Import Procedures: The Questions an Importer Must be Able to Answer

To ensure that importing is successful, it is vital that an importer considers and answers the following critical questions – PRIOR to the start of the import function.

Who will be supplying the goods? Importers need to consider carefully who they will be dealing with – will they buy direct from suppliers or will they deal through agents? They will need to consider whether any supplier can maintain the continuity of delivery, quality and supply of goods in an acceptable timescale and cost. “It is good practice to obtain trade and financial references on any potential supplier”

From where will the goods originate? There are many advantages to importers in importing goods from countries with whom the UK has special trading relationships in place – not least the reduction or waiving of import duty rates. Importers must be able to provide documentary evidence of where either the imported raw materials or imported goods originated.

To where will the goods eventually go? The importer will either sell or keep the goods in the UK or move them back outside the EU after further working or storage. It has previously been stated that importers can obtain duty benefits for goods being imported temporarily. The importer must have documentary evidence to prove what has happened to the goods – particularly the import and export entry records from the forwarder or clearing agent.

What are the goods? It is a legal requirement that anyone responsible for the import function accurately identifies the goods – both by a recognisable description and by the commodity code (tariff or HS number). The commodity code number is the key to HRMC compliance requirements.

What is the value of the goods? Every import has to have a declared value – even gifts! The value of the goods shown affects duty and VAT rates and the level of financial security required. Low value goods are not of such significance to HMRC and are subject to simplified documentary and procedural requirements.

How will the importer pay for the goods? It is obvious that any importer will be looking for the most relaxed payment terms possible – this may vary from what the supplier demands. Importing can leave the importer in protracted cash-flow difficulties if beneficial payment terms are not granted.

Why are the goods being imported? Importers must be able to identify the reason why the goods are coming in – are they coming in for permanent or temporary reasons?

How urgent are the goods? This can affect the mode of transport used and therefore impact upon the associated costs.

How will the goods be transported? This can affect the speed and cost of delivery and also the packing and documentary obligations.

How much responsibility does the importer want? Never forgetting that the importer is ultimately responsible for the legality of their imports (as far as HMRC are concerned); the importer may want to leave the import process partially or totally to the supplier and their agents. The correct application of Incoterms 2010 is vital in ensuring this. “This is not recommended though. You need to have as much control over the accuracy of information and costs as possible. It is therefore often good practice to appoint an agent in the UK with offices in the country of origin and entrust the whole process from origin to arrival to that firm. You are then dealing with a British company under English Law.”

This is an extract from Tate’s Import Guide, for more information in regards to imports, exports or anything else involving international trade please visit our website (  or call us on 01908 221162.

Sectors: Logistics
Countries: United Kingdom
Topics: Getting Started, Legislation & Regulation, and Transport & Logistics
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