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How to Import Products from China!

March 18, 2013 by Andrew Minalto - 843 Comments
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Many of you will choose to import goods from abroad (outside the European Union). If and when you do, it’s essential to fully understand how importing works; what extra costs are involved, time frames for delivery etc.

For many new traders, Importing sounds like a nightmare to go through. But in fact, it’s not that complicated at all IF you know the basics behind the importing process – payment, shipping, taxes and customs. In this blog post I’ll try to cover most of the important aspects of importing from China and other countries outside the EU.

What does “importing” mean?

In general, importing means that you’re buying goods from a supplier outside your country. However, in my examples I won’t be counting European Union countries as goods can be freely moved across the EU without paying extra import duty or VAT. For most of you, China and the United States will be the top two countries to import from, so let’s cover them in detail.

Shipping Methods

Shipping costs will make up a substantial percentage of your total product cost, so it’s important to keep them as low as possible at all times. As a general rule of thumb, the bigger your order, the lower ‘per item’ shipping costs you’ll face. There’s no point in importing one pair of unbranded shoes from China as the shipping costs will be far more than the cost of the product itself. Volume is the key to success when building your eBay business around an “Importing from China” product sourcing concept. But that doesn’t mean you have to start off with full container loads either!

Here are the 4 most popular shipping methods you can use to import goods from China:

1) Regular Post. This means normal, regular China Post which can take up to 6 weeks to arrive. No online tracking is provided. It can be used for parcels under 2kg. Usually, you will only use regular post for samples and again ONLY if time is not that important and you can afford to wait a few weeks for a package to arrive. China Post is not the most reliable system so be prepared for lost/stolen packages.

If at all possible, I try to avoid using China Mail for any shipments as the delivery time is simply too long.

If your supplier is located in Hong Kong, you can use HK Airmail which is way more reliable, comes with a tracking number and usually arrives within 5-10 days.

2) Courier. Shipping with a courier company will be the most suitable method for most people starting out IF it involves small, lightweight items. With courier companies such as TNT, DHL, UPS or FedEx you pay a premium price for each kilo BUT you get fast delivery times and an online tracking facility. These days most courier shipments take just 3-5 business days to arrive in any Western country from anywhere around the globe. I personally use TNT and DHL most of the time as their prices have worked out lowest for me. For a 50kg package, expect to pay around £4 or £5 per kilo.

3) Air Freight. This is somewhere between courier shipping and sea freight. Shipping times vary from company to company, but in general range between 5 to 10 days which is not bad at all! With Air Freight costs will be significantly lower than with courier companies, but extra work is involved when the goods arrive in your destination country. With Air Freight you’ll usually have to handle documentation and customs clearance on your own (unlike with courier companies), which for many newbies may seem impractical. Of course, you can always outsource these tasks to a freight forwarding company at an additional cost.

With Air Freight, expect to pay £2-£3 per kilo for a 100kg shipment.

Air Freight is usually cost effective once shipments are in the range of 100kg or more UNLESS very bulky items are involved; if that’s the case your only viable option is to use Sea Freight.

4) Sea Freight. This is the most popular shipping method used by big companies to import goods from China. The cost per kilo (£100-£150 per pallet, even less if you can order full or half-container loads) is very low but the downside is the lengthy delivery time. Depending on where you’re located it will be in the vicinity of 30 to 40 days in most cases.

Just like with Air Freight, you’ll have to take care of the documentation, customs clearance and delivery of goods from the port to your home or office. It’s not that complicated to be honest – I do this on my own on a regular basis, but I understand that for newbies it could seem too complicated and that’s why I recommend using a freight forwarding company that will take care of all the procedures and deliver goods right to your door.

Also, with Sea Freight it’s very important to calculate all the EXTRA COSTS involved once the goods arrive in your country. Your supplier will usually give you the FOB price, which means that the goods are loaded onto the ship. But that’s not the end of the story! Once your shipment arrives at the port there are all kinds of extra charges, such as:

  • Unloading charge;
  • Port fees;
  • Docking fees;
  • Storage fees;
  • Clearance fees;
  • Etc.

And I’m not talking small figures here! These fees can run into hundreds of pounds! That’s why it’s crucial to take these numbers into account BEFORE you order any goods so that you know precisely what your final product cost will be.

Again, the easiest way to keep these costs under control is by using a freight forwarding company. You can ask them to quote for door-to-door delivery which includes all the fees associated with Sea Freight shipping.

Even with all the additional fees Sea Freight is still the cheapest shipping method for imports from China. Remember that it’s cost effective ONLY if your order is big enough. Usually, a half pallet or one full pallet will be enough if your margins are right. Again, this will depend on the kind of goods you’re importing, their value and weight. Sometimes Air Freight offers the same savings as Sea Freight with the added bonus of much speedier delivery.

In general, Sea Freight is better for bulky items or in cases where the shipping time is not that important. Personally I try to stick to couriers and Air Freight as often as possible as I just can’t stand the long wait involved when using Sea Freight. (but then again I deal mostly with small, light weight items).

Advantages of Using a Freight Forwarder

Here is some good news – I have recently started recommending a freight forwarding company called Woodland Global. You may already have heard about them if you’re an active member of The Wholesale Forums as Darren, who works for them, is a member there and he helps people with questions about importing.

Woodland Global is a great company to deal with and so far I have only heard positive feedback about them:

  • There are no yearly or joining fees;
  • They’re UK based and very easy to get in touch with;
  • They’re fast because they ship containers from China on a weekly basis;
  • Their pricing is very competitive, even for small-time importers;
  • They will deliver goods to your door and take care of all the documentation.

In a word – Woodland Global is a perfect solution for small-time importers! Their fees are very affordable and they’ll even deal with small orders. If you’re interested in their services and need a quote, get in touch with Darren on TWF or simply use the contact page on their website.

Imagine the kind of opportunities this opens up to you, especially if you’re just starting out on your journey and you’re still looking for the perfect niche? Most people stay away from bulky items as they don’t want or don’t know how to deal with Sea Freight shipments effectively. Now, with the help of a freight forwarding company, it’s suddenly not so much of a problem anymore!

Woodland Global can even pick up goods for you in China and deliver them to the nearest port. However, if possible, always try to arrange shipment of goods to a Chinese port via your supplier, as this will often work out to be cheaper.

Shipping from the US

If we talk specifically about importing from the USA, the cheapest option for sending parcels is with the US Postal Service. They’re reasonably priced, especially if you don’t opt for their fastest shipping method. You can send up to 30kg per shipment and the closer you get to that 30kg mark, the cheaper the price per kilo.

Even if your order comes in at 50kg, you can simply split it into 2 shipments and still send it via USPS. Of course, this will only work with small, lightweight or valuable items, not furniture or LCD TVs. For bulky items you’ll want to go back to using Air Freight or Sea Freight.

As you can see, each method has its advantages and disadvantages, but in general you should be able to make your decision based on these 3 major factors:

1) Size and weight of the shipment

2) How long you can wait before the shipment arrives

3) Value of goods

In other words, the best shipping method will depend on your order!!!

