Guidance

Pay less Customs Duty on goods from a country with a UK trade agreement

You’ll need to classify the goods you import with the right commodity code, check they meet the rules of origin, and get proof of their origin.

If the UK has an agreement with a country you buy goods from, your business may be able to get a reduced rate of Customs Duty (known as a tariff preference or preferential rate of duty) for those goods. 

If you decide not to claim a tariff preference, or if a tariff preference is not available, you’ll need to pay Customs Duty at the normal rate.

Check if you can claim

You’ll first need to use the trade tariff tool to find the right commodity code for your goods.

Once you’ve classified your goods, you’ll need to use the trade tariff tool and follow these steps.

1. Check if your goods are covered by a trade agreement

Select or enter the country you’re importing from. If there is a tariff preference, your goods are covered by a trade agreement.

If you’re importing from developing nations the rules are covered in the UK’s Generalised Scheme of Preference.

2. Check that your goods meet the rules of origin

Select ‘rules of origin’ to check your goods can be treated as originating in the country you’re importing from before you can claim a preferential rate of duty.

As trade agreements can change, you’ll need to make sure your goods meet the relevant rules of origin every time you claim a tariff preference. There are different rules of origin depending on the country.

Also, if the part of materials making up your products (or the suppliers providing or manufacturers making them) change, this can affect the country they are treated as originating from.

The rules of origin you must use to import from developing nations are covered in the UK’s Generalised Scheme of Preference.

Working out if your goods can be treated as originating in the UK can be complicated. Find out how to use the different rules of origin.

3. Check what proof you need

Once you’ve selected ‘rules of origin’ the tool will also tell you which of the different types of proof of origin you can use for your claim. You must keep this as HMRC may ask you to show this to support your claim.

The different types of proof of origin you must use for developing nations are covered in the UK’s Generalised Scheme of Preference.

What information to include on your import declaration

There are different ways to complete the import declaration, depending on whether you’re declaring them using the Customs Handling of Import and Export Freight (CHIEF) system or the Customs Declaration Service.

Find out how to complete your:

Keep your records

If you’ve made an import declaration which includes a preferential claim you must keep:

  • a copy of the declaration
  • proof of origin to show your goods can be treated as originating in the country you’re claiming a tariff preference for
  • supporting documents, including details of the:
    • processes carried out on originating goods or materials
    • purchase, cost, value and payment for the goods
    • originating status of the purchase, cost, value and payment for all materials

You must keep these records for at least 4 years, as HMRC may carry out checks on your goods.

Using a customs warehouse

If you’re planning on claiming a tariff preference and using a customs warehouse you should check what else you need to do.

Making a claim after you’ve paid Customs Duty

You may be able to claim back some or all of the Customs Duty if you paid it but later get a valid proof of origin.

Published 1 December 2020
Last updated 11 November 2021 + show all updates
  1. For countries with a trade agreement you can use the trade tariff tool to check the rule of origin and for what proof you need. For developing nations the rules are covered in the UK’s Generalised Scheme of Preference.

  2. You can use the trade tariff tool to classify your goods and then find out if your goods are covered by the rules of origin.

  3. This page has been updated to include how to check your goods have a tariff preference using the trade tariff tool.

  4. Additional information about retrospective claims, exporting goods by post and using a customs warehouse.

  5. First published.

  1. Step 1 Check if you need to follow this process

  2. Step 2 Get your business ready to import

    You need an EORI number that starts with GB to import goods into England, Wales or Scotland. You'll need a new one if you have an EORI that does not start with GB.

    If you move goods to or from Northern Ireland you may need one that starts with XI.

    1. Get an EORI number

    There are processes that can make clearing customs quicker and easier to manage if you have to make import declarations regularly.

    1. Find out about using simplified declaration procedures
    2. Check if Authorised Economic Operator status is right for you
  3. and Check the business sending you the goods can export to the UK

    The business sending you the goods may need:

    • to make an export declaration in their country
    • licences or certificates to send goods to the UK

    Check whoever is sending the goods is able to export them from their country.

  4. Step 3 Decide who will make customs declarations and transport the goods

    You can hire someone to deal with customs and transport the goods for you, or you can do it yourself.

    Most businesses that import goods use a transporter or customs agent.

    1. Find out how to hire someone to deal with customs for you
  5. Step 4 Find out the commodity code for your goods

    You’ll need to include the commodity code on your import declaration. This will determine the rate of duty you need to pay and if you need an import licence.

    Your customs agent or transporter might be able to help you with this.

    1. Find the right commodity code for your goods
  6. and Work out the value of your goods

    When you make your import declaration, you’ll need to include the value of your goods - this helps work out how much duty and VAT you’ll need to pay.

    1. Work out the value of your goods for customs
  7. Step 5 Find out if you can reduce your Customs Duty

    You may be able to pay less or no Customs Duty if the UK has a trade agreement with the country you're importing from.

    1. You are currently viewing: Find out if you can pay a lower rate of Customs Duty because of a trade agreement

    You may also be able to reduce the amount of duty you pay based on what the goods are and what you plan to do with them.

    1. Check other ways you can pay a lower rate of Customs Duty
  8. and Find out if you can delay your Customs Duty

    You may be able to delay sending information about goods or paying Customs Duty.

    1. Check if you can delay your Customs Duty
  9. Step 6 Check if you need a licence or certificate for your goods

  10. Step 7 Check the labelling, marking and marketing rules

  11. Step 8 Get your goods through customs

    If you've appointed someone to deal with UK customs for you, they'll make the declaration and get your goods through the UK border.

    1. Make an import declaration yourself and get your goods cleared by UK customs
  12. Step 9 Claim a VAT refund

    If you're VAT registered, you can claim back any VAT you paid on the goods you've imported. You’ll need your Import VAT Certificate (C79).

    1. Find out how to claim a VAT refund
  13. Step 10 If you paid the wrong amount of duty or rejected the goods

    If you paid too much Customs Duty or import VAT or rejected the goods, you can claim a refund or ask for a payment to be waived.

    1. Find out how to claim a refund or make a claim for rejected imports

    If you paid too little Customs Duty or import VAT, report it to HMRC.

    1. Find out how to tell HMRC you’ve underpaid and pay the difference
  14. Step 11 Keep invoices and records

    You must keep records of commercial invoices and any customs paperwork, including your Import VAT Certificate (C79).

    If you imported controlled goods, for example firearms, keep any paperwork that shows who owns them.