A Guide to Importing Goods from China to the UK

Sea freight image of shipping containers

Are you considering importing goods from the manufacturing giant, China, to the United Kingdom? Navigating the complexities of international trade can be a daunting task, but Mairon Freight is here to guide you through the process. In this guide, we will walk you through the essential steps and considerations to ensure your goods arrive safely and smoothly.

What Does the UK Import from China?

Before we dive into the nitty-gritty of importing, let’s take a quick look at some of the top products that the UK imports from China. This will not only provide insight but also help you identify if you’re in the right place for your importing needs.

China has long been a global manufacturing powerhouse, and its exports to the United Kingdom encompass a diverse range of products. Some common imports from China to the UK include:

  • Electronics: China is a leading producer of electronic devices, including smartphones, tablets, laptops, and various electronic components. British consumers often find these high-quality electronic gadgets on their shelves, thanks to imports from Chinese manufacturers.
  • Textiles: The textile industry in China is renowned for its efficiency and variety. British fashion and textile businesses frequently source fabrics, clothing, and textiles from Chinese suppliers. Whether it’s fashionable clothing or industrial textiles, China plays a pivotal role in the UK’s textile market.
  • Machinery: China’s machinery and equipment sector is huge and multifaceted. From heavy industrial machinery to advanced manufacturing equipment, Chinese-made machinery caters to various industries in the UK. Businesses rely on these imports to enhance their manufacturing processes and stay competitive.
  • Consumer Goods: The shelves of UK stores are adorned with an array of consumer goods imported from China. This category includes everyday items such as kitchenware, home appliances, toys, and household products. Chinese consumer goods often offer a balance between quality and affordability, making them popular choices for British consumers.

These are just a few examples of the extensive range of products that flow from China to the UK. The strong trade relationship between these two countries continues to drive the availability and diversity of goods in the UK market, giving both businesses and consumers a great opportunity to buy and sell almost anything.

Requirements When Importing from China

Documentation Essentials

Importing goods involves a fair amount of paperwork. To get started, you will need to:

  • Obtain a Commodity Code: This code categorises your imported goods for customs purposes.
  • Secure an EORI Number: The Economic Operator Registration and Identification (EORI) number is crucial for customs clearance.
  • Complete a Customs Declaration: This declaration outlines the nature and value of your goods.

If you need help or assistance with any of these, the team at Mairon are on hand to help and guide you through the process, you can contact the team here.

Restricted and Prohibited Items

Not everything can be freely imported. Be aware of items that are either banned from import or require special licenses. Staying informed is key to avoiding complications.

But what is the difference between Restricted and Prohibited?

Restricted Items

These are goods that can be imported but may require specific documentation or meet certain standards. For example, some advanced electronic devices, like drones equipped with cameras, fall under the restricted category. To import these items, you need to ensure they comply with UK safety and privacy regulations. This may involve obtaining additional certifications or licenses.

Prohibited Items

On the other hand, prohibited items are strictly banned from import, and attempting to import them can result in legal consequences. Let’s imagine you’re interested in importing counterfeit designer electronics that you found at a tempting price. These products, being counterfeit, are illegal to import and can lead to serious penalties, including fines and even criminal charges.


Certain goods may require a UK Conformity Assessed (UKCA) mark to ensure they meet safety and quality standards in the UK. Ensure compliance with these regulations.

Import Tax from China to the UK

Import tax, duty, and VAT (Value Added Tax) are terms you will encounter frequently. Essentially, these are fees you may need to pay on imported goods. Understanding the financial implications is crucial for budgeting your import operations.

Let’s break down these concepts for a better understanding:

1. Import Tax

Import tax, also known as customs duty, is a fee imposed by the UK government on certain imported goods. This fee varies depending on the type of product and its country of origin. The purpose of import tax is to protect domestic industries, regulate trade, and generate revenue for the government. Import tax rates can fluctuate and may be based on factors such as the product’s value, weight, or specific classification (commodity code).

Example: If you are importing electronic gadgets from China, you will likely be subject to import tax based on the product’s declared value and its corresponding tariff rate.

2. Duty

Duty is another term for import tax, and the two are often used interchangeably. However, it is essential to note that duty may also refer to specific taxes imposed on particular goods, such as excise duty on alcohol or tobacco. Understanding the applicable duty rates for your imported goods is crucial, as it directly affects the cost of bringing these items into the UK.

Example: If you are importing fine wines from China, you will need to consider both import tax and any applicable excise duty.

3. VAT (Value Added Tax)

VAT is a consumption tax imposed on the value added to a product or service at each stage of its production or distribution. When you import goods from China to the UK, they are typically subject to VAT at the standard rate, which is a percentage of the product’s total value, including shipping and any applicable duty. While VAT is ultimately paid by the end consumer, businesses must account for it in their import budgeting.

Example: If you import high-end fashion accessories from China, the total cost will include the product price, shipping fees, import tax (if applicable), and VAT at the current standard rate.

Choose the Right Delivery Method

Selecting the appropriate delivery method is pivotal in your import process. Depending on your goods and timeline, you can choose from various options:

  • Sea Freight: Ideal for bulk shipments and cost-effective for non-urgent cargo.
  • Road Freight: Offers flexibility for deliveries across Europe.
  • Air Freight: The fastest option for time-sensitive goods.

Each method has its advantages, so consider your needs and budget carefully. For more information on these options, visit our Sea Freight, Road Freight, and Air Freight service pages.

How a Freight Forwarding Company Can Help

Navigating the intricacies of international trade can be overwhelming, but you don’t have to go it alone. A freight forwarding company like Mairon can simplify the process for you. We can:

  • Handle your shipments, ensuring they comply with customs regulations.
  • Assist with customs declarations.
  • Provide expert guidance throughout the import process.

Choose Mairon Freight as your partner in importing goods from China to the UK. Our experienced team is here to make your import journey as smooth as possible. Ready to get started? Contact us today.

Send us a message or call 01732 464 134