International trade regulations in the paper and printing sector

Tariffs and duties in the paper and printing industries

A range of regulations must be complied with by businesses trading internationally, including those in this sector. The key issues relate to the Tariff, duties and Intrastat and intellectual property (IP).

Using the Integrated Tariff

A common customs tariff is applied across all European Union (EU) countries on goods imported from outside the EU. Details of specific tariff duties and measures are contained in the UK Trade Tariff.

Read more about the classification of goods.

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

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

You should note that most printed matter is free from customs duty and is also free from VAT in the UK.

Preferential duty rates

The Generalised System of Preferences (GSP) allows originating products from a range of countries to be imported in the EU at a reduced or zero rate of duty. For more information on how to determine whether a product is an originating one, read Notice 830 - Tariff Preference: New GSP rules of origin.

The European Community has a number of other trade agreements with third countries (countries outside the EU), as a result of which goods may attract preferential duty rates.


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. The current thresholds are £1.5 million for Arrivals and £250,000 for Dispatches.

Intrastat is the method of collecting information and producing statistics on goods traded between EU member states. Read more about 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 IP rights of other businesses, eg 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 and protecting your intellectual property.

For literary, dramatic, musical or artistic works, the Copyright, Designs and Patents Act 1988 states the duration of copyright as the life of the author plus 70 years from the end of the calendar year in which the last remaining author of the work dies (although there are a few exceptions to this rule). Most EU countries apply this duration. Spain, however, is an exception. You can find out more about how copyright and other forms of IP protection work and find out about licencing options to protect or copy content in printed and digital publications.

Outside the EU, most countries, including Australia, Japan, Canada, and the Russian Federation, still apply the 50-years post-mortem duration, as mandated by the International Berne Copyright treaty. The copyright situation in the USA, however, is complicated.