Import duty – What is import duty?

Import duty refers to a number of different taxes due on goods purchased from abroad.

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In the UK, there's no specific tax called import duty. However, if you purchase goods from abroad, you might need to pay a number of different taxes and duties, depending on the nature of the goods and where you purchased them from.

Importing, taxes, and duties

There are three main types of taxes and duties due on goods brought into the UK:

Import VAT

You may need to pay VAT on goods sent from abroad if their value exceeds a certain amount. Import VAT applies to purchased goods worth more than £135 (excluding excise goods) and gifts worth more than £39.

After Brexit, import VAT will also apply to goods entering Great Britain (England, Scotland and Wales) from the EU. Since Northern Ireland is still part of the EU VAT area, goods entering Northern Ireland from the EU may not incur import VAT. 

Customs Duty

If you receive goods worth more than £135 from abroad, you may need to pay Customs Duty.

For businesses based in Great Britain, Customs Duty will apply to goods entering from anywhere outside the UK. For businesses in Northern Ireland, Customs Duty will apply for goods entering from outside the UK and the EU. 

Excise Duty

Excise Duty is designed to limit the consumption of products that are seen to be damaging to the environment or to consumers’ health (for example, alcohol, tobacco or fuel products).

How do I pay import duty?

The way you pay import duty depends on which taxes you need to pay and where the goods are being sent from.

If you need to pay Customs Duty, the payment process is usually handled by the courier or delivery service handling your goods. They should contact you to explain how much is due and how you can pay.

Excise Duty is usually considered an indirect tax, which means that the customer covers the tax by paying more for the product but doesn’t actually pay the tax directly to the relevant authorities. 

If you purchase goods from outside of the UK/EU (Northern Ireland), you’ll pay VAT at the same rate as you would pay on goods bought in the UK. 

Whereas VAT is usually paid to the supplier, import VAT is paid directly to HMRC. 

After Brexit, you might be able to defer your duties to pay once per month. You may also be able to postpone your VAT to record it on your VAT Return rather than paying it immediately. You can find more information about these options on the HMRC website.