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The USA is not only the world’s biggest market, it’s also one of the UK’s biggest trading partners. The links are deep and go back decades, and for many reasons, not least language, British businesses find working with US partners beneficial. That said, there isn’t a completely free market between the UK and US. There are a range of regulations regarding the import and export process with both jurisdictions demanding a range of administrative and regulatory requirements for goods entering their countries.

How easy is it to import from the US, do you need a freight forwarder, and what do you need to do to ensure that everything goes smoothly?

Read our article about exporting to the USA here.

What do you need to prepare in advance?

If you’re looking to import goods from the USA to the UK, there are a number of things you’ll need to take care of. These include:

Import licence

Depending on what you’re importing you may need an import licence. If you’re importing anything which might be regarded as hazardous, or possibly for military purposes, you will definitely need a licence. If your shipment includes live animals or plants you will usually be required to obtain a licence. If you have any doubts check beforehand.

Commodity codes

These are used by customs authorities to identify the goods that you’re importing into the country. These are required to ensure that correct tax and duty is paid, and that all of the necessary legal and safety requirements are adhered to.

Customs declaration

You’ll be required to make a customs declaration using a form called C88 or SAD (single administrative document). It’s important to get this right as any errors might lead to delays.

EORI Number

The EORI number is needed by anyone who is importing goods into the UK. You can get this number by registering online with the UK tax authorities and it will usually be issued within a few days.

All of these essential administrative tasks will be taken care of by a freight forwarding company if you choose to use their services.

What are the tax laws and regulations?

There are a range of taxes and duties you’ll need to be aware of if you’re importing goods into the UK.

US to UK import tax

When you import goods from the US to the UK, you’ll be required to pay both duty and VAT on your goods. This will be levied at a rate that is determined by the type of products that you’re importing. This can be complex and for this reason, many people will entrust this to a freight forwarder who can help them calculate the costs of importing goods.

UK Duty on US imports

The UK government imposes duties on a range of goods that are imported into the country from the US. The commodity code for your goods will tell you how much you need to pay, and these can be found on the UK government website.

You’ll be required to declare your goods to UK customs and will be asked to confirm the commodity code. The amount charged can vary considerably. For instance, clothes may have a duty as high as 12 per cent, new cars are charged at 10 per cent, whereas some electrical goods have a zero rate of duty. Your goods will be held at customs until duty and VAT have been paid.

Should you use sea or air freight?

Your choice of shipping method will depend largely on what you’re importing and the timescales you’re working to. The heavier your products the more costly, and perhaps unrealistic, air freight rates can become. In most cases, sea freight will be the cheaper option, but it will take significantly longer for your goods to arrive.

If your goods are coming from the US East Coast, the shipping time will take 10 to 14 days on the water. If they’re coming from the US West Coast this is considerably longer and will take around 30 days on the water in most cases. By contrast, air freight, in most cases, will only take a few hours in flight, but it may take a few days before your goods are assigned in the case of consol shipments.

If you’re working to tight timescales and your products are not overly heavy, then air freight may be appropriate.

How can a freight forwarding service help?

Although the process of importing goods from the USA can be handled independently by importers there are plenty of potential pitfalls along the way. The process can be involved, and there’s a need for close attention to detail. Shipping costs can seem exorbitant. For this reason, many importers will opt to use the services of freight forwarding companies.

Not only can they help with the time consuming and complex paperwork involved, they can also streamline the entire process. Because they work with shipping companies on a daily basis and have a depth of contacts and experience, they will usually be able to negotiate more competitive rates.

Freight forwarding companies drive down costs, reduce the timescales involved and remove the risk of administrative error. They will have well worked out procedures to ensure your goods are safely shipped, received into the country and delivered to their final destination with the minimum of fuss or delays.

SSO Logistics offer an established, tried, tested and trusted freight forwarding service to a growing range of clients. We offer invaluable support, based on our extensive knowledge of import and export procedures.

Contact us to find out more about how we can make it easier to import goods from the US.

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