Importing cosmetics (reputable French brands) for resell in the UK


Hello everyone, I’m seeking advice to help with setting up potentially an online business in reselling cosmetics in the UK. I’ve been trying to do some reading/ research online for any information about importing rules, tax, duty and whether or not what i am importing requires an importing license.

These information are surprisingly difficult to come by. and i’m very new to all these, so any help any form of advice is really highly appreciated!! I cannot wait to hear from the experts.


Import Duty and VAT are payable on most items purchased from outside the European Union and imported in to the UK. Import Duty is charged upon the purchase price of the goods, plus freight and insurance costs. VAT is then charged upon the price, the costs and the Duty payable.

Excise Duty is also payable on alcohol, tobacco and hydrocarbon oils when imported in to the UK.

The rates of Import Duty and Excise Duty vary depending upon the specifics of the items in question. The standard rate of VAT is 20%.


Classification of Goods

To find the correct rate of import duty, you need to obtain the commodity code for the goods, to do this you need to look at the Customs Tariff you can do this by the following means:-

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The free on-line UK Trade Tariff on the GOV.UK website at is available for your use to look up classification codes. This offers easy access to tariff information by providing commodity code and duty rate listings together with a search engine to facilitate enquiries and allow self-service to commodity code information.

However if after visiting this site you are unable to self-assess your products, you can request additional support by sending a request by email to

Please ensure that one item only is detailed per email and that the request includes the following type of information, so that we can deal with your enquiry efficiently

· What the product is
· What it is made of, if made or more than one material please explain the breakdown of the materials
· What it is used for
· How the product works / functions
· How it is presented / packaged.


Additionally detailed below is some additional information that is required on certain products.

· For footwear – please include the type (shoe, boot, slipper etc.), upper material details, outer sole material details, the heel height and the purpose for men or woman.

· For food – please include precise composition details by percentage weight of all the ingredients to 100% and the method of manufacture or process undergone e.g. fresh, frozen, dried, further prepared / preserved etc.

· For chemicals – please include the CAS Number, whether the product is a liquid / powder / solid and include the % ingredients

· For textiles – please include the material composition, how it is constructed (knitted / woven) and the name of fabric

· For vehicles – please include the age, the engine type (petrol or diesel), the engine size, whether the vehicle is new or used, whether the vehicle is over 30 years old and whether it is in its original condition. Is the vehicle going to be for everyday use?

A classification officer will then email a response back to you providing you with non-legally binding classification advice based on the information you have supplied.

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