Payment Options

When dealing with ANY supplier for the first time, you have to be extremely careful. There are so many scammers operating out there in the wholesale industry, so before you decide to send money to your supplier, make sure you do all the background checks available to you to make sure you’re dealing with a legit company. And even then, always, always start with a small trial order to avoid huge losses if that supplier turns out a scammer.

When you have done all the checks and verified the supplier, you can place your first order. Which payment method is safest to use? Usually, suppliers will accept the following:

Wire Transfer – this means sending money from your bank account to the supplier’s bank account. This is the most common payment method used in B2B transactions. Wire Transfer doesn’t offer ANY protection, so only use this method with suppliers you trust 100%. Sending money to a supplier in China can take up to 5 working days.

Transfer fees will vary from bank to bank but in most cases will be in the region of £10-£30. Most banks offer international wire transfers at a reduced cost when you use the bank’s ONLINE banking facility. Finally, the fee you pay your bank to carry out this transaction is usually a fixed one which means that the more money you send per transaction, the lower per pound fee you’ll pay.

Most Chinese companies will accept wire transfer as a default payment option. If they don’t, it may be a sign that something dodgy is going on. Make sure you only send money to the company’s bank account and not to a personal bank account, no matter what story the Chinese supplier tells you.

It’s worth bearing in mind that even though your bank may charge you only a fixed fee for making the payment, that there are usually additional fees involved. Banks typically add a markup to the exchange rate and so you end up having to pay more to send money overseas.

TransferWise:​ ​Companies that specialise in international money transfers could save you a substantial amount of money if you’re looking to make frequent transfers to your Chinese suppliers.

FCA and FinCEN regulated, TransferWise are ​up to eight times cheaper than banks​ when it comes to making international payments. They always convert money at the mid-market exchange rate – ie. the rate you see on Google is the rate you’ll receive. The only fee you’ll pay is a small, upfront fee on the value of the transfer. You can also ​make global USD payments to your Chinese supplier​ and with their fixed fee of $2 + small % cost of currency conversion, their rates are very competitive.

Setting up the payment is simple as well. You sign up for a free account, set up your transfer by entering your supplier’s bank account information and state what currency you’d like to pay them in and then fund your transfer. Options include bank transfer and debit/ credit card. Your supplier won’t need to do anything. For them, it’s just like receiving cash into their bank account.

With over 3 million customers and co-founded by the first employee of Skype, you can be assured that your money is sent securely. However, just like with a normal wire transfer, your money is not protected if your supplier turns out to be fraudulent so it’s best used when you’re paying a supplier you trust.

You can find out more about TransferWise in my post ​here.​

Credit/Debit cards – one of the safest ways to pay for goods is by using your credit card. Chinese suppliers will vary rarely take credit card payments but companies in the EU or US will, in most cases, be happy to accept credit card payments. Some companies may add on a small extra fee to cover the fees they have to pay themselves when they accept a payment by credit card.

Why are credit cards good for paying your supplier? First of all, with most card issuers you can initiate a charge-back if something goes wrong with your order or the supplier turns to be a scammer.

Secondly, most cards offer a cash-back or points system where you can actually get some money back in the form of bonuses from your bank – be they frequent flyer points or extra cash in your bank account.

Lastly, if the supplier accepts credit cards it’s a pretty good sign that he’s legit, especially if we are talking about suppliers in the UK and US. Why? Because it’s not that easy to set up a merchant account and start taking credit card payments. Companies have to undergo a strict verification process to be able to take card payments and this is something most scammers won’t do.

PayPal – I’m sure you’re fully aware of what PayPal is and how it operates. These days, most Chinese suppliers will accept PayPal payments. All your payments with PayPal are protected, so you can always open a dispute and request a refund if a supplier has scammed you. Now, you will not always win those disputes, but PayPal’s most recent policy is generally buyer friendly and sellers are the ones who have to prove that the transaction was legit and the goods were delivered.

Again, it’s not that easy to open a PayPal account in China, which is why scammers try to avoid using PayPal and will push WU, MG or other similar, unsafe payment methods. As with a wire transfer, make sure you’re sending money to the PayPal account of the company you’re dealing with and not a personal PayPal account.

Escrow – Legitimate suppliers know how important safe payment methods are to buyers and that’s why when dealing with suppliers on Alibaba, you now have the option of using Alibaba’s escrow payment system.

What is escrow? With escrow, you first send the money to an escrow company and they hold it for you until you receive and inspect goods and only then release the money to your supplier. It is by far the safest payment method as you ONLY pay your supplier once you have received and inspected the goods.

Western Union, MoneyGram etc. – NEVER ever deal with a supplier who only accepts Western Union, Money Gram or similar payment methods! The only time you should use Western Union is when you are ordering product samples as WU transfer fees are much lower than bank transfer fees.

But only do it with totally verified, trustworthy suppliers. When you use WU, you can’t actually send money to a company; only individuals can send and receive money via the WU network.

Most scammers will only accept payments via Western Union. If branded goods are involved, it’s a sure sign that you’re dealing with a scammer!

Personally I try to stick with PayPal when dealing with Chinese suppliers and PayPal or credit card when dealing with US based suppliers. Wire transfer is usually ok for European suppliers and manufacturers, if we are talking about verified suppliers.

Currency Exchange Rates

There’s not much really you can do about currency exchange rates; you simply have to accept them as an additional cost when dealing with suppliers abroad. If you’re dealing with large amounts of money (in excess of £10k+), you can look for currency exchange companies that may offer you better rates. Personally I have never used such companies as I’m only dealing in high profit margin items these days where 1% doesn’t have any impact on my bottom line.

If PayPal is the only payment method offered by your supplier, you simply have to accept PayPal’s exchange rate as it is. If wire transfer is an option, you could probably get a better rate from your bank BUT they’ll take a commission on an international transfer which will offset all the savings you would make on the currency exchange.

If you have a really strong, long-term relationship with your supplier, and you’re 100% confident they won’t scam you, try offering a PayPal Mass Pay option to your supplier – in return for a percentage from the total you have to pay (PayPal won’t charge any fees to a supplier using Mass Pay).

So for example, if you pay $1000 via PayPal in the usual way, PayPal will charge a fee of around $30 and the net amount the supplier will receive will be $970.

But if you agree to using Mass Pay, the supplier might charge you only $980, generating savings for both parties. $20 may not seem that much but that’s only if you send $1000. For larger payments this method can save hundreds of $ in fees! REMEMBER, only do this if you’re 100% confident about supplier you’re dealing with!

To sum it up – factor in currency exchange fees as an additional cost that you can’t do anything about! PayPal will probably turn out to be the best payment method for you, especially if you sell on eBay (buyers will also pay you via PayPal, simplifying cash flow for your business).


When you import goods into the EU from abroad, you have to pay two kinds of tax before the goods are actually released to you:

  • Value Added Tax (VAT)
  • Import Duty

The VAT rate is different for each European Union country, so make sure you check your country’s specific VAT rate before making any calculations. The current VAT rate in the UK is 20%.

