Ultimate Guides | Tips for Shipping Freight
Importing Goods From China To The UK - Ultimate Guide

Importing Goods From China To The UK - Ultimate Guide

Looking to import goods from China to the UK? We put together a comprehensive guide with everything you need to know, from import documents to taxes & duties and more!

12 mins, 7 July 2021
Bookairfreight’s Key Takeaways:

• Choose OEM if you want to have more design flexability, and ODM if the manufacturer has the exact product you want to sell.

• Finding a manufacturer who already sells in the USA already, makes life easier.

• Air freight is cheaper and quicker for goods under 150kg. Ocean freight is cheaper for goods weighing over 150kg.

Shipping rates from China to UK

FCL shipping rates from China to the UK

FCL, or full container load, means your goods fill an entire container, either 20’ or 40’ long. If you are shipping at a high volume, you’ll save time and money by shipping FCL. Pricing for FCL is done as a flat rate, regardless of whether or not your container is completely full.

Shipping prices have increased by 350%!!!

LCL shipping rates from China to the UK

LCL, or less than a container load, means your goods do not fill an entire container, and will be shipped along with other boxes or pallets. Note that when you ship LCL, your goods will need to be consolidated at the origin port and deconsolidated at the destination port.

LCL shipping takes a few days longer than FCL.

Average price for FCL from China to UK

Air Freight from China to the UK

Shipping by air is generally faster but more expensive than shipping by sea.

Need more help choosing between sea freight and air freight? We’ve got you covered here.

Shipping rates from China to the UK: Air Freight

Air Freight Costs per KG

When you’re shipping air, the price per kg decreases the larger your shipment’s weight:

Express shipping rates from China to the UK

Avg price for door-to-door shipping for a load of 50 kg/0.2 cbm: $884

Shipping freight under 100 kg from China to UK is cheaper– and faster– by express. Around the 100 kg mark, air freight becomes the cheaper option:

China to UK shipping time

How long will it take to ship from China to the UK? Your shipment’s transit time will be impacted by location, shipment size, and season.

Bookairfreight’s Tips:

• Off-peak season for shipping from China to UK.


• Main peak seasons for shipping from China to UK


July-October (sea)

Late January/early February

Import Documents

Let’s start with the necessary import documents you’ll need for your foreign goods to be allowed into the country by the UK Customs authorities (HM Revenue & Customs).

1.Commercial Invoice

The commercial invoice is a necessary import document in most countries, including the UK.

It has the role of informing Customs about the products being imported (description, quantity, weight, monetary value, and Commodity Code), the identities of the importer and exporter, as well as payment terms and total invoice value.

Customs Value or Valuation (which determines the taxes and duties you need to pay) is determined by the purchase values listed in your commercial invoice.

2. Packing List

The packing list is also a necessary document in most international freight shipments, because it provides all involved parties with information regarding the packaging of the goods:

• Description of the goods

Quantity, weight, and measurements of the packages

The type of packaging used (boxes, cartons, vials, etc.)

Shipping marks and/or seal numbers

Commercial invoice number and importer/exporter details

3. Certificate of Origin

Some countries also require importers to have a certificate of origin, and this includes the UK.

The purpose of this document is to show Customs the manufacturing and shipping origin of the importer’s goods.

Bookairfreight importance for HM Revenue and Customs

• It helps classify the cargo under the correct tariff schedule.

• It gives customs the ability to prevent shipments originating from third-countries. (countries not part of the EU)

• It helps streamline the import licensing and tax and duty collection processes.

4. Bill of Lading

The bill of lading is mostly used for ocean freight shipments, and it is mandatory.

It is the document that the freight forwarder or freight carrier issues to acknowledge your shipment and cargo.

It has 3 main roles:

• It states the details shipping terms that the carrier and importer agreed upon

It serves as a document of the title of the goods

It acts as a receipt for the loading of the goods onto the ship

5. Import Declaration

HM Revenue & Customs requires importers to make an entry summary (safety and security) declaration before goods from China arrive in the UK, as well as a full import declaration when the goods finally arrive at the UK border.

You can find the steps to filling and submitting these declarations yourself in the links above, or you can hire a freight forwarder to handle them for you.

6. HS Code / Commodity Code

HS code is short for Harmonised Commodity Description and Coding System. In the UK, it’s more commonly called Commodity Code, but you can also find it as Tariff Code, or Harmonised Code.

The Harmonised System is a list of numbers used by Customs to classify a product and define the duties and taxes to be paid by the importer for their shipment.

It’s crucial to find the specific commodity code of your product, because you need to include it in most of the necessary import paperwork.

Find the right commodity code for your goods

7. EORI Number

EORI Number stands for “Economic Operators Registration and Identification Number”.

Businesses wishing to engage in trading activities in the UK or Europe are required to have and use an EORI number as an identification number in all Customs procedures.

If you do not have an EORI number your goods will not be cleared by Customs and you might also incur fees until you acquire one.

Here are step-by-step instructions on how to get a UK EORI Number

Additional licenses, restricted goods and UK quality compliance standards

Most goods don’t require a license when importing them from China to the UK, but there are several categories of goods for which an import license is required.

Additional certification is required for any of the following types of goods:

Quality Compliance Standards On Imports From China To UK

The UK government has certain quality standards imported products need to meet in order to be cleared for commercialization inside the country.

The main quality compliance standard in the UK is the UKCA mark, which stands for ‘UK Conformity Assessed’.

The UKCA mark is the UK version of the European CE mark, and it was implemented in 2021 to replace the CE mark as part of the Brexit initiative.

(Note that CE marking will still be accepted by the UK until January 1, 2022)

The UKCA mark indicates that a product meets the health, safety, and environmental protection standards of the United Kingdom.

