United kingdom


United Kingdom country guide

Learn about cross-border ecommerce, shipping, and importing.

If you are looking to grow your ecommerce business into the United Kingdom (UK) 🇬🇧 Attribution for Twitter Emojis: ©️ Twitter, Inc., you’ve come to the right place. Keep reading to learn everything you need to know about selling goods into the UK.

Ease of importing goods score: B 

Ease of doing business 4/5

  • Digital and commercial infrastructure are highly developed in the UK.
  • UK shoppers are no familiar with ecommerce and tend to shop cross border.
  • According to the World Bank, the UK is ninth on a global measurement for ease of doing business; one position behind the U.S.

Landed cost fairness 3/5

  • The import tax rate is relatively high, while the import duty rate is reatively low, making for an average landed cost.
  • Import tax is charged on every import, whereas, duty is only charged on higher value orders, which again, makes for an average landed cost.

Flexibility of legal regulations 3/5

  • The UK's legal regulations are not too extensive, but low-value imports require VAT registration and pre-collection.
  • Retailers must also register for a UK VAT number, and remit quarterly to His Majesty's Revenue and Customs (HMRC).

Availability and accessibility of shipping 5/5

  • All major international couriers like UPS, FedEx, and DHL ship to the UK, resulting in more easily accessible shipping to the UK.

Accessibility and variety of payment methods 5/5

  • The UK accepts a variety of digital payment methods, including PayPal, credit card, and debit card.

Market opportunity 5/5

  • The UK has the second-largest economy in Europe.
  • With a very high percentage of internet and ecommerce users, the UK presents the potential for high ecommerce success.

Key stats for the UK 

Population67.5 million (2022)
GDP3.19 trillion USD (2022)
GDP per capita46,373 USD (2022)
Internet penetration98% of the population use the internet (2022)
Ecommerce users89% of the population shop online (2022)
Leading product categoriesFashion, food and drink, and media products
Preferred online payment method(s)PayPal, debit card, and credit card
CurrencyBritish pound sterling/GBP/£

How to calculate landed cost for UK imports 

Landed cost is the total price of getting a purchase to the customer's door, which includes:

  • Product price
  • Shipping
  • Duties
  • Taxes
  • Fees (currency conversion, carrier, broker, customs, or government fees)

The UK de minimis, tax, and duty

Term to know

CIF: CIF (cost, insurance, freight) is a method for calculating import taxes or duties where the tax is calculated on the cost of the order plus the cost of freight and insurance.

Further explanation of de minimis, tax, and duty provided below

Duty and tax de minimis

  • Duty de minimis: 135 GBP
  • Tax de minimis: 0 GBP

Based on the CIF value of the order

De minimis value

Duty and tax will be charged only on imports into the UK where the total CIF value of the import exceeds the UK's minimum value threshold (de minimis), which is a duty de minimis of 135 GBP and a tax de minimis of 0 GBP. Anything under the duty de minimis value will be a duty-free import, but because the tax de minimis is zero, every import is subject to tax.

Import tax

  • Standard rate: 20%
  • Reduced rate: 5%

Applied to the CIF value of an order

Value-added tax (VAT)

A VAT of 20% is applied to all imports into the UK, and it is applied according the order's CIF value. Certain goods, such as children’s car seats and home energy receive a reduced VAT rate of 5%.

Import duty

  • Rates vary (usually below 10%)

Applied to the CIF value of an order

Duty charges

Duty is only charged on goods with a CIF value greater than 135 GBP.

Excise duty

Excise duty is charged a set price on alcohal on a strength and per litre basis. Tobacco products are charged a set duty on a gram and packet basis.

Landed cost examples

Below are sample landed cost breakdowns for the UK calculated using Zonos Quoter. Since the tax de minimis is 0 GBP, tax will always apply:

Landed cost for a shipment to the UK below the duty de minimis value:

Landed cost quote for a shipment to the UK below the de

Landed cost quote for a shipment to the UK below the de minimis

Landed cost for a shipment to the UK below the duty de minimis value:

UK shipment landed cost quote above the de

UK shipment landed cost quote above the de minimis

Trade agreements

The UK has at least 70 trade agreements in place that offer a zero or highly discounted duty rate for goods manufactured in participating countries.

The UK is a member of the World Trade Organization

As a member of the World Trade Organization (WTO), the UK must abide by the most-favored-nation (MFN) clause, which requires a country to provide any concessions, privileges, or immunities granted to one nation in a trade agreement to all other WTO member countries. For example, if one country reduces duties by 10% for a particular WTO country, the MFN clause states that all WTO members will receive the same 10% reduction.

Customs resources 

The UK's Customs authority

His Majesty's Revenue & Customs (HMRC)services

Customs refund in the UK

Refunds and waivers on customs by HMRC

Talk to your carrier about customs refunds.

Shipping and compliance 

Top courier services:

  • DHL Express
  • FedEx
  • UPS
  • USPS
  • TNT Express UK
  • Parcelforce
  • Hermes
  • Royal Mail
Import Control System 2 (ICS2)

ICS2 is a cargo information system aimed to screen shipments for security and safety prior to their arrival into or across the European Union as well as the United Kingdom.

  • You need to ensure that you are providing the carriers with good (not vague) package descriptions when you’re shipping a package to the EU and UK.
  • All air carriers, freight forwarders, express courier services, and postal operators transporting goods to or through the EU or UK by air must digitally submit advance cargo information to the EU's new customs pre-arrival security and safety program (although the UK has left the EU, it remains part of Europe’s safety and security zone).

Depending on the courier, additional shipping fees may include:

  • Tracking
  • Insurance
  • Fuel surcharge
  • Remote delivery charge
  • Signature fee
  • Overweight or oversized fee
  • Special handling fee
  • Dangerous goods fee
  • etc.

Documentation and paperwork

Always required:

Sometimes required:

  • Certificate of origin
  • Import license
  • Test certificates
  • Conformité Européenne (CE) certification

Prohibited, restricted, and controlled imports into Bangladesh

Government agencies regulate imports.

Prohibited vs. restricted. vs. controlled items

Restricted items are different from prohibited items. Prohibited items are not allowed to be imported into a country at all. Restricted items are not allowed to be imported into a country unless the importer has approval or a special license. Controlled goods have military or national security significance.

Prohibited items:

  • Endangered animal and plant species
  • Rough diamonds
  • Flick and gravity knives
  • Indecent or obscene materials
  • Imitation Firearms
  • Nuclear materials (can only be imported with a license issued by the Office for Nuclear Registration)
  • Offensive weapons
  • Torture Equipment
  • self-defense sprays such as pepper and CS gas sprays
  • rough diamonds
  • Personal imports of meat and dairy products

Restricted items:

  • Anti-personnel mines
  • Controlled drugs
  • Explosives
  • Firearms
  • Fireworks
  • Infant milk and food
  • Radio transmitters
  • Horror comics
  • Cartridges larger than 500 g
  • Ammunition

Tips for exporting from the UK 

Export goods from the UK: step by step

Frequently asked questions 

Do I need a UK VAT number?

If you ship low-value imports (goods valued at or less than 135 GBP) to the UK, you need to collect the VAT on those orders, register for a UK VAT number, and remit quarterly to HMRC. Read more in Zonos' Guide to UK VAT.

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