Import duties vary widely from product to product so do check the accurate rate with the help of this free online calculator:


Import duty will be usually be in the range of 2%-5%, but with some products it can be as high as 10% or even more. On the other hand, with some product groups you won’t have to pay import duty at all, so be sure to check out that online calculator to see exactly how much import duty you’ll have to pay for your particular goods.

REMEMBER!!! Import duty is payable only on the goods’ value, but VAT will be applied to the TOTAL of:

Goods’ value (price paid to the supplier)
Import Duty

So VAT is calculated on the value of the goods + shipping + import duty. I just wanted to clarify this as people often get a nasty surprise when they see a bigger number than the 20% of the goods’ value they were expecting.

Register for VAT or not?

Many people who are just starting out importing will ask this question – should I register as a VAT payer before I import goods from abroad? The answer is NO, NO and NO! Without going into numbers and complex calculations, you will want to stay away from VAT registration as long as possible (that is, until you reach the maximum turnover after which you HAVE to register for a VAT number by law).

So just remember that you don’t have to register before you reach the threshold. The current VAT threshold in the UK is £77K over the previous 12 months. You can even ask for an exception to be made if your turnover exceeds this amount temporarily. You’ll find more details on the HM Revenues and Customs website. VAT thresholds vary from country to country, so if you’re based outside the UK, be sure to check the local laws regarding VAT registration.

Read more about VAT registration for small businesses here.

EORI Number

A few years ago the EU introduced an EORI number to monitor imported goods. This number is used for statistical purposes and there are no extra costs involved.

You’ll find more information about EORI on the HMRC website. As a general rule of thumb, if you’re a registered business it’s a good idea to register for EORI before you start your importing activities or else the process of receiving your shipment when the goods arrive in the UK may be delayed.

EU regulations, CE mark.

With some product groups you have to be extremely careful when importing goods from China, or any other country outside the European Union as you must ensure they comply with EU rules and regulations. Some sensitive product groups are:

  • Health & Beauty products
  • Electronics
  • Children’s toys and equipment
  • Food
  • Chemicals, drugs, creams etc.

What you’ll find is that most Chinese suppliers will tell you that all the certificates are in order : DON’T take their word for it! If you can, verify that all the documentation is genuine so you can import those goods into the EU without any chance of them being seized and destroyed at customs.

Copyright & Patent Issues

Another sensitive question – patents. You’ll eliminate copyright issues as long as you stay away from branded items and items with branded designs (such as kids’ toys with Disney characters, company logos, movie characters etc.) With patents, the situation is more difficult as there is no easy way to find out whether an item you want to import from China doesn’t breach any registered patents. What you can do though is ask your supplier about potential issues with this BEFORE you place your order.

Patent issues often come up with electronics and specific instruments and devices, so if you’re dealing with some really fancy device or piece of equipment, make sure the supplier’s products don’t use any patented, protected technology.


Don’t be afraid of the importing process, but start small.

It’s not as complicated as it looks, especially if you use courier as a shipping method. With couriers you don’t have to worry about long shipping delays or customs clearance as they will take care of all the documentation for you.

Take it step by step – place a small order on AliExpress and see how it works out. On AliExpress you’re protected by an Escrow Payment System, so if something goes wrong with your order, you can always open a dispute and get your money back.

Good Luck!

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    Thanks a stack for all that useful information Andrew.

    1. Andrew Minalto

      You’re welcome Doug!

  2. Hi I’ve been looking on dhgate website at makeup brushes and cosmetics they are offering free shipment via dhl, my question is it too good to be true! Although the items I’m looking at buying are from top sellers on their site….. also I have read that these items are excluded from duty tax, is this correct?
    Many thanks 🙂

    1. Andrew Minalto

      Hi Sarah,

      Thanks for your comment.

      That’s perfectly normal – many sellers on DH Gate and Ali Express offer free shipping, even via courier companies like DHL.

      As for duty rates & VAT, you can check it on this website:



      1. Thanks for that!, are there any free sites to check duty etc as that on charges?

      2. Andrew Minalto

        Yes, you can check it on HMRC website:


  3. Hi Andrew,

    I have a small order (£200) from Alibaba and they are sending my goods to the UK via TNT Economy. Am I right in thinking I will need to contact TNT and work out with them how to get my goods from UK port to my door? As this is a test shipment (to see how it all works more than anything), I’m not registering as a Sole Trader and don’t need an RNOI (?) number?



    1. Andrew Minalto

      Hi Chris,

      No, if it was sent via courier, TNT, you won’t have to do anything.

      Courier company will deliver goods to you, contact you in case you need to pay customs or they need EORI number. You just have to wait and see what happens! 🙂 Make sure you have given supplier your correct address and phone number as they will call you if they need any assistance from you.


      1. Thanks Andrew.

      2. Andrew Minalto

        You’re welcome Kris! 😉

  4. Hi Andrew

    If I’m importing small items from China amd using a courier door to door. Why do some companies still quote EXW and FOB, its irrelevant is it not? Products are picked up from place of business of factory to my door.

    Great site you have here.

    KInd Regards
    Wayne L

    1. Andrew Minalto

      Hi Wayne,

      It’s irrelevant IF the supplier organises courier shipping.

      But if YOU organise courier shipping, there will be different procedures and cost involved based on FOB or EXW prices.

      To keep things simple, I would recommend you ask courier to organise shipping via courier – it will be cheaper and easier for you.


  5. Hi Andrew,

    I am happy to find out articles like yours. It is much easy for as to understand the subject to became importers.

    In my case I will ask you couple of things, since your post is very clear.

    I am looking to place an order with Alibaba, as you advised I want to start with small quantities or samples for example, I need to to be clear, if my order is 400 units and the cost of it is £200.00 to £400.00 pounds for example, do I still need to register for VAT? Or just place the order, of course the purpose is commercial and I will make profits of that but I need to know if only getting the EORI number is enough.

    And the second question is, I want to sell the items online creating a website or ebay, it depends, do I need to register myself as a Soletrader?

    Many thanks for your kind advise.


    1. Andrew Minalto

      Hi Gabriela,

      Thanks for your comment.

      No, you DON’T have to register for VAT, don’t do it! Even EORI number is usually not required for such low value shipments (but you can register for that anyway, it won’t harm you in any way).

      Yes, if you intent to start a business online selling these products for profit, you will have to register as a Sole Trader.


  6. Hello, I have a question.

    It is well known that if YOU import the goods in EU/ USA, you are supposed to comply with all the regulations.

    But what about drop shipping people? If someone buys the product from a Company which is registered abroad, then the buyer is going to be an importeur and the Company is not responsible for the compliance of the imported goods in that country?

    1. Andrew Minalto

      Hi Sergey,

      Yes, if the SELLER is registered outside EU, buyer is effectively importer and all the regulations apply to him/her.


  7. Hi Andrew,

    Thanks so much for the article, it is proving to be incredibly helpful. I wanted to get your advice on my situation.

    I am currently importing two pieces of art from China to exhibit in the UK with the potential to sell. I have a service that will do the shipping for me. My question is if I would need to attain an EORI number and if so, would I need to ensure that I am registered as a sole trader through HMRC before that?

