Importing goods from outside the EU

By Tolley
Importing goods from outside the EU

The following Value Added Tax guidance note by Tolley provides comprehensive and up to date tax information covering:

  • Importing goods from outside the EU
  • VAT on imports (goods bought outside of the EU)
  • Non-UK business (with or without a UK establishment)
  • Import valuation
  • Declaring imports
  • Recovering import VAT paid
  • Goods lost or destroyed
  • Goods supplied before importation
  • EORI
  • Works of art, antiques and collector’s items
  • Low Value Consignments
  • Importing computer software
  • Private imports
  • Postal imports
  • Isle of Man
  • Channel Islands


As a consequence of the outbreak of COVID-19 (coronavirus), certain requirements relating to customs authorisations during the coronavirus (COVID-19) outbreak may be relaxed, and some additional reliefs from duty and VAT have been introduced. See the Tolley COVID-19 toolkit .

VAT on imports (goods bought outside of the EU)

Different rules apply to the importation of goods into the UK from a country outside of the EU. This guidance note is intended to give a general overview of the rules and procedures adopted in respect of imported goods. This guidance note only covers VAT and not customs or Excise duty. If the goods are being purchased from a vendor in another EU member state, please see the Buying goods from other EU vendors guidance note for more information. More information on customs duty and import procedures can be found in the ‘Union Customs Code’ subsection.

Import VAT and customs duty are normally charged and are usually payable at the point when the goods enter the UK (unless the supplier or his agent has been approved to use the duty deferment facility, see the Delaying payment of import taxes guidance note for more information). Goods normally enter the UK at a port or airport.

VATA 1994, s 15; De Voil Indirect Tax Service, V3.303; CEMA 1979, s 43(1); IMPS02000; HMRC Notice 702 ; VATPOSG1000

Import VAT is charged at the same rate as if the goods were supplied in the UK. Therefore, zero-rated goods, such as books, should be imported without VAT as books are currently zero-rated in the UK. Please see the Overview ― zero-rating guidance note for more information on the types of goods that can be imported at the zero-rate.

More on Buying goods from overseas: