Supply chain · 3 May 2022

How To Import From China To The UK

importing from china

The UK is one of the biggest importers in the world. Every day, tonnes of goods are imported from all over the globe into our ports. There are various issues that you will encounter when importing from many countries but importing from China to the UK can be particularly difficult. If you are planning to do business with China, it is important you understand how the import process works.

In this guide, we’ll take you through everything you need to know about importing Chinese goods into the UK from choosing the right supplier to the different licences and paperwork you will need to take care of.

Choosing the Right Chinese Supplier

The first thing you will need to do in order to import goods from China to the UK is to find the right supplier. China has some enormous online marketplaces which can make it very difficult to know where to start. The three biggest and most popular ones are AliExpress, Alibaba, and JD.com.

AliExpress

AliExpress is a marketplace owned by the Chinese e-commerce giant Alibaba. It is similar to sites like Amazon and eBay and is the world’s largest online marketplace. The platform is aimed at small businesses and individual consumers.

Advantages:

  • A wide range of products available
  • Relatively cheap prices
  • Good customer service
Disadvantages:

  • Low-quality control which means you may receive counterfeit goods
  • Long delivery times

Alibaba

Alibaba is a business-to-business marketplace that connects Chinese suppliers with buyers from all over the world. It is the largest site of its kind in China and is similar to sites like Amazon Business and eBay Business.

Advantages:

  • A wide range of products available
  • Good quality control
  • Reliable suppliers
Disadvantages:

  • Higher prices than other sites
  • Long delivery times

JD.com

JD.com is China’s largest online retailer and the second largest Internet company after Alibaba. The platform sells a wide range of products including electronics, home goods, fashion, and groceries.

Advantages:

  • A wide range of products available
  • Good quality control
  • Short delivery times
Disadvantages:

  • Higher prices than other sites
As you can see, there are pros and cons to each of the three platforms so it is important to do your research to find the right supplier for your needs. You should also be aware of the risks of ordering from China, such as counterfeit goods and long delivery times.

China to UK shipping methods

Choosing the Right Delivery Method

Once you have found the right supplier, you will need to choose a delivery method. The three most popular methods are air, sea, and rail.

  • Air is the fastest but most expensive method. It is suitable for small shipments of high-value goods. Importing your goods by air will usually take around two to three days from when the goods leave China.
  • Sea is the cheapest but slowest method. It is suitable for large shipments of low-value goods. You can usually expect your goods to arrive around four to six weeks after shipping.
  • Rail is a middle ground between air and sea. It is suitable for medium-sized shipments of high-value goods. Importing your goods by rail will usually take around two to three weeks from when the goods leave China.
You should also be aware of the different customs procedures for each delivery method. Air and rail shipments will go through customs at the port of entry while sea shipments will go through customs at the point of departure.

Making Sure You Have the Right Documentation

Before you can import your goods, you will need to make sure you have the right documentation. This includes a commodity code, an EORI number, and a customs declaration.

A commodity code is a ten-digit code that classifies your goods for customs purposes. The right commodity code will depend on the type of goods you are importing. You can find the right commodity code using the UK Trade Tariff tool.

An EORI number is a unique identifier that is assigned to your business by HMRC. It shows that you are registered with HMRC and allows you to clear your goods through customs. You can apply for an EORI number through the HMRC website.

A customs declaration is a document that contains information about your goods, including the value, commodity code, and origin. You will need to submit a customs declaration for each shipment you import. The easiest way to do this is using the Customs Handling of Import and Export Freight (CHIEF) system. To learn more about this, you can read the government’s guidance on customs declarations.

Checking Whether Your Goods are Restricted

Before you import your goods, you should check whether they are restricted by surveillance, bans, or quotas.

Surveillance is when the government monitors imports of certain goods to make sure they meet safety standards. For example, imported food must meet UK food standards so that the authorities know it is safe to eat. If your goods are subject to surveillance, you will need to get a licence from the relevant government department.

Bans are when the government prohibits the import of certain goods for reasons such as health, security, or environmental protection. For example, there is a ban on importing ivory products and other exotic animal products into the UK. If your goods are subject to a ban, you will not be able to import them into the UK.

Quotas are when the government limits the number of certain goods that can be imported into the UK. This is usually done to protect domestic industries or to comply with international agreements. For example, there is a quota on the amount of sugar that can be imported into the UK from developing countries. If your goods are subject to a quota, you will need to apply for a licence from the relevant government department to make sure you do not exceed the quota.

Duties and Taxes on Chinese goods

Paying Customs Duties

Once your goods have been cleared through customs, you will need to pay any customs duties that are due. Customs duties are a tax that is levied on imported goods. The amount of customs duty you will need to pay depends on the type of goods you are importing and their value. You can recover any customs duties you have paid by including them in your VAT return but it is very important that pay the correct amount in the first place because if you don’t, you may be liable for penalties or even prosecution.

Paying VAT on Chinese Goods

If you are importing goods from China, you will also need to pay VAT. VAT is a tax that is levied on the sale of goods and services in the UK. The standard rate of VAT is 20%. However, there are some goods that are exempt from VAT, such as food and drink, children’s clothes, and books.

VAT on Chinese goods is very important because it is one of the few taxes that you cannot recover if you are a business. This means that it can have a big impact on your profit margin so you need to make sure you include it in your price calculation. VAT rates are subject to change so you should check the government’s website regularly to make sure you are up-to-date.

Paying Import Tax

Any goods imported from China into the UK are also subject to import tax. Import tax is a tax that is levied on the import of goods into the UK. The amount of import tax you must pay will be based on exactly what the goods are and their value. Understanding import tax rules on Chinese imports is very important because if you do not pay the correct amount of tax, you may again be liable for penalties or prosecution by the authorities. These rules are subject to change with short notice, particularly following Brexit, so make sure you stay up to date with the latest changes.

Obtaining a CR Number

A CR Number (Customs Registration Number) is required in order to import goods into the UK from China. The CR number is obtained from HM Revenue & Customs (HMRC) and is very important because it is used to track the movement of goods into and out of the UK so that the authorities know what has been imported and what needs to be taxed.

To get a CR number, you will need to complete an online application form and pay a fee of £34. This can be done through the HMRC website and must be done before your goods arrive in the UK. If you don’t have a CR number, your goods will be liable for seizure by HMRC.

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