How to stay on top of tax and customs

A person completing a customs form

Fall foul of tax or customs and you risk damaging your businesses or even landing in hot water with the authorities. Appoint an agent to handle compliance, or get to grips with the rules personally. 

  • In most cases, if you are exporting only within the European Union, there is no need to pay tax or duty, or to complete customs documentation. You may still have to charge VAT – which your buyer can then reclaim.
  • If you export to countries outside the EU, your goods must clear customs. Check whether you need to pay import duty, excise duty and VAT, as well as administrative fees to customs.
  • On non-EU exports, you must also complete customs documentation – you will generally need to attach a certificate of origin to your shipment, as well as a “commodity code” enabling customs authorities to assess your goods. Within the EU this “commodity code” is all you will need.
  • Check with HMRC whether you need an export license. If so, apply for one from the Department of Business. Call the Export Credit Controls helpline on 0207 2154594 to see if you need an export licence or not.


Experts say

Mike Josypenko

Expert answers to all the most frequently asked export questions

Experts say

Image of Lesley Bachelor
Export Essentials

See Lesley Bachelor, Director General of the Institute of Export and International Trade, cover off the three considerations in exporting – who, where and how