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Step by Step Guide on How to Export Goods From the UK

Step by Step Guide on How to Export Goods From the UK

The United Kingdom is one of the world's most connected countries regarding global trade. The country exported over £340 billion ($391 billion) in goods in 2021. In recent years, exporters have geared up export volumes. For instance, the UK recorded a 1.7% increase in its export records from 2020 to 2021. Essentially, the UK export market is consistently growing, and new opportunities are emerging. However, many prospective exporters are often confused about how to go about exporting goods from the UK to foreign markets. This article will shed light on this.

Steps to Follow to Export from the UK

1. Look Through Relevant Export Rules: Like every other country, the UK has rules that clarify trade issues like export restrictions and export duty rates. Checking rules on applicable duty rates is particularly vital because it can help guide your decision on the type of goods to export. For example, it will be more beneficial to export goods with a duty rate of about 10% instead of goods with duty rates like 20%. The duty rates are likely to reflect in your prices when the goods are finally shipped to the import destination, which might affect profitability.


2. Obtain an Export Licence: The UK requires an export licence for goods like animals and art collectibles. For example, exporters need to obtain an export health certificate to export live animals from anywhere within the UK. The UK also provides comprehensive guidance notes for people seeking to export all forms of live animals from the territory. A similar set of rules applies to cultural and antique goods. The UK Customs Authority requires exporters to obtain a licence to export cultural goods. Exporters can get this licence from the official website of the Arts Council in England. To apply for the licence, exporters must download the form, fill it out digitally, and mail a copy to the Council.

3. Ensure Your Business is Ready to Export: To ensure that your business is ready to start exporting goods from the UK, you need to obtain an EORI number. The Economic Operator Registration and Identification Number (EORI) is one of the primary essentials for export business in the UK. It is a unique number used by the UK Customs Authority to track shipments. You need an EORI number if you intend to export goods from any territory in the United Kingdom. You can apply for an EORI number through the UK’s government gateway . You will need details like your National Insurance Number and Unique Taxpayer Reference in the application process.

4. Ensure the Consignee is Capable of Receiving the Goods: Countries have different rules that regulate the movement or shipment of goods into their territories. Before shipping to the destination country, you need to ensure that the receiver has obtained the necessary licences and can import the goods into the country.

HS code

5. Find Out the Appropriate Classification for Your Goods: The UK uses a commodity code for every product that goes through shipment routes. Your commodity code depends on the product you are exporting, and the Customs Authority requires the code at every step of the exportation process. You can use the UK’s tariff tool to correctly classify your goods and determine what duty rate applies to your exports. Also, you must remember that your commodity code in the UK will significantly differ from your commodity code in the destination country.

6. Prepare the Necessary Documentation: Many documents are required in the export process. While a separate segment in this article will be dedicated to required documents, one thing to note is that you must prepare your documents beforehand. This preparation will help avoid costly delays.

7. Get Your Goods Through the Customs Authority: This is the final and most hectic part of the exportation process. To ship your goods, the UK Customs Authority will need to inspect and clear your goods. The process can be complex and demanding, so it is advisable to hire the services of a customs broker. A broker will help you declare your goods and submit the necessary documentation in time for clearance.

Documents Required to Export Goods from the United Kingdom

Commercial invoice

1. Commercial Invoice: A commercial invoice is a document issued by the exporter. It contains details on the goods' value, origin, and weight. It also contains details on both the exporter and importer.

2. Customs Declaration: Exporters must declare all their exports as long as the goods are shipped for commercial purposes. The export declaration requires details like commodity code, customs procedure code, type of goods, and transport method. The time limits for submitting your export declaration differ according to the transportation mode you intend to use. For example, if you intend to export your goods by air, you must submit your export declaration within 30 minutes before your goods depart. You must declare your exports two hours before the goods leave the port for sea transportation.

3. Packing List: The packing list is more detailed than the commercial invoice. It contains details on the buyer, shipper, invoice number, description of the goods, and type of package.

Zero Rate for VAT Payment

The UK allows exporters to claim zero VAT rate on goods they ship to other countries. However, exporters are only allowed to zero-rate their exports when they provide proof that the goods have been permanently exported. Exporters must submit the proof within three months of the export transaction. This requirement is why exporters must keep all relevant documents in the export process.

How to Make Your Exports Faster

The export process is ordinarily long. However, you can shorten your export clearance through any of these schemes:

1. Simplified Declaration: If you intend to export goods from the UK, you will typically need to file a full declaration. This declaration can be time-consuming. However, you can fast-track this process by applying for a simplified declaration. A simplified declaration only requires you to give basic details of your exports before they are shipped. You can then file a supplementary declaration after clearance.

2. Common Transit: The Common Transit scheme allows exporters to quickly move their goods through other territories without making multiple customs declarations. This scheme applies if you intend to export to countries like Switzerland and Norway. You need to get an EORI number and a transit guarantee to apply.

3. Authorised Economic Operator Status: You can benefit from this scheme if you export products regularly. The scheme gives you access to faster customs procedures, priority treatment for your goods, and reduced declaration requirements. To grant this status, the UK Customs Authority will check your export business for tax compliance, previous export records, and financial standing.


While exporting from the United Kingdom is undoubtedly profitable, the process can be complex, especially for first-timers. Thus, it is advisable to consult experts like customs brokers to guide you. You can also contact the UK Customs Authority to seek clarification during the export process.

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