International Order Fulfilment: How to Navigate Customs and Import Regulations

Posted by Faye Lester


Ecommerce businesses face a myriad of challenges, from high competition and maintaining customer satisfaction, to handling returns and keeping up with the latest marketing trends. One of the steepest learning curves for new ecommerce and retail businesses – and biggest headaches for businesses of all ages – is navigating customs and import regulations.

We’ve spent enough time (24 years to be exact) in the order fulfilment industry to know the key considerations when importing and exporting inventory, so let us guide you through the basics in this article.

Should I use a customs broker?

You might choose to engage a partner to traverse the often-complex paperwork required to import and export your products. This will inevitably reduce stress and free up your time, though this will come at an additional cost for your business.

Getting an EORI Number

Obtaining your EORI number, or Economic Operator Registration and Identification number, is the crucial first step for businesses wishing to trade with overseas businesses and consumers. This 9-digit identification number is used to exchange information with customs authorities, to streamline the import and export process.

Understanding customs duty and VAT

Duty is the tax charged by a country’s government on imported goods. For UK-based businesses, this will usually be charged on excise goods and items valued at over £135 from outside the UK.

Where VAT is concerned, the rate is currently 20% in the UK and is calculated based on the value of the goods, the costs of postage, packaging, and insurance, and any duty you owe.

Commodity codes are internationally-recognised reference numbers that describe a certain product, so that the correct rate of duty and VAT can be calculated.

What documents do I need?

  • The requirements for documentation are very much dependent on the type of products you’re shipping and which country they’re coming from or going to. For customs clearance, you may need the following documents:
  • Customs declaration
  • Proof of origin
  • Export licence
  • Commercial Invoice
  • Bill of lading or airway bill
  • Insurance documents
  • A clear written contract between buyer and seller including the terms of the sale, delivery address and each party’s details

A common reason for delays at customs is incorrect or inadequate documentation. A clear description of goods and full details of how the goods are used is important.

Our fulfilment services in Peterborough have been supporting businesses for a quarter of a century, and we’ve learnt a thing or two about how best to navigate the process of getting your products into storage, ready to deliver in good time to your customers.

Ecommerce businesses face a multitude of challenges, but don’t let your fulfilment services be one of them; get in touch now to find out about our fulfilment services in Peterborough, UK.

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