There are special rules for businesses that import goods from non-EU countries. Whilst most smaller businesses importing goods will use a courier or freight forwarder it is still important to be aware of the duties and VAT implications. Businesses importing goods must be able to distinguish between importing goods from outside the EU or within the EU. Intra-EU movements of goods that are imported are referred to as 'acquisitions' and goods that are exported to the EU are known as 'dispatches'.
Businesses that start to import goods from outside the EU are required to apply for an Economic Operators' Registration and Identification System (EORI) that helps businesses communicate with customs officials. Businesses also need to ensure they correctly classify any imported goods, declare the goods to customs and pay any VAT and duty that is due.
Currently, it is more straightforward to handle acquisitions from within the EU, and there are no import duty implications. However, the VAT accounting can be complex especially where multiple countries are involved. There is also a separate requirement to complete Intrastat declarations if the total value of goods exceeds £1.5 million annually.
It remains to be seen what changes will happen for goods imported from Europe especially if we get a no deal Brexit. In fact, if the UK leaves the EU on 29 March 2019 without a deal there would be immediate changes to the procedures that apply to businesses trading with the EU as the rules that allow for the free circulation of goods would cease. This means that we could see a similar process to that currently in place for imports from non-EU countries applied to EU imports.