Do I have to pay duty and VAT on sample products?

There is no definitive answer on this as it is very dependent on a few factors. Usually there would be duty costs when importing goods from China, India, Taiwan and the USA but there are some cases where Duty and VAT relief is granted. Duty and VAT relief can be granted on sample of a product if:

  • Once imported they can only be used as sample products
  • Are of negligible value
  • Are intended for the purpose of gaining orders for the commercial product they represent (i.e. are not fully functional)

Customs do not state an exact figure for a product with ‘negligible value’, however, in our experience, a product worth less than approximately £20 shouldn’t be liable for UK Duty or VAT.

It is not as simple telling customs that the goods are a sample. Customs set out requirements of those importing ‘sample products’, and may seize the goods if they are not met.

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The requirements when importing a product from overseas for sample purposes are to do one or more of the following:

  • have your supplier tear, perforate, slash or deface the product
  • Ensure the product is permanently marked

Products that are excluded from duty relief include:

  • Products that can be used as anything other than samples
  • Products intended for consumption


If customs relieve the product of duty due to it being seen as a sample, they will also relieve the product of VAT.

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