Any business that brings goods or services into the UK from another country is involved in importing.
Planning to import?
Importing goods and materials can be complex. You need to give some thought to how the different elements of the operation will fit together.
For instance, you’ll have to consider:
- drawing up contracts with your overseas suppliers – for which you might have to seek legal advice
- when and how you’ll make payments for the goods or materials – bearing in mind that the exchange rate might change after you’ve placed your order
- transport arrangements and who pays for it, storage, documentation and insurance â€¢whether the imports will comply with legislation and who will make the customs declaration for you
- the trading terms that you’ll have in place with your suppliers – which again might require legal advice
- whether you’ll be affected by the principle of product liability – meaning that your business is responsible for damage caused by defective products that you’ve imported â€¢whether the goods or materials are subject to import quotas
- whether you’ll need a licence to import your goods.
Goods imported into EU member states are also subject to import duties and VAT.
One obvious consideration when thinking about importation is how you are planning to get the goods into the country.
You need to consider:
- What volume of goods or materials you need to import. This could affect the method of transport you choose. Is the volume too great to be moved by air for instance? â€¢When and where the importation will take place. For example, how long will the goods or materials take to be transported? If you’re bringing raw materials into the country and they’re to be used as part of a production process then you’ll need to give serious thought to timing.
- The cost of insuring the items that are being moved.
Your legal responsibilities as an importer
If you import items into the EC, you will have a number of legal responsibilities. For example, you’ll have to:
- Check that the items you’re planning to import are allowed in and whether they need an import licence.
- Import restrictions may be operated by other government departments.
- Consider whether you’re liable, under the principles of product liability, for any harm caused by the imported items.
Importing animals, food, vehicles, medicines and dangerous goods
The import of some items is strictly controlled and special measures may apply to their import.
Imports with special controls
- To prevent the spread of animal diseases to the EC, the import of animals is controlled by the issuing of animal health certificates and post-import veterinary inspections. Additional licensing controls apply to the import of endangered birds and animals. .
- The import of plants is controlled by the issue of phytosanitary certificates and may be subject to further controls if the plants are an endangered species.
Protect your interests when importing
Transporting goods from one country to another inevitably involves a degree of risk. You can minimise this if you take certain steps to protect your interests.
If you’re importing directly – rather than through a third-party company that handles the process for you – you should always agree with the overseas supplier at the outset the language in which you want to communicate. This should help to avoid any costly misunderstandings..
Importing involves financial considerations beyond the simple purchase of the items themselves:
- When calculating finances you should focus on the total cost of importation once you’ve added on elements such as packing, transport, insurance and customs duty. â€¢The exchange rate may fluctuate between your placing an order and paying for it – and this could either have a positive or negative effect as far as your business is concerned.
Finding the right supplier overseas
Importing directly for the first time can be daunting. So it’s important that you devote time to finding exactly the right overseas supplier for your requirements.
One solution is to import indirectly, meaning that you use a third-party company to handle the importation process and you buy the goods from them. The disadvantage of this, however, is that it might not be so profitable and you don’t have total control of the process.