU to the UK

Once you’re clear on the basics of importing from the EU to the UK, you should ensure you’re not spending any more than necessary. Here are Crezco’s top three tips for doing just that:

Claim back any VAT

You can claim back any VAT you’ve paid on the goods you've imported from the EU. To do this, you’ll need to be VAT registered and in possession of an Import VAT Certificate (C79), which you can apply for here

Pay less Customs Duty (or none at all)  

When importing goods from most EU countries - including Germany, Italy, Poland and Denmark - you will need to pay a certain amount of Customs Duty, as determined by your imported goods’ commodity code. 

However, if the UK has a trade agreement with the EU country you are importing from, you may be able to reduce the Customs Duty you’re paying, or even remove it entirely. The UK government has published this list of countries with UK trade agreements to help you work out whether or not you need to pay this tax. 

Save money while making international payments to EU suppliers

One of the most common and unnecessary mistakes businesses make when importing goods from the EU is losing money when paying international suppliers. This is because, unfortunately, many traditional banks will charge you excessive fees to transfer money abroad, and won’t offer you the best exchange rate

However, there is a simple way to reduce the cost of importing goods from the EU to the UK. With a digital payments solution like Crezco, you can pay EU suppliers directly from your existing local bank account, benefitting from competitive rates - and no hidden fees. 

When you use Crezco’s cross-border payment solution, you won’t just benefit from the most competitive rates. You can be confident that your payment will be made quickly and securely, with minimal effort required on your part. 

Crezco will also provide both you and the supplier with complete transparency, as both you and the supplier will get live updates when payments leave your account and arrive in theirs. You’ll also benefit from Crezco’s use of open banking and award-winning proprietary risk tools (Sentinel), which keep international payments safe and secure. 

Read more: What are account-to-account payments?

Crezco can help

You can make international payments to EU suppliers either individually or in bulk, to over 50 currencies worldwide, making Crezco’s solution an ideal choice when paying EU suppliers for goods.

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Importing from the EU with confidence

So long as you follow the steps outlined above, you should be able to import goods from the EU with confidence, safe in the knowledge that you’re abiding by all new regulations, and importing your goods cost-effectively. 

Before you get started, make sure you read the government’s official guidance on importing from EU countries.

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