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Navigating the complexities of import tax is a pivotal aspect of international trade for UK importers if they are not to fall foul of HMRC. This guide delves into the intricacies of import tax, offering insights on legally reducing or, if appropriate, avoiding these costs altogether. Understanding these principles is crucial for optimising your business operations while ensuring compliance with UK customs regulations.

What Is Import Tax and Why Do You Need to Pay It?

Import tax is a financial charge levied on goods brought into a country, encompassing duties such as Value Added Tax (VAT), customs duties and excise duties. These taxes generate revenue for the government and are seen as vital for protecting domestic industries because they regulate the flow of foreign goods into the domestic market. 

For UK importers, understanding and paying import tax is crucial to comply with international regulations and ensure smooth customs clearances occur. Failure to accurately pay import tax can result in penalties, delays and increased costs. Hence, it’s imperative for businesses engaged in international trade to familiarise themselves with the applicable import taxes to manage their operations effectively and avoid legal complications.

Understanding Legal Import Tax Avoidance

Avoiding import tax legally when importing goods into the UK involves understanding the rules, regulations, and exemptions provided by HMRC. Crucially, it is not – and never should be about – trying to game the system to avoid taxes on imports that are legally due. Understandably, some businesspeople hear the term, ‘tax avoidance’, and assume that there must be something underhand at play. Far from it, however, because importers may be paying too much tax on their imports and could be generating more profits if only they understood the various methods to potentially reduce or avoid import tax legally. Such methods include:

Using Tariff Codes Wisely: Each product has a specific tariff code, also known as a commodity code. This code determines the rate of duty you need to pay. By accurately classifying your goods, you may find that some items have lower duty rates or are even duty-free.

Claiming Relief Programs: The UK offers various relief programs that allow you to reduce or eliminate duty on imports under certain conditions. For example:

  • Temporary Importation Relief: For goods imported for specific purposes (like exhibitions or repairs) and re-exported without change.
  • Returned Goods Relief: If you’re re-importing goods previously exported from the UK, then you might not have to pay duty again.
  • Inward Processing: This allows you to import goods for manufacturing or repair and then export them without paying duty.

Using Free Trade Agreements (FTAs): The UK has trade agreements with certain countries that allow for reduced or zero duty rates. Ensure your goods qualify under the rules of origin to take advantage of these agreements.

Claiming De Minimis Value: This term refers to low-value consignments, under a valuation threshold below which no duty or VAT is charged. For goods imported into the UK, the value threshold for duty exemption is low and primarily applies to gifts or low-value samples, but the rules can change.

Planning Split Shipments: Splitting shipments to stay below the de minimis value can sometimes result in lower overall costs. However, this practice, known as split consignments is closely monitored by customs authorities to prevent abuse and there are rules against artificially splitting shipments to avoid taxes so care must be taken with this method to remain above board.

Seeking Professional Advice: Customs regulations are complex and mistakes can be costly. Consulting with a customs clearance agent, such as those in our operations team, can provide you with tailored advice and help you navigate the complexities of import duties and taxes more successfully.

More widely, it’s essential to stay informed about the latest HMRC rules and regulations as they can change and frequently do. Always ensure that your methods for reducing import tax are fully compliant with current laws and regulations to avoid legal issues. Just because a method worked before doesn’t mean that it remains bona fide, so always double-check.

We are friendly, easy to work with, honest and we do not charge the earth.

At Barrington Freight, we specialise in making your importing and exporting straightforward. From customs clearance to finding the right commodity codes, our expert team is here to assist. Don’t let the complexities of global trade hold you back. Reach out to Barrington Freight for efficient and reliable shipping solutions.

How to Reduce Import Duties When They’re Due

Legally reducing import duties hinges on meticulous goods classification and capitalising on applicable trade agreements. By accurately classifying your imports using the Harmonised System (HS) codes within the UK Global Tariff, you can make sure that the correct duty rate is applied. Given the right coding may offer a potentially lower rate for certain categories of goods, this is a perfectly legal way to reduce importation duties. Precision can notably decrease payable duties but falsifying the class of goods being imported is obviously against the rules.

