Exporting and importing services

UK regulations and taxes for international trade in services


Unlike goods, services do not have to clear through customs. But there are regulations affecting service imports and exports:

  • Most services can be exported or imported freely, though there are some restrictions, eg on technologies with potential military applications.
  • Profits on exports by UK businesses are generally taxed in the same way as any other profits. If you have an overseas presence, this could mean that profits are liable both to UK tax and to tax in another country. If so, you may be able to claim double taxation relief.
  • If individuals need to travel overseas for a short time, UK National Insurance contributions usually continue to be paid as normal. The rules are more complex for employees or self-employed individuals who are going to work or live overseas longer term.
  • VAT on imported services provided to other businesses is charged in the country where your customer is based - not where your business is established. However the rules can be complex depending on the circumstances. If you are in any doubt, ask your accountant or contact the HMRC VAT Helpline on Tel 0300 200 3700.

UK-based services exporters may also benefit from the commitments of UK trading partners under the World Trade Organisation's General Agreement on Trade in Services (GATS).