    Or would you advise it would be better for me to have the art pieces shipped as a gift (as I’m not sure if it will even sell in the UK) and upon selling it- register as a sole trader? In the case that the art pieces are shipped to me as a gift, would I need to apply for an EORI still?

    Many Thanks!

    1. Andrew Minalto

      I’m sorry but I have no experience with art imports.

      Please call HMRC and ask them directly what you’ll need.


      1. Crystal

        No worries Andrew. Thanks so much nonetheless!

  8. Hi
    Very help full article Andrew. Thank you.
    I’m currently processing my first order from china 🙂
    Items ready for collection with in 2 days.
    Just received an email from my supplier asking me to provide some more detail.
    Here is what I was asked for:

    And do you need certificate of origin? FA or CO?
    Do you need original BL or telex release BL?

    Would you be able to advice

    Many thanks

    1. Andrew Minalto

      Hi Pete,

      Your freight forwarder should inform you on what documents they’ll need from supplier.

      But yes, certificate of origin and BL will be required anyway.


      1. Thanks Andrew
        Any idea which certificate of origin? FA or CO? and which BL original or telex release BL


      2. Andrew Minalto

        You need to confirm this with your shipping company.

  9. Hi Andrew,

    I am a regular at your site and have learnt a lot, so thanks.

    I wonder if I could take your advice on my first “proper” order on Alibaba. So, I did the research on Terapeak and identified a product, which I then sourced with a Chinese supplier on Alibaba. I am confident that the company is legit and have received a sample. Basically it’s a clothing item.

    So I am going to order the MOQ of 150pcs for my first bulk order. The package won’t be that large or heavy (think 150x a small clothing item I would imagine 1 medium/large box). My contact for the Chinese company stated that the order isnt large enough for sea freight.

    I just got the quote and will soon be paying 50% of the product costs to start production.

    So onto my queries. I am unsure of shipping and calculating the total cost of getting the product to my door (import duty, VAT, customs clearance etc). Now the Chinese supplier has quoted me $168 (USD) to ship to my door using a courier (UPS/FEDEX). What do you think of this quote, is it any good? I imagine if I use this quote there will be additional costs on top, like customs clearance, VAT, import duty etc – in which case how do I calculate what these will be?

    The other option is to obtain my own quote via Woodland Global or my own courier company. I have already been in contact with Woodland Global who state they can handle an order of any size and they just need dimensions/weight etc to give a quote and calculate best method (sea/air freight). What do you think of my shipping options? And how can I calculate all the costs involved to get the 150pcs to my door? Basically I am trying to work out the total costs involved and ensure there is still a profit to be made, before I commit.

    Onto another point, my Chinese supplier wants payment by bank transfer. I am confident they are legit company. How exactly do I pay by bank transfer when I need to pay in USD and make sure they receive the correct amount (i.e. I pay bank charges/exchange rate)?

    My final question (sorry there are a few) is regarding Trade Assurance. How exactly do you pay via this method – I received the invoice as an excel attachment. Do most companies accept this method of payment. I paid for sample via Paypal but they say Bank Transfer (it is to company account) or Western Union (which is a no no) for bulk order.

    Many thanks for your time.

    1. Andrew Minalto

      Hi Mark,

      1) For such small shipment courier is the ONLY option! Don’t even consider sea freight or air freight – this order is way too small for those options – they will be more expensive.

      2) Just go with the supplier organising shipping – if you try to arrange courier at your end, it will always be more expensive than supplier’s options in China.

      3) Use this online calculator to see exact VAT & import duty rates for your order:


      4) You can go to your bank and make this transfer there OR if you have decent online banking, you can do it online – do currency conversion and make international transfer.

      5) You have to ask supplier to put the order together on Trade Assurance platform and then make payment via that platform (bank transfer or credit card).

      Hope this helps!

      1. Thanks Andrew, much appreciated.

        Fortunately it gave me a further free search on Duty Calculator. Apparently my item has a “12% import duty rate but is exempt of VAT”. Can this be correct, for VAT to be nil? This has allowed me to work out the costs (but currently I have 2 calculations, one with 20% VAT and one with nil VAT). Thanks again.

      2. Andrew Minalto

        Yes, there are products with 0% VAT rate.

        You can double check and confirm this manually on HMRC website:



  10. Hi,
    I’m planning to buy goods from aliexpress and sell it on ebay.
    1. I have to pay on top Import Duty + Vat. 25%
    2. To ebay and paypal 14%
    3. Pay tax on profit 20%
    Please let me know if I’m right?

    1. Andrew Minalto

      Yes, that’s correct Vlad.

      1. I have been offered the same product in UK with VAT invoice that is cheaper rather than I buy it from china and pay import duty and VAT. Could you please explain me how it works. ( 1.from china seller 12 pieces cost me £340 + I have to pay another £100 for cutom clearens. 2. UK seller offers me for 10 pieces £370 with VAT invoice).

      2. Andrew Minalto

        Then buy from that UK supplier!

        It’s usually not effective to import from China such small quantity. You need to buy in true bulk from China to make it cost effective, to keep shipping cost per unit down.


  11. Hi,

    I’m about to make an order from a Chinese factory. The factory has quoted FOB prices and I’ve contacted my freight forwarder for a quote for sea freight. The freight forwarder has asked if I want a door to door or port to door quote. I’m unsure what the difference is? If the factory is offering FOB, do I just ask for a port to door quote?

    Many thanks

    1. Andrew Minalto

      Hi Robbie,

      Yes, in that case it will basically be port – to door.


      1. Robbie

        Perfect, many thanks for your quick reply.

  12. Package mailed from china to USA around mid Jan 2017. It is mid march and no package arrived at my door. Vendor said China post to usps door to door. It’s been 2 months and tracking has not been updated since Jan 19th. Status is still “in transit”. Please advise. Should I be concerned that pkg lost or be patient? Thanks.

    1. Andrew Minalto

      Hi Faith,

      China post is very slow indeed but 2 months seems a bit too much for me…

      Usually it takes about 1 month or less for such packages to arrive. If it’s 2 months now, chances are that it has been lost.

      This is the reason why I almost never use China post for samples – or anything else for that matter.

      It could be that package shows up though after another month but who can wait that long?


      1. Thanks for responding. Does the seller have to submit paper work to ship such as declaring item? I got a tracking number but it seems to be stuck in transit. Seller said not to worry and that it should arrive at door. Could it be stuck in customs? I had to pay additional shipping costs due to weight. Would calling customs location in my state help? Seller said China post and then to my door. Prototypes were expensive as well as shipping.

        In the future, is there a better way that is economical to ship a few prototypes? From what I have looked at, for large quantities such as 25, then ship by sea and get customs broker to clear it once arrives mainland.

      2. Andrew Minalto

        You should have used courier shipping instead (UPS, DHL, TNT, EMS etc.) – that would come fully tracked from door to door.

        Right now I don’t know what to suggest you as Chinese mail items can’t be tracked in the USA.


  13. Just to say a big big thank you….after weeks of asking tom dick and harry, and worrying about all this importing and wanting to start an online business, with suppliers outside the European union…… reading your article and advice has given me great hope and tonight i can sleep peacefully … and also about the vat registration has put my mind at rest and a now i can look forward to starting up….many thanks. ..