Please also bear in mind that UK importers should be encouraged to actively explore and utilise trade agreements between the UK and other countries. These agreements often provide for reduced or zero tariffs on various goods, subject to compliance with rules of origin. Familiarity with such agreements can unlock significant savings, something that Barrington Freight can help you with.

Another avenue for duty reduction is through duty relief schemes like Inward Processing Relief (IPR), which permits the suspension of duties on materials imported for manufacturing or repair, provided the final product is exported. Similarly, Returned Goods Relief offers duty exemptions on re-imported goods previously exported from the UK.

Adopting these strategies requires a reasonably deep level of understanding of customs regulations. However, the effort in acquiring such knowledge – either in-house or through a third party – can lead to substantial savings on import duties among UK importers, enhancing their overall business efficiency and cost-effectiveness.

How to Avoid Import Duties Without Landing Yourself in Trouble

Navigating the complex landscape of import duties demands a strategic approach to avoid unnecessary costs without breaching legal boundaries. One effective method is to leverage specific duty exemption programmes tailored for certain goods, such as samples or items for trade shows, under Temporary Admission. This allows for the temporary import of goods without paying duties, provided they are exported within a stipulated timeframe. 

Additionally, engaging in accurate valuation of goods is critical. Under or overvaluing shipments can lead to legal issues and penalties. Partnering with a seasoned freight forwarder can offer invaluable guidance, ensuring that all declarations are accurate and comply with UK customs regulations. Our operations team, for instance, can help identify legitimate opportunities to minimise duties while maintaining strict adherence to the law.

How to Avoid Import Tax When Dealing With European Suppliers (Post-Brexit)

As per the table, below, import duty is likely to apply when importing any consignments valued over £135 which, in the B2B environment, means nearly all shipments, of course.

Type and value of goodsImport duty rate
Any goods under £135No charge
Gifts worth £135-£6302.5% (lower for some goods)
Gifts above £630 and any other goods above £135The import duty varies based on the category of items and the exporting country. Please refer to the Harmonized System (HS) code for your goods to determine the precise duty rate.

In the post-Brexit era, UK importers must adapt to new rules to legally avoid import taxes from European suppliers. Understanding the rules of origin within the UK-EU Trade and Cooperation Agreement is paramount. For example, importing machinery made in Germany or sports goods from Italy could be tariff-free, provided they meet the agreement’s origin criteria.

This scenario underscores the value of the REX (Registered Exporter System), a pivotal mechanism for certifying the origin of goods in international trade, particularly for consignments valued at over EUR 6,000.

Consider a case where a supplier in Belgium exports domestically produced goods to the UK. If a commercial invoice associated with such a transaction lacks a REX number, the UK importer would typically be expected to pay the standard import duty. Conversely, the inclusion of a valid REX number on the invoice serves as verified evidence of the goods’ Belgian origin, thereby qualifying them for duty-free treatment under the specified trade agreement.

Moreover, regular monitoring of updates in trade agreements is essential, as any adjustments could influence the tariffs applied to specific goods. Engaging with customs experts or trade advisors becomes invaluable here, offering insights into efficiently navigating the complexities of post-Brexit imports. They can assist in understanding specific product classifications, such as agricultural products or manufactured goods, ensuring compliance and optimizing tax savings on imports from the EU.

Streamlining Global Trade with Barrington Freight

At Barrington Freight, we’re committed to demystifying the complexities of international shipping, making it more accessible and manageable for our clients. Our ethos is centred on transparency, affordability, and ease of collaboration. Whether it’s navigating customs clearance, decoding commodity codes, or any other challenge of global trade, our skilled team is ready to guide you through each step.

How to Avoid Import Duties on Shipments From the US

When importing from the US, unless the class of goods is exempt, all commercial shipments valued over £135 – unlike gifts – are likely to be subject to import duty, as the table below makes clear.

Type and value of goodsImport duty rate
Any goods under £135No charge
Gifts worth £135-£6302.5% (lower for some goods)
Gifts above £630 and any other goods above £135The import duty varies based on the category of items and the exporting country. Please refer to the Harmonized System (HS) code for your goods to determine the precise duty rate.