Not all products require a UKCA mark. UKCA is applicable to the following categories of products.

In addition to the UKCA mark, UK legislation requires that the manufacturer of a UKCA marked product issues a UK Declaration of Conformity for the product.

Read more about getting UKCA-certified and issuing a Declaration of Conformity

UK Import taxes and duties

There are no fixed charges for importing goods from China to the UK. The main two costs you will incur will be import taxes and duties.

1. Calculate the value of your goods

Calculating the value of your shipment is a necessary first step for calculating your import taxes and duties.

It is also necessary information to include in your import declaration.

Follow one of these methods recommended by HM Revenue & Customs to calculate the value of your goods

2. China To UK Import Duty

Import duty is a type of tax collected on imports and some exports by a nation’s customs authorities.

Sometimes, import duty is also referred to as customs duty, import tax, import tariff, or tariff.

It is calculated as a percentage of the value of the goods you are importing.

Simply go here and insert your Commodity code into the search functionality.

You may also be able to delay or reduce the amount of duty you pay based on what the goods are and what you plan to do with them.

1.Find out if you can pay a lower rate of duty

2. Find out if you can delay paying duty

3. China To UK Import Tax (Value-Added-Tax)

VAT is a consumption tax placed on a product whenever value is added at each stage of the supply chain, from production to the point of sale.

Import VAT is charged on all goods (except for gifts worth £39 or less) sent from:

• outside the UK to Great Britain

outside the UK and the EU to Northern Ireland

The standard VAT rate in the UK is 20% for most products. There are a couple of exceptions where a reduced rate applies:

Check the rates of VAT for different goods.

VAT is calculated as a percentage of the entire import cost:

• The cost of the goods

The cost of packaging

The cost of shipping

• Insurance cost

Any duty owed


You are importing goods from China.

If you pay your supplier £2000 for your goods and packaging, the UK Duty tariff for these goods is 5%, the shipping quote is £400, and insurance is £40 then:

UK Duty = 5% of £2000 = £100

VAT = 20% of (UK Duty [£100] + Shipping [£400] + Insurance [£40] + Cost of goods including packaging [£2000]) = 20% * £2540 = £508

Total Import Duty & Tax Cost = £100 + £508 = £608

Claim A VAT Refund

If you're VAT registered, you can claim back any VAT you paid on the goods you've imported. You’ll need your Import VAT Certificate (C79).

Find out how to claim a VAT refund

Besides tax & duty, you might also need to pay a small amount in delivery charges (‘handling fees’), depending on the shipping service you are using.

Post brexit changes

Under the EU-UK agreement, no tariffs will be introduced, which is welcome news for UK businesses that buy or sell from EU countries.

Goods entering the EU from Great Britain (England, Scotland and Wales) face large amounts of new paperwork and checks, including customs declarations, rules of origin checks, product safety certification and food inspection.

How will VAT rules change for UK online sellers?

If goods sold online are shipped from the UK, whether to customers in the EU or non-EU countries, they will be treated as exports from the UK and will be zero-rated for VAT purposes (you will need to retain evidence). That means UK VAT is not charged at the point of sale.

The EU has updated VAT rules!!!

Import VAT and duty is payable on consignments with a value of more than €22. To avoid any hold-ups and ensure the sale, a UK seller can make the required declaration and payment rather than the customer.

How to decrease cost and shipping time

Book in advance. Shipping by sea is the cheapest, but also takes the longest. Booking in advance when you can saves you money– and cuts out the stress if delays arise.

Ship off-peak. When carriers get busy, both shipping prices and transit times go up. Ship during off-peak seasons whenever you can.

Get your documentation in order. Having your documentation in order can make all the difference when it comes to clearing customs quickly.

Know your HS Codes. A lot of shippers are surprised by how much customs fees can affect business costs. Do your research so you can budget effectively

We can help you save up to 20% off shipping costs!!

Try our instant quotes for free
Get Free Shipping Quotes
Thank you! Your submission has been received!
Oops! Something went wrong while submitting the form.
Mikhyle Moos

Local Digital Marketing manager and content creator at Bookairfreight. I am someone who loves literature, but here to simplify interesting topics within the logistics industry that are easy to digest.

Stay On Top
Of Your Logistics

Join our newsletter for practical tips
that will save you money and time.

🥳 Thank you! You're signed up!
Oops! Something went wrong while submitting the form.

You May Also Like ❤️...

How to Ship X
Complete Guide- Shipping hats from China To USA

Thinking of shipping hats from China to the USA? Look no further! We put together a complete guide with everything you need to know, from sourcing to shipping!

Ultimate Guides | Tips for Shipping Freight
Complete Guide - Importing Electronics From China To USA

Looking to import electronics from China to the USA? Look no further! We put together a complete guide with everything you need to know, from sourcing to shipping!

How to Ship X
How to Ship Hand Sanitizers

Hand sanitizers and wipes containing 24% alcohol are classified as dangerous goods. Because of this, there are numerous documentation requirements that need to be carefully followed.

Ultimate Guides | Tips for Shipping Freight
Ultimate Guide - Importing Goods From China To Canada 2021

Looking to import goods from China to Canada? We put together a comprehensive guide with everything you need to know, from import documents to taxes & duties and more!

Take Your Logistics to the Next Level.

Sign up  for free and get access to 60% cheaper freight rates from top forwarders all over the world.

Hundreds of fast-growing e-commerce businesses are working with Bookairfreight.
Get Weekly Freight Rate Updates
Email Address
Pick the Shipping Routes You Are Interested In:
Sign Me Up
Please check your email for rates!
Oops! Something went wrong while submitting the form.