    1. I agree. This page is the best I’ve come across I must say. I don’t know how Andrew has time to answer all these questions – he should charge. I rarely bookmark a site but I have this one. Thanks Andrew.

      1. Andrew Minalto

        You’re welcome Kris! 🙂

    2. Andrew Minalto

      Great to hear that & you’re welcome Nimo! 🙂

  14. Thank you Boss for your nice explaination . Really helpful for first time importer like me. Highly appreciated !!

    1. Andrew Minalto

      You’re welcome Mo!

  15. Jane labas

    Hi. I have placed several orders with Aliexpress. Some of them have been through HM customs and I have been billed. Some of them haven’t.

    How can I ensure that all goods come through customs so I can pay vat and duty?

    I am only ordering small quantities.

    I hope you can help

    1. Andrew Minalto

      Hi Jane,

      Please check out this article covering this problem in detail:



      1. Jane labas

        Thanks so much.

        It’s not illegal to do that is it? I just want to pay!

      2. Andrew Minalto

        Well, it is illegal in a way that you – as importer are responsible for paying VAT/import duty on such imports.

  16. James allen

    Hi andrew, nice insightful artical.

    I am very new to importing anything but have been doing research and with your artical have been able to piece bits together but I’m still confused about a few things.

    Once I place my order using the EMS courier option, what do I need to do in order for it to get to my door? I understand I have to pay VAT and customs duty but when do I pay this? Will the courier contact me? Do I need to contact hmrc?

    Also I will be starting off very small, I plan to sell the items on eBay but I am not a registered business so do I need to register for EORI?

    Thank you for your help.


    1. Andrew Minalto

      Hi James,

      Thanks for your comment.

      You don’t have to do anything if courier is used like EMS (your shipment will be delivered by Parcel Force in the UK).

      If it’s a small order, you don’t need an EORI number either.


      1. James allen

        Thanks for your fast reply. I’m using aliexpress and when I go to purchase an item it shows the total for the item and shipping but says that the buyer is resposible for vat and customs tax, even with the courier option will the courier take it out of the money I’m paying for shipping or will there be an extra cost of the vat etc once it’s been delivered?

      2. Andrew Minalto

        No, import duty & VAT will be extra, on top of the shipping fee you pay on Ali Express.


      3. James allen

        Thanks for your patients..

        The bit I’m not understanding is when and how I pay the vat and import duty, as the total amount payable when I place my order on aliexpress is for the item and shipping cost

  17. Richard Gibson

    Hi Andrew, I have never imported before and was thinking about drop shipping although I don’t want my customers getting any import or vat bill. Is there anyway I could drop ship itlems but have the import/vat charged to me and not my customers
    Thanks Richard

    1. Andrew Minalto

      Hi Richard,

      No, that won’t be possible.

      Well – theoretically it is possible but then you have to get an account with a courier company (like DHL, UPS) and arrange them to do this for you. But this means all packages will have to be sent via that courier.

      I’m sure you don’t want to send cheap items from China using an expensive courier service.


  18. hi Andrew i have a order that stuck a customs for days they are a sample i am waiting on
    i have looked up the pakage and it says there held by customs what doe that mean does it mean i wont get them
    can you help me please

    1. Andrew Minalto

      Hi Luke,

      What shipping method was used and where are you located?


  19. Hello Andrew.
    Thank you for your post, it was very useful for me.
    I still have many concerns mostly in documentation. I am new in this . So, I found the supplier, we agreed for a sample ( I will pay for it). Also we already agreed on small quantity (40 pairs of shoes) , even his min was 300 pairs , as you wrote there it is possible to negotiate this question !!! and we will use DHL courier. So now I am waiting for a sample. After it I will order factory inspection, as you also recommended here. And then… I am expecting to get invoice. What is the difference between invoice and pro forma invoice and commercial invoice? What must be in it? Because another supplier sent me excel file without bank information, with no number of invoice, so, even for me it looked not right. So, hot the right invoice must look like? And when I get it, I need to sign it and require their signature too?What other documents from them I need to have to pass customs, before I pay them or after? What about insurance? Do I need to ask supplier if the DHL already did include the cost of it in the delivery price? Because the supplier told me that delivery cost per 1 pair will be 5$ .

    I am sorry if some questions seem stupid, but I am nervous about it and don’t want to miss something really important

    I am looking forward to your reply
    Best Regards,


    1. Hi irina:
      i would like just to add that if you try to import through DHL it will cost a lot….NO ?

    2. Andrew Minalto

      Hi Irina,

      Thanks for your comment.

      Basically invoice/proforma invoice/commercial invoice is same thing when we talk about dealing with Chinese suppliers.

      But simple Excel file with no payment info, no supplier info is not an invoice – it’s just a price offer/quote.

      The invoice should have all your details on it, supplier details (address/bank account/name), products listed, price, shipping terms, delivery time frame.

      But no, you don’t need to sign it. You can simply provide Customs this invoice and they will use it to calculate taxes.

      Usually there’s insurance in place with DHL shipments but you should confirm this with the supplier.


      1. Thank you!

      2. Andrew Minalto

        You’re welcome Irina! 🙂

  20. Hi Andrew,

    Thanks for the very useful article.
    I would like to ask you 2 questions:

    1. If using a courrier like DHL, does one need to buy FOB from the Chinese supplier? Or can the goods be bought EXW and handled to DHL to ship to the EU directly?

    2. Why do you say that small businesses should not register for VAT before they reach the turnover threshold? If you do not register for VAT, how can you deduct the import VAT you paid when clearing EU customs?

    Many thanks for your advice.



    1. Andrew Minalto

      Hi Louis,

      Thanks for your comment.

      1. When you buy goods from China and ship via courier, like DHL, you want supplier to arrange this for you and simply invoice you for goods + shipping costs. If you go with EXW price and arrange courier on your own, you’ll pay more, trust me. Suppliers can get lower prices for couriers in China.

      2. Please check this post explaining why you don’t want to register for VAT before reaching the threshold:



      1. Hi Andrew,

        Thanks for your quick reply, point understood about the VAT registration.
        Regarding the first question, could you please clarify:

        1. Say if I wanted to use my own courrier (because I have negotiated rates with DHL and because I do not wish my supplier to know the delivery address), would I need to buy the goods FOB with export procedures done by the supplier, or can I just buy EXW and let my courrier ship the goods directly?

      2. Andrew Minalto

        You would have to buy goods based on FOB price, yes.


  21. Manus Lositisuk

    Hi Andrew,
    Thanks for your valued article. It’s very helpful for many people especially new entrepreneur. I am ordering new product I invented from China. I would like to get your advice of what is sea forwarding for over 1000 kg (5,000 pieces) I should use from Shanghai China to US. I am new entrepreneur and have no idea about this. It’s important for me especially with low budget.

    Appreciate in advance,


    1. Andrew Minalto

      Hi Manus,

      You need to contact a freight forwarder company, like Woodland Global, to get accurate shipping cost estimate for your order.

      I can’t give you that number as it depends on many things (size, weight, location, destination, goods type etc.).