Avoiding import duties on shipments from the US involves strategic use of trade facilitation measures available to UK importers. While the UK and USA do not currently have a comprehensive free trade agreement, specific products may still benefit from reduced tariffs under existing arrangements.  

As with UK-EU trade, understanding the specific product classification and leveraging any applicable tariff-rate quotas can significantly reduce import duties. It’s advisable to consult with customs specialists to navigate these options effectively, ensuring that all legal requirements are met while capitalising on duty savings.

How to Reduce Import Duties From China

Like the US and EU, import duties typically apply on all commercial shipments from China over £135 in value, as per the table below.

Type and value of goodsImport duty rate
Any goods under £135No charge
Gifts worth £135-£6302.5% (lower for some goods)
Gifts above £630 and any other goods above £135The import duty varies based on the category of items and the exporting country. Please refer to the Harmonized System (HS) code for your goods to determine the precise duty rate.

Reducing import duties from China to the UK requires a keen understanding of the applicable trade regulations and tariff systems. The UK’s Global Tariff schedule provides opportunities for reduced rates on certain Chinese imports, especially for UK businesses that can demonstrate the strategic importance or unavailability of such goods domestically. 

Importers are encouraged to conduct thorough research on their specific HS codes to determine if their imports qualify for any preferential rates. Engaging with a knowledgeable customs broker who has experience with shipments from the Far East can further streamline this process. At Barrington Freight, we offer expertise in all aspects of China-UK trade and can show you how to avoid import tax to ensure all ensuing duties are settled in full without paying too much.

Navigating the complexities of import duties can be a daunting task. With regulations constantly evolving and the risk of overpaying ever-present, it’s crucial to have a knowledgeable partner by your side. At Barrington Freight, we specialise in providing tailored advice to ensure you pay only what you’re required to – no more, no less.

Barrington Freight experts are here to help you

Our team of experts is on hand to guide you through the import process, offering bespoke solutions designed to streamline your operations and safeguard your finances. Whether you’re new to importing or looking to optimise your existing procedures, we’re here to help

Contact us today to find out how we can assist you in navigating the intricacies of customs clearance, ensuring compliance and cost-effectiveness every step of the way.

We’re friendly, easy to work with, honest and we don’t charge the earth.

For advice and information on importing, call 01268 525444 or email us today.

Joe Archer
Joe Archer
2024-06-08
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Excellent service all round!
David Smith
David Smith
2024-05-20
Trustindex verifies that the original source of the review is Google.
Needed Help getting an odd piece of machinery from the EU and got all the help I needed.
Kay Sherry
Kay Sherry
2024-04-23
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Simon Pool from Barrington freight was very helpful and door to door service to S.Korea was excellent, pick up and delivery services on time. I highly recommend Barrington Freight for air cargo services. Thank you Simon and the team! Kay
Daniel Gardner
Daniel Gardner
2024-04-03
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The team at Barrington where incredible at delivering our goods on-time despite the new Brexit regulations on goods being imported. We even didn't pay tax on the returning shipment coming back to German.
Drewit Studio
Drewit Studio
2024-03-25
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Brilliant service. Extremely helpful, and they supported us all the way through the process of transporting goods to mainland Europe, which for anyone who hasn't done that before can seem quite daunting. Would definitely recommend using this company.
Jason Scott
Jason Scott
2024-03-22
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Working with Barrington was brilliant. They really looked out for us, tackling our tough shipping/freight requirements keeping us informed at every stage of the process. Thank you
James Ayre
James Ayre
2024-03-21
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kept up to date with all progress, i know they had a particularly troubling time with import customs messing up paperwork but sorted all that out for me. highly reccomend will use again
Peter Seal
Peter Seal
2024-03-08
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Excellent company, very efficient and great communication. Competitive , quick quotes!
LOFT&VINTAGE Kft.
LOFT&VINTAGE Kft.
2024-03-02
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We are very satisfied, we would like to thank the team for this with an awesome rating! They handled the delivery of a very sensitive, valuable, gigantic pallet for us at a fair price and without any problems. I mean, out of 4 companies, only they were able to undertake it. Nothing is damaged! We recommend the company to everyone :)
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Barrington Freight Ltd,
Bowden House,
Luckyn Lane, Basildon,
Essex SS14 3AX
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