Outside the EU
Exporting can be a profitable way to expand a business beyond the domestic market, both as a means to grow the customer base and also make the business more secure by spreading risk over a variety of markets.
Trading outside the EU is often subject to restrictions and may acquire additional licences. For example, certain goods with dual use or military material exported from the UK must have an export licence.
As in all EU countries, the UK applies the Common Customs Tariff on goods from outside the EU. However, the EU's rules of origin stipulate that some duty rates differ, depending on what is imported and where it is imported from.
The UK's Integrated Tariff consists of three volumes. It contains comprehensive information on importing and exporting and includes references to relevant laws and regulations.
Specific regulations apply to the movement of different types of goods and the way in which they are transported and exported, e.g. the shipment of dangerous goods, fruit and vegetables, organic produce shipments, and animal and animal-based products.
If a business intends to import goods, it will need to give careful consideration to the practicalities, such as how to get the goods into the country, as well as the legal requirements.
Exporting and importing services
When exporting and importing services, many of the same rules apply as trade in goods. However, there are key differences relating to, for example, marketing, tax and regulations that apply.
Profits on exports by UK businesses are generally taxed in the same way as any other profits. However, businesses present overseas may be liable for double taxation.
VAT on imported services is generally charged at the same rate as if the services were supplied by a UK business, while exports of services are generally zero-rated.
Foreign trade-in-goods statistics report goods traded between EU Member States (Intrastat) and goods traded by Member States with non-EU countries (Extrastat). They are the official source of UK information about EU and non-EU imports, exports and trade balances.
EU legislation in the field of foreign trade statistics ensures that the statistics are based on precise legal texts, directly applicable in the Member States, and on definitions and procedures, which, to a large extent, have been harmonised.
Export or import licences
Traders must obtain export or import licences from the relevant authorities. The licences vary according to the category of goods.
Export and import declarations and VAT documentation
Business Link provides comprehensive information on export and import declarations and VAT documentation.
The website of HM Revenue & Customs (HMRC) provides access to all export and import forms.
For exports outside the EU, businesses must report sales to HMRC electronically using the National Export System (NES) or on paper using the Single Administrative Document (SAD).
The Customs Handling of Import and Export Freight (CHIEF) system calculates the value of imported goods and import VAT automatically. Traders must calculate VAT manually if the value is less than CHIEF would normally calculate.
You can apply for Binding Tariff Information (BTI) on the correct classification of goods at the Tariff Classification Service (TCS) using Form C103. Forms are available from the TCS enquiry line or online using the electronic Binding Tariff Information (eBTI) form.
Business Link's website offers:
- a free online UK Trade Tariff
- information on how to determine whether goods need licensing and how to treat VAT, and advice on the practical aspects of international trade
- checklists and interactive tools that can help assess a business's capacity for trading outside the EU
HMRC 's website provides information on several aspects of international trade.
UK Trade & Investment (UKTI) is a government department that helps businesses expand their markets, whether that be exporting from the UK or investing in the UK.