  22. Hi Andrew,

    Your site is great and has so much valuable information for importers! I recently had a strange experience with DHL for a large air express shipment we had to do because we urgently needed our goods. The strange thing is DHL palletized and shrink wrapped our loose cartons and in the process smushed the cartons which changed their dimensions. DHL ended up charging me more than what was quoted because they said their electronic measuring system saw all the boxes as different sizes that ended up being larger than their original size due to being smushed.

    They are trying to bill me 20% more than originally quoted based on the original carton dimensions and weight.

    Just wondering if you have ever encountered this issue and if so any thoughts on how to avoid it in the future and potentially get DHL to honor the original quoted freight price. Their billing department already denied my appeal.


    1. Andrew Minalto

      Hi David,

      Thanks for your comment.

      No, unfortunately (or luckily?) this is first time I hear of such situation.

      Does not sound very fair if you ask me – especially a 20% increase.

      Not sure what to suggest really as probably this is all covered in small print and you can’t do anything about it apart from paying them what they ask.


  23. Hi,

    I am new in the import process and I am getting lost… I hope you can help me out.

    So I have several products that I need to import from China. I had contacted and found all my suppliers, had asked for door to door delivery and got quotes for price of goods + shipping door to door using air shipment only: via Fedex, TNT, UPS or DHL…

    Then came the time where I asked myself: how do I clear the goods from the customs? Pay the duty and VAT to HMRC? I heard that I have to tell HMRC in advance that I am going to import? How does that work?

    On the back of all those questions I started to contact freight forwarder / import agents. They told me that I should not asked for door to door delivery from my suppliers in China… That I should ask for EXW price only and they will take care of the rest under FOB terms…

    Does it really work this way? What turns to be cheaper usually?

    So I sent one of the freight forwarder all what he asked me for: address of origin, weight and dimension of the shipment, etc… I was waiting for my quote and the answer I got is: “The best thing is to do ask your agent to send shipment to a UK airport. And we do clearance and delivery from the airport.”

    So here I am. What do I do? 🙁

    Thanks in advance!

    1. Andrew Minalto

      Hi Lauren,

      Couriers and freight forwarders are two different things.

      If you use couriers (TNT, UPS, DHL etc.) they will take care of Customs clearance procedure for you and deliver goods to your door. Downside is that courier shipments are very expensive and only suitable for small orders, small items or small items that are high value.

      If your order is bigger/bulkier you’ll want to use a freight forwarder and ship it via SEA.

      For more info on how this all works, check out these posts:



      1. Lauren

        Thanks a lot Andrew!

      2. Andrew Minalto

        You’re welcome! 🙂

  24. Christine Bond

    You say start small with imports. but we are looking to source a large filling machine which we are having difficulty finding other than in China. What are your top tips for choosing the best supplier from the long list on the Alibaba website?

    1. Andrew Minalto

      Hi Christine,

      Please check out these two posts for further advice:



  25. Hi Andrew,

    Your blog is really fantastic. I only have one question,
    If i want to ship my items from my supplier to my forwarder in China ,what incoterm should I write to my supplier? is it FOB or EXW+shipping fee? Thank you.

    1. Andrew Minalto

      Hi David,

      Usually it will still be FOB price, yes.


  26. Hi Andrew,

    I’ve had a supplier on Alibaba ask me to pay a 5% PayPal fee when buying from them (not 3.4%).

    Is this them basically asking me to pay their Paypal seller fee as well? Is this normal?


    1. Andrew Minalto

      This is quite normal Tim, yes, for suppliers to ask 5% extra fee on PayPal payments.

      Try to negotiate it down to 4% or even 3%.


      1. Thanks Andrew.

      2. Andrew Minalto

        You’re welcome Tim! 🙂

  27. Hi Andrew,

    Excellent article, i am just starting my ‘import from China’ business and this has been very very useful.

    To start my product research and viability study i have created a pretty neat and complex spreadsheet calculator that i can simply punch in the numbers and see all manner of profit and loss numbers etc automatically calculated.

    That said my question is around Import Duty, it seems the only place i can get an accurate estimate of this product by product is the ‘dutycalculator’ you referenced in the article, the problem there is its subscription based and not ready to sign up to that at present.

    I will be looking at importing lots of different products. Is there an alternative way of getting these figures or can you even confirm what the maximum Duty would be from China to UK. I am more than happy to set my calculations on a worse case scenario thus meaning if there is no or reduced duty my margin would be higher. I just can’t seem to find any concrete figures.

    Any steer would be appreciated

    1. Andrew Minalto

      Hi Peter,

      Thanks for your comment.

      Yes, dutycalculator.com is not totally free anymore BUT you don’t have to buy a subscription there – you can purchase credits for whatever number of calculations you need.

      If that’s not an option, you can get duty rate for free from this website:



  28. Hi Andrew,

    I just wanted to ask, is there any way of knowing exactly what the customs clearance and processing fee will be for an order before actually placing an order on Alibaba?

    Is this based on the cost and bulk of the goods, or is it a fixed(ish) price?

    Many thanks,

    1. Andrew Minalto

      Hi Tim,

      Yes, it is possible to get that cost before you do any business.

      Yo just need to know what shipping company or courier you/supplier will use and then you can contact them and ask about their custom clearance/documentation fees structure.


      1. Thanks great, many thanks.

      2. Andrew Minalto

        You’re welcome Tim!

      3. Sorry I do have one more question!

        Do you usually book a courier like DHL yourself or let the supplier/wholesaler on Alibaba do this?


      4. Andrew Minalto

        Let supplier arrange courier.

        They get much better prices than us.


  29. ChiChi Okoro

    Thank you Andrew,

    I must really appreciate your plainness in answering questions and also for the freight forwarder you recommended (infact that was what delayed me from starting my ecommerce business). I am starting up and don’t have a large capital. However, I have been able to get a product to sell and have decided t purchase some which is about 263kg. due to the insufficient capital, I want to use the sea as my shipping method.

    Is the sea ok for this weight?

    Also, I would like you to talk about postage here in the UK. I tried selling used items from my house on eBay but ended up paying £2.80 for the delivery. This ate into my profit. Kindly tell me how I can overcome this challenge as I intend to sell full time on ebay.

    1. Andrew Minalto

      Yes, SEA freight is suitable for a 263kg shipment. In fact, it’s the only cost effective shipping way for an order this size.

      As for shipping costs in the UK – they’re what they’re. Royal Mail is cheapest way to send small packages and if it did cost £2.80, there’s not much you can do about it.


  30. Nadia Anafcheh

    Hi Andrew,
    First of let me congratulate you and thank you for providing such a useful and valid blog, I feel like I was extremely lucky to find you by just browsing.

    I am in the process of ordering some Home/Garden andHealth and beauty product to buy as a sample from AliExpress, could you please advise:

    1- how to find exactly the same product on aliexpress to much up the item I found on alibaba ?

    2- Since you have mentioned that, when it comes to health and beauty, we have to be careful to comply with EU rules and regulation, how I can make sure the product is genuine?

    Thank you in advance and appreciate your help and time.

