A Step-by-Step Guide to Import from China to the UK


pendulum-gf956b97db_1280 copy.jpgAs we all know now China is one of the leading countries that is exporting its goods almost everywhere in the world including the UK. Now, because of many reasons, all business companies prefer to import from China because it has proven to be a successful tactic of global sourcing.

Therefore, as a buyer and reseller, this is a fantastic opportunity to earn good profit. However, global sourcing in China is not an easy task, particularly for newbies.

The whole process to import from China to the UK is extremely complex, confusing, and also expensive. What profit margin that you had anticipated may be erased because of:

  • Long transit time

  • Rising or fluctuating shipping costs

  • Regulatory fees

  • Unexpected delays.

Besides that, while importing any items from China, there can be several other barriers such as language and communication issues, lacking import experience, etc.

Here in this article, we will show you how to import from China to the UK by following a step-by-step approach.

First step - Identifying import duties for products to avoid losses

For those who have never been involved in the import process, it may appear to be very difficult to know the details about import duties, which is important to know before importing from China.

It is important to know import duties and also the value-added cost (VAT) while importing any goods from China to the UK.

You need to understand the right commodity code and if you make mistake then you may end up paying a heavy tax which may rub all your profit margin. How to get this information?

The answer is, you must search the official government website of the UK at gov.uk. On this website, you can get updated and accurate information about all details about duty to be paid for importing from China. Every product has got a specific commodity code which is known as a tariff code. By using this code, you will know how much tax you have to pay.

Second step – Get to know common import charges while importing from China to the UK

It will be important to know a tentative figure so that you can know how much profit you will earn. As such, there are no fixed charges while importing items from China to the UK. The main costs that you have to incur are import duties and VAT.


You can calculate the costs in the following way:

1. Calculate your item’s value

Calculating the total value of your item including shipment charges is the first step to calculating your import taxes and duties. You have to declare that cost to the authority.

2. China to UK import duty

This is the tax that will be collected from you by the customs of the UK government. This is also known as a customs duty or import tariff and sometimes simply as a tariff. It will be a certain percentage of your declared value.

3. VAT for China to UK import tax

Whenever any value is added to the supply chain, at each step a VAT is charged on a product. This starts from production to the sale point.

For all goods (except gifts of a value less than £39) VAT is charged which is sent from:

  • Outside the UK to the UK

  • Outside the UK and also the EU to Northern Ireland

The standard rate of VAT in the UK is 20% for the majority of products except for a few items where a reduced rate will be charged.

Third step – Three quick solutions to find suppliers in China

Finding the right Chinese supplier is one of the most difficult parts of the whole process to import from China to the UK. If you can manage to find factories in China, which is a genuine one and offers good quality products then half of your battle is won.

This will take your maximum time. So, then what is the solution? The first thing that you can do is to identify a suitable supplier in any of the following 3 methods:

  1. Visit the Chinese business websites such as Alibaba, Global Sources, and AliExpress, where you can find details of all Chinese suppliers

  2. Visit any Chinese fairs where you can meet potential suppliers in China

  3. Visit wholesale marketplaces in China.

However, you can make your job much easier if you can rather try to find a good Chinese sourcing agency. The sourcing agency will be able to communicate in both English and Chinese language, who is also well aware of the Chinese market.

Fourth step - Shipping from China to the UK

Most importers in the UK think that it is easier to find a shipping forwarder in the UK to help you with importing items into the UK. However, it is better to hire a Chinese shipping forwarder.

Irrespective of whether you are going to use LCL shipment or FCL shipment, a Chinese shipping forwarder will charge less when compared to a UK forwarder. That is because a forwarder in China has better access to more domestic resources.

Besides that, a Chinese forwarder will also offer you more convenience and make your customs declaration faster, and can easily solve the other domestic problems.

Fifth step - Check the quality before you load products into the container for avoiding any surprises

A few years back, any “Made in China” was considered cheap and poor-quality goods. Not that all Chinese suppliers make poor-quality products but a few of them surely try to cut corners.


Your first sample offered by them can be great, but a few dishonest Chinese suppliers may not maintain the same quality on their subsequent supply.  They may change certain materials to earn more profits and you may get screwed.

So how can you avoid this kind of problem?

  1. You can ask them to send a few samples randomly from their production line so that you can thoroughly check all your quality parameters.

  2. Also, you can ask them to send a few random samples from the shipping containers if you have got different varieties of products.

  3. You can also hire a 3rd-party inspection company for checking the condition of your items before they will load them into the shipping container.

Sixth step - Save money and time by hiring a custom clearance agent in the UK

This is also needed for almost the same reasons that we explained before when you needed to hire a Chinese shipping forwarder in China.

Hiring a custom clearance agent in the UK will be cheaper because natives can have better access to domestic resources. Often people may say why don’t we collect the items ourselves rather than hiring any custom clearance agent in the UK?

Yes, you also can do your custom clearance yourself, however, it will not be a wise decision. The process involves several 3rd parties and also plenty of paperwork.

You will end up spending so much money that you will find hiring an agent is a cheaper option.


Having gone through this article, we believe you can import from China to the UK easily even if you are a novice in this business. It is almost like any domestic purchase, however, with a few additional steps.

Your major thrust will be on finding a suitable Chinese supplier because that is the most difficult thing to do in the whole process.

All other steps are:

  • Calculate your UK import tax

  • Use a Chinese forwarder for arranging the shipment

  • Checking the quality of your goods before you load them into container

  • The hiring of a UK customs broker

  • Arranging domestic transportation.

Initially, a few of these steps might appear to be a very difficult task, and many people quit the idea of importing from China as it seems it is too difficult to comprehend all the steps.

Once you experience the whole process and involve yourself, your confidence will increase and your next import from China to the UK will be a breeze.

However, one thing that you must seriously consider is hiring a trustworthy sourcing agent in China. That is because identifying the right Chinese suppliers is the most difficult thing in the whole process. With the help of a trustworthy Chinese sourcing agent, this step will become easy for you.

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