International trade regulations in the Life Sciences - healthcare and medical sector

Tariffs and duties in the healthcare and medical sector

There is a range of import-specific regulations that must be complied with by all businesses in this sector. The key issues relate to the Tariff, VAT and duties, Intrastat and intellectual property.

Using the Integrated Tariff

A common customs tariff is charged across all European Union (EU) countries on goods imported from outside the EU. You can find details of specific tariff duties and measures are contained in the Integrated Tariff of the United Kingdom.

For more information on how the Integrated Tariff of the United Kingdom is important to your business, see an introduction to the Tariff.

The Tariff is used to determine the specific classification code of your goods, and to find out:

  • any licensing requirements that apply
  • the rates of duty and import VAT that apply
  • any additional charges, such as anti-dumping duties
  • any available preferential duty rates

Access the UK Trade Tariff.

Preferential rates of duty

The Generalised System of Preferences (GSP) allows products from a wide range of countries to be imported in the EU at a reduced or zero rate of duty.

The European Community has a number of other preferential trade agreements with third countries, in which goods may attract preferential rates of duty. For instance, the EU duty on imports of certain medical equipment is zero, as a result of the Uruguay Round of Multilateral Trade Negotiations agreed in 1994. Other countries where this deal is in force are the USA, Canada, Japan, Australia, New Zealand and South Korea.

Find out if your goods qualify for a preferential rate of duty and meet the appropriate rules of origin.


If you are VAT registered and the goods you acquire from or supply to VAT-registered businesses in other EU countries reach the Intrastat exemption threshold for the year, you must submit monthly supplementary declarations to HMRC. Intrastat is the method of collecting information and producing statistics on goods traded between EU member states. Intrastat thresholds are reviewed annually. The current thresholds are £1.5 million for Arrivals and £250,000 for Dispatches. See Intrastat - reporting the value and volume of intra-EU trade. Intrastat is only applicable to VAT-registered traders.

Intellectual property

You should ensure that imported goods do not breach the intellectual property (IP) rights of other businesses. For example, watch out for counterfeit goods and design infringements. Infringing goods can be seized and destroyed by HMRC. You can ask HMRC to check for imported counterfeit versions of your goods. Read more about intellectual property protection overseas.

In addition to checking the Tariff, you are advised to separately check the UK Strategic Export Control Lists if you intended to export controlled military or dual-use goods.