    Kind regards
    Nadia Anafcheh

    1. Andrew Minalto

      Hi Nadia,

      Thanks for your comment.

      1) You basically just need to search for same product name on Ali Express and by browsing through listings, looking at images, try to find exact same product. OR if you have already found the product on main Alibaba site, why not simply order sample from there? Most suppliers will happily sell you a sample, even manufacturers. You can read more on samples here:


      2) Rules or regulations you must comply with will depend on the product you’re sourcing. So I can’t give any specific advice here.


      1. Nadia Anafcheh

        Hi Andrew,

        Thanks a million for your respond.

        Nadia Anafcheh

      2. Andrew Minalto

        no worries Nadia! 😉

  31. Ian Watson

    Hi Andrew,
    Many thanks for your informative blog. I am thinking about starting a small eBay business which would import low value electronics hobby components from China and re-sell them in the UK. If I routinely import small consignments of under £15 value to thereby not have to pay VAT on individual packages, is there anything wrong with this or are there any taxes which apply to the cumulative value of these multiple consignments which I would need to consider?
    Many thanks

    1. Andrew Minalto

      Hi Ian,

      Please check out this post for more details on this topic:



      1. Ian Watson

        Hi Andrew,
        Many thanks for your response and the link to the import duty VAT thread. If I understand correctly, then it is legal for me to repeatedly import goods from China through the course of the financial year and I will not be subject to VAT as long as individual orders total less than £15 each. However, I note your response to ALT in the other thread suggesting that it may not be legal for him to split his watch orders to avoid paying VAT. I’m a bit confused now over where to draw the line between VAT avoidance and simply just buying small amounts of stock when I need it rather than having it sat around gathering dust. Any clarification would be gratefully received please!
        Many thanks

      2. Andrew Minalto

        Hi Ian,

        Yes, it’s a bit of grey area there. Splitting larger shipments in smaller ones is not allowed but then again – how it’s being checked in real life, I don’t know.

        You may want to give a call Customs and find out what they say about this.

        Let us all know what did they say.


      3. Ian Watson

        Hi Andrew,
        Many thanks for your responses.

  32. Hi Andrew,

    I have some samples on order from China, but while I wait I am trying to get to grips with what is required when importing larger amounts.

    If I use a courier company, I understand I should contact them once my items have left the supplier and inform them that my shipment will require clearance, is that correct?
    When the items arrive in the UK, how will they contact me regarding any duty and VAT?

    If I choose sea or air freight you suggest a freight forwarder. At what point do I contact them? Is it once my supplier has sent the goods?

    Many thanks for your help,


    1. Andrew Minalto

      Hi Hannah,

      Couriers will contact you via the phone number you have provided to supplier. So you don’t really need to contact them prior unless you want to make sure package gets cleared through customs properly (you have a worry that supplier under-values shipment and it could slip through customs without paying taxes).

      If you use a freight forwarder for sea/air freight, you contact them before you have even placed an order with supplier as you want to get price quote for the order, see if supplier delivers goods to same port as your freight forwarder is located OR freight forwarder needs to collect shipment from supplier etc. etc.


      1. Hannah

        Thank you Andrew!

  33. Hi Andrew,

    Thanks for your great blog, it’s so helpful!

    We are paying 30% / 70% payment terms, plan to employ a third party inspector to ensure all is in order before full payment and are using FOB shipping terms. My query is that most suppliers seem to request final payment after final inspection but before goods leaving the factory. With FOB, the manufacturer is responsible for transit of goods to the point of loading to vessel however given that goods will have been fully paid by this point there appears to be a significant risk to the buyer during this transit phase of the transaction. How would we reduce this risk as much as possible?

    Many thanks in advance,


    1. Andrew Minalto

      Hi Martin,

      You can reduce risks by paying against release of B/L (Bill of Lading).

      This means that you pay remaining balance ONLY when goods are loaded onto ship. Supplier is protected too as without B/L you can’t process goods through customs.

      So ask your supplier whatever they can accept final payment against release of B/L.


      1. Martin

        Hi Andrew,

        Thank you for your response. Much appreciated 🙂

        Have a nice day!


      2. Andrew Minalto

        You’re welcome Martin! 🙂

  34. I have been told that once I am a VAT registered trader I can import from china with 0% vat. What doe sit exactly mean, because the only price I can see on aliexpress is for example just $400 ~ 304.51gbp. Is this net/gross for me? what is the VAT rate for this??

    1. Andrew Minalto

      No, it’s not 0% VAT, it’s more complex topic you can read more about here:


      Prices on Ali Express are without VAT, so you have to add 20% for that + import duty + clearance fees.


  35. I’m a ebay seller from the US are you able to help me find products to sell on my site. Will your program help me?

    1. Andrew Minalto

      Hi Cynthia,

      Yes, my Easy Auction Business course works Worldwide and I have hundreds of customers from the US.

      And yes, Market Research, finding products to sell on eBay, is covered in my course.


  36. Hello Andrew,

    My brother Patrick and I used Woodland Global on your recommendation and we did save over£1000 on shipping costs although it did take a while to arrive. We were prepared for this but we had an issue at our FOB.

    Our supplier gave us a price for the products and to transport them to the designated FOB. We also agreed a price with Woodland Global. Everything was running smoothly until my supplier contacted me and informed me they are being chased to pay documentation and handling fees by a company called IFB in Hong Kong. As we’re new to this we thought that this price was included in Woodland Global’s price to get the shipment from the FOB to the UK.

    I spoke to woodland global and they said the supplier should bare these costs. I spoke to our supplier and maybe they did not understand but they said they don’t pay for shipping and handling. The shipment was stuck until IFB were paid so out of convenience I footed the bill of about £240 and our product was delivered a few days later.

    Who should bare this cost of these ‘hidden’ charges?

    Many thanks in advance.

    1. Andrew Minalto

      Hi Karl,

      This is really supplier’s fault. They should cover these costs if they offered you FOB price.


      1. ok great thanks for your help Andrew!

  37. Adrian Stead

    Great article Andrew.

    I live in Australia and will be importing small wooden items into Amazon UK from India. The government website suggests with my commodity code of 4421909790 I won’t have any duty to pay. Can you confirm this and also advise about VAT. Will I, as a non-UK resident be required to pay that and any other taxes?

    1. Andrew Minalto

      Hi Adrian,

      I’m sory but I don’t know answers to those questions.

      This is something you’ll have to investigate on your own.

      As far as I know, you’ll have to register for VAT in the UK but I’m not 100% sure.


  38. Hi Andrew,
    This is a really great post. A comment and a few questions:
    –USPS–while it’s cheap I heard it’s not a good idea trusting them to deliver your import.
    –is there a private closed group/forum people discuss reviews on various freight forwarding companies? As you mentioned, there’s a lot of scammers, so I need to almost know someone has used them with success (and not just anybody.. but someone I can tell is real–maybe a well known private business). Or at least a forum/group people list issues/scammers they’ve been faced with.
    –there’s some freight forwarders (I think they are freight forwarders) that use dhl/fedex/… themselves (cause they have accounts with better discounts), amongst other options. Is that legit/real? I can import my commercial goods under their account, and the courier say Fedex, would be ok to import those for my business even though the account belongs to another business? And if so, is there any anyone have used to recommend (know it’s not a scam)?


