Exporting to the USA

Taxes, duty and legal considerations when exporting to the USA

There are a lot of things to consider before you start exporting to the USA. It's essential to find out about local rules and regulations on tax and duty in your intended market.

Legal considerations

The US market can be quick to engage in legal proceedings. You should always get qualified legal guidance before entering into any agreement. Ideally, your contracts should be reviewed by lawyers who understand both US and UK law. You can find contacts for these at:

Publicly traded companies (PLCs) have to file with the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) and make their annual reports available to investors. Privately held companies don’t have to make this information available to the public. But all corporations have to register with a government body in the state they incorporated in.


You will need several types of insurance for your US operation. Some examples of commercial insurance are:

  • general and product liability
  • business property
  • directors and officers liability
  • employer’s practices liability
  • intellectual property infringement
  • professional liability
  • workers compensation
  • personal insurance (e.g. medical, disability and life insurance)

Due to the extent of US litigation and the complex liability law, you may find that your UK insurer won’t cover your requirements. You can work with a US insurer even if you don’t have a physical US presence.

Intellectual property

If you intend to sell goods or services to the US, you should consider applying for US trademark protection. You also need to check that your trademark doesn’t infringe any existing trademark. In the US, a company name is not the same as a trademark and will only give limited protection.

You should also check other types of intellectual property, for example:

  • patents
  • copyrights
  • domain names
  • designs

Read about intellectual property rights in the USA.


The US tax system can be complex. You will need tailored advice about your tax rates from a certified accountant or tax lawyer.

There is no Value Added Tax (VAT) in the US. Each state determines and collects sales tax on an individual basis. View the list of state sales tax offices for more information.

Taxes can be imposed by both the US federal government and individual states, counties and cities. The Internal Revenue Service governs federal taxes in the US.

If you conduct US transactions entirely from the UK, you may be classed as withholdingUS federal income tax. You may be eligible for benefits under the US-UK income tax treaty.

Read UKTI’s publication on tax considerations in the US for more information.


US Customs and Border Protection (CBP) is part of the US Department of Homeland Security (DHS).

Before you ship items to the US, you’ll need to classify your goods using the harmonized tariff schedule. You’ll also need to determine the duty rates using the US International Trade Commission database.

If you know where your goods will enter the US, you can also speak with a customs agent at the port of entry or hire a licensed customs broker. A broker can help you with federal procedures and submit information and payment to CBP on your behalf.

You can find more about import tariffs in the Market Access Database (MADB).

Entry requirements

If you plan to visit the US for business you can enter through the US Visa Waiver Program for up to 90 days. This is usually valid for 2 years or until your passport expires.

If you plan to work in the US, you’ll need a non-immigrant visa which can be expensive and time-consuming to get. You need to explore procedures and timeframes before you travel to the US.