If you’re new to importing, here’s an overview of the steps involved in getting your goods through customs and paying any duties or taxes involved. Your goods may also need a clean bill of health from the Port Health and other authorities like Trading Standards, Forestry Commission and Animal & Plant Health Agency before the goods can be released to you – so we’ll cover that as well. please check  the guide to importing here.


Getting your goods through HM Revenue & Customs can be a pretty daunting but don’t worry – if you don’t have a customs agent, we can deal with custom formalities on your behalf.

We’ll need your help in compiling all the information needed for customs clearance.

Your information will be compiled into a customs entry that we’ll send electronically to HM Revenue & Customs with a follow-up with any original paperwork they require.

HMRC may come back with more questions, but the information we supply will often be sufficient for them to release your goods to you.

In some cases, they might want to examine the goods and/or containers involved – to make sure the goods are what you say they are and to ensure that

nothing untoward has not been hidden in the shipment on-route to the UK.


Useful information on HMRC website

The information we need

Your EORI number.The EORI number is allocated by HM Revenue & Customs and will uniquely identify an importer and exporter to HM Revenue & Customs and to authorities controlling other borders your goods might cross.

All types of businesses big or small, whether they are Limited companies or Sole Traders, if they are Importing or Exporting should be registered and have an EORI number. If you’re already registered for VAT, your EORI number will be linked to your VAT registration number. However, just because you are VAT registered does not mean you are EORI registered they are two different registrations and are completed by different departments of HM Revenue & Customs.

Check if your VAT Number is also registered for EORI

The EORI application process is available on the HMRC website, a search for ‘Get an EORI number’ would give you a link to the HMRC website or

Businesses and Traders registered for VAT can apply here

Non VAT Registered Businesses, Sole Traders or Individuals can apply here

Additional Information available from HM Revenue & Customs website here

Personal Imports – do I need an EORI?

A private individual importing items for their own personal use or consumption or where goods are not for any commercial purpose would in most situations not need an EORI number.

A customs commodity code / tariff code

HM Revenue & Customs use the Commodity Code to determine the rates of duty and VAT payable on goods imported into the UK.

The codes are listed in Volume 2 of the Integrated Tariff of the United Kingdom. and also on the EU Taric data

UK tariff codes consist of 10-digits, they identify items being shipped in a way that every customs authority understands.

The process of choosing a code can be fairly straightforward, but some types of goods can be very confusing especially if you have limited knowledge of the tariff.

You can contact the HM Revenue & Customs Tariff Classification Service by emailing classification on for advice. We at Speednet can also assist by guiding you, ultimately you must chose the correct tariff code that best describes your goods.

Freight and insurance costs

Customs need the details of the amount you paid to transport and insure the goods from the point of origin to the port of arrival in the UK. This amount is used to calculate and determine the amount of import duty and VAT you have to pay.

Deferment authority

You can either pay duty or VAT amount directly to HM Revenue & Customs or it can be charged to something known as a Deferment account – like a ‘bar-tab’ you open with HM Revenue & Customs.

If you have a deferment account, we will need written authority from you to charge any Duty and VAT to this account.

If you don’t have a deferment account, don’t worry – there are other ways to pay.

Talk to us and we’ll provide a solution for you.

Commercial invoice

The person or company who sold the goods to you, often referred to as the Supplier, Shipper or Consignor must give you an invoice showing at least:

  • The supplier’s name and contact details.
  • Your name and contact details.
  • A description of the goods.
  • A statement of the number of packages they are packed in.
  • The value of the goods – both value and currency.

HM Revenue &Customs have rules of how goods are valued for Import Duty & VAT calculations, these are available here

The Terms of Shipment

Normally the Incoterms 2010 are used. For example, CIF (cost, insurance and freight) or FOB (free on board)

Details of the shipment, such as the name of the vessel and the container number.

Packing list

Your supplier should send you a packing list. For customs purposes, it should include:

  • The supplier’s name and contact details.
  • Your name and contact details.
  • A description of the goods.
  • The number of packages included in the shipment.
  • The net (total) weight.
  • Details of any shipping marks.
  • Details of the shipment, such as the name of the vessel and the container number.

We might also require…

In some cases additional documentation will be required.

An original preference certificate

Preference certificates entitle importers to a reduced rates of duty.

The reduction is only applicable to certain types of goods from certain countries. There are several different types of certificate.

Original certificate of origin

In some cases, you will need to prove the country of origin of the goods. This is particularly the case if you are importing textiles.

Like preference certificates, certificates of origin are issued by authorities in the countries where the goods come from.

Original import license

When you choose a customs commodity code, you may find out that for some types of goods you require an Import license to import your goodsFor the majority of goods you don’t require an import license.

Port Health & other Agencies & Authorities

The movement of goods through ports and airports is governed by HM Revenue & Customs and local Port Health authority together with a few authorities such as Trading Standards, Forestry Commission and Animal & Plant Health Agency.

These authorities take a particular interest in shipments of specific commodities for example foodstuffs, animal products, plants, electrical goods, copyright goods. This is all to ensure commodities are of a standard and meet legislative requirements in the UK and EU.

For the majority of products of non- animal or plant- origin all that is required to customs clear and release your goods are copies of the commercial invoice and Bill of Lading to identify the goods.

For food or food ingredients be it fresh, frozen or chilled  – for example; eggs, milk, animal skins, meat, honey and mayonnaise etc. – the authorities will need a more details, please take a look at our guide on Food, Fruit & Vegetable, Goods of Animal origin to assist you further.

Customs Clearance

The final clearance and release from the UK Border Force and HM Revenue & Customs is only approved once all Authorities and Governing bodies at the Port Border have released their control on the goods.

After clearance 

Depending on the circumstances

If goods are coming from EU, importer can choose PVA (postponed vat accounting) please study the following link for more information, and if you can choose this option;

When applicable duty or tax has been paid and your cargo has been released by Customs and the Airline or Shipping Lines have received the Original Bill of Lading or Express release waybill the goods will be ready for delivery.

It’s up to you to arrange delivered of your goods. You can ask us to assist you, or you might want to arrange this yourselves or make your own collection at the port. Please note some types of goods are not possible to collect direct from the port.

Either way, an appointment needs to be made for the goods to be collected and the shipping line or airline’s costs must to be paid in advance. In most cases will can do this for you. You will need to make a booking to pick up the container/ goods from a port. Timed deliveries can be arranged and also specific handling or delivery vehicles can be provided.

Please note

If your cargo is not collected from the port or warehouse within a certain free period of time, rent and demurrage will be charged. This free time varies from line to line, but is normally between five and seven days, however there are some shipments which can be as little 3 days. For airfreight goods it is only 24 hours!

To avoid these costs, please discuss your delivery requirements as soon as you can with us and ideally a week before your goods due to arrive in the UK. Send the documentation to us as early as possible – preferably, before the consignment arrives, so we can prepare the import process. This will leave us time to calculate the costs and sort out any problems with the documentation.