    1. Andrew Minalto

      Hi Kei,

      Are you based in the US? And want to import from China?


  39. Hi Andrew
    Have been looking to start up my own little business just small to start of with. I see you say to stay away from branded products as they can be hard to find and not much profit margin. I came across a website called brandsdistribution based in Italy. Have done as much research as i can to make sure they are legit and all seems ok. Was just wondering if you had heard or come across them any info you have on them would be helpful
    Regards Mark

    1. Andrew Minalto

      Hi Mark,

      As far as I remember, they’re legit, yes.

      If that’s the same company, I remember them advertising on The Wholesale Forums many years ago, so they should be legit.

      As always, start with a small trial order and see how it goes.


  40. Hi Andrew
    After my second order from China I have received a invoice from TNT which I was expecting as VAT was due, but I am a bit confused as to what DPF is as I have been charged £20 + vat.
    Please could you explain?
    Some forums say it is the cost of TNT paying the VAT for me. If this is the case can I not pay the VAT directly and avoid the DPF?? Also is DPF the same amount every time whether your order is £100 or £1000.
    Many Thanks in Advance.

    1. Andrew Minalto

      Hi Tracey,

      This is the cost for Customs Clearance procedure, paying taxes on your behalf yes.

      £20 is actually very cheap. If you would do it on your own, and look for your own Customs Broker, it would cost you a lot more.

      Yes, this cost is pretty much fixed.


      1. Tracey

        Many thanks Andrew for your reply..
        I will bear this cost in mind on my next order 🙂

      2. Andrew Minalto

        You’re welcome Tracey!

  41. Hi Andrew, I want to get some samples sent over what kind of quantity should I be asking for? and how much do you think I should spend on samples? I want to test to see if they sell.

    Is ali express stock generally more expensive than ali baba?

    last question can i get samples from different suuppliers or would i be better sticking to one only?


    1. Andrew Minalto

      Hi Chris,

      I will have a dedicated post on product samples tomorrow, on my blog. So stay tuned for that!

      But yes, Ali Express is more expensive than Alibaba as AE is a retail website essentially.


  42. Hi Andrew,
    Thank you for this valuable information. I am in the process of importing for the first time. I am importing plates which are microwave, and dishwasher safe, is there any regulations, or certificates I need to be aware of?

    Also I am planning to sell it through Amazon FBA , can the freight forwarder deliver it to my home ?address so I can label it, and send it off to Amazon. I am starting with small order of 400, it might be 14 boxes, but will be very heavy about 15 kg a box. Thank you in advance.

    1. Andrew Minalto

      Hi Huria,

      No, I’m not aware of any special certification needed for products like these apart from the usual CE mark.

      Yes, freight forwarder can deliver to your house, no problems. When contact them, ask for a Door to Door quote – this will include delivery of goods from China to your house.


      1. Thank you Andrew, sorry another question. The Chinese company quoted me a price of $535 from Chaozhou to London port, does that sounds ok?

        I am thinking it will be cheaper than fright forwarders but still need a quote for custom clearance, and port to door delivery from fright forwarders.

      2. Andrew Minalto

        Get a door to door quote from freight forwarder and then you can compare it.

        If $535 is just freight cost, expect a LOT of extra fees to be added @ port side when goods arrive.

        So I recommend to use a freight forwarder with a door to door service. Then there are no hidden charges.


      3. Ok, I will do. Thank you for your help.

      4. Andrew Minalto

        You’re welcome!

  43. […] most of these shipping questions already in dedicated posts on this blog, which you can find here: How to Import Products From China & CNF, CIF and FOB […]

  44. hi Andrew
    I want to buy perfume from china which courier recommended me?
    want order in boxes max 3 to 5kg .

    1. Andrew Minalto

      Hi Abih,

      Perfume from China?

      Don’t tell me it’s branded perfume…


      1. hi andrew
        its not a branded perfumes the seller told me the smell is like a branded perfumes but the packing and bottle with his own brand.
        I can have problems if i buy perfumes from china?

      2. Andrew Minalto

        No, if they’re un-branded, then no.


      3. which courier recommended me for perfumes?

      4. Andrew Minalto

        Depends on what your supplier can arrange really as very few couriers nowadays carry LIQUIDS from China.

        So you have to ask your supplier about this.


  45. Hi Andrew,
    i like to bring cosmetics from thailand to start sell it online the lab and the company I order product would have everything for me like FDA and etc. as I like to bring a bit of amont first to see how its work, do I need to register anything for the beginning? or I can just start selling it and do it later, please help

    best regards


    1. Andrew Minalto

      Hi Leon,

      Are you based in the US?


  46. Hi Andrew

    Thanks for all the valuable information. I just read this article and one about EORI
    I am decided to import from China first time. My question is-

    If supplier arranging the courier then how should I provide my “EORI number” and other details to the courier such as “tariff code”.

    And if supplier is selling with the FOB incoterm, does it means I have to arrange for the shipment? if so then how?

    I will be so greatful to you if you answer my questions.

    Best Regards

    1. Andrew Minalto

      Hi Sid,

      you don’t need to provide EORI number at time of sending goods. You’ll only need it when goods arrive in the UK and need to be cleared through customs.

      FOB price won’t include courier fee, no, so if you want to use a courier company for your order, ask supplier to get a quote for you and include that cost in your invoice.


      1. Thanks a lot Andrew 🙂

      2. Andrew Minalto

        You’re welcome Sid!

  47. Hi Andrew,

    First of all, thank you for this incredibly helpful article!

    I am about to expand my e-comm business with Amazon FBA and start importing from China. The total weight of the shipment is 230 kgs and I got a quote of £580 for air freight (FOB Hong Kong) and custom clearance from a UK based freight forwarder called Air & Cargo Services Ltd.

    Does this seem like a reasonable price and have you ever heard of this company? I got in touch with Woodlands as well, but they haven’t come back to me yet.

    Many thanks!

    1. Andrew Minalto

      Hi Audrey,

      I haven’t heard of that company, no, but the rate is ok, yes.


  48. Peter Duke

    My friend is importing a bath from China. The bath has arrived at the UK port. The English company dealing with transport etc to his premises has asked the question if he is a private individual or a company. What is cheapest for taxes etc.? He could be either

    1. Andrew Minalto

      Hi Peter,

      Technically it shouldn’t make any difference but IF the bath is for personal use and his business has nothing to do with baths etc., he should clear it through customs as individual as otherwise how he will be able to book these costs under business accounting?


  49. Hi Andrew,

    When shipping from China with a courier who arranges the courier me or the supplier?

    1. Andrew Minalto

      Hi Joe,

      Supplier organises courier.

      This way it’s much easier & cheaper.


      1. Thanks Andrew,

        At what point do I pay VAT/duty? How do I pay?

      2. Andrew Minalto

        When goods arrive to the UK.

        Courier will inform you about customs clearance procedure, payments etc.


  50. […] 6. How to Import Products from China! […]

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