Japanese car import duty and VAT

How to work out Japanese car import duty and VAT?

I was asked recently how to calculate the VAT due on an imported vehicle, so I decided to write this post.  I’ve mentioned the subject briefly in my overall ‘costs’ guide here, but this will include more detail.

Picture showing car import duty calculation

I’m going to include import duty here as well.  Why?

  1. Both import duty and VAT need to be paid before you can get your hands on your imported car.
  2. The import duty affects the VAT.

VAT stands for ‘value added tax’ and is a tax levied on goods and services sold to consumers.  Import duty is a tax on goods imported into the UK.  The rate varies according to what is being imported.

These two taxes combined represent the biggest cost involved in importing a car from Japan, after the cost of the car itself.

I think estimate would have been a better word than calculate.  Why?  The tax you pay will be dependent on exchange rates.  You can calculate the tax bill using today’s rates, but remember you won’t be paying the bill until the car arrives, by which time the rates may have changed.  Have a look at this post for more information on the impact of exchange rates.

The two costs you need to know to work out the tax bill

What is the FOB cost?

FOB stands for freight on board (other car-related acronyms explained here).

You need to know your FOB cost to be able to work out how much tax you’ll pay.

It refers to the cost of buying the car and getting it on the boat.  All the costs incurred whilst the car is in Japan, including the cost of the car itself, go to make up the FOB cost.

How much did the shipping cost?

This is the second cost you need to know before calculating your tax bill.

Calculate import duty first

Import duty is variable, due to a trade agreement between the UK and Japan. If you’re importing something made in Japan and you can prove it, you’ll benefit from a preferential rate of 5 % import duty. If not, it’ll be 10 %. Import duty is calculated on the total of the FOB and shipping costs.

Next, calculate the VAT

Add the FOB cost, shipping cost and import duty together.  Now work out 20 % of this figure.  You now have your VAT amount due.

Paying tax on a tax?

Yes, you read it correctly, you are paying tax on a tax!  Unfortunately you have to pay VAT on the import duty, as well as on the car cost.  It could be worse – in the US they have to wait until a car is 25 years old before it can be imported.

Japanese Import Price Calculation Worksheet

Having read this post, you may be interested in my Japanese import car UK price calculation worksheet.


  1. I have just received and paid for an invoice from an uk custom clearance agent for the which has arrived at the port , I know this that although I paid the price is in us Dollar including the shipment cost and the custom duty is 10% of this invoice and the 20% of the total of this should be the VAT amount I have to pay but the agent added an extra sixty pounds in vat amount and said this the currency calculations adjustment which Is added in Vat , this seems to be beyond the understanding as I am an uk citizen and paying all my dues in GBP and they calculated my purchase price according to their own exchange rates , could any one can explains this ?

  2. I am looking to purchase a Honda Acty van, 4 seat, automatic, 1999 year. Will I still have to pay 20% vat on a car over 23 years old? The vehicle is £3900, shipping & marine insurance is £1453, total cost £5353. The plus 10% for customs £535.30 = £5888.30, then, 20% for tax £1777.66, with a grand total of £7065.96, for a 23 year old vehicle, is this correct? Seems ridiculously priced for an old van!

    • I forgot to mention, the purchase will be from Japan, one of the dealers I am considering to purchase from is SBT & BeForward. The final price they provide is on the listing, which is the cost of the car & shipping to your port of choice. What other sundry fees could I end up paying? That’s the only thing that has put me off doing this sooner, the amount at the end, may outweigh the car you wish to bring over to the UK. Thanks!

  3. ******Seeking Recommendations for a Reliable Agent in Japan******
    Hi Andrew,
    I’m looking for someone who can help me buy a car from a Japanese auction and bring it to the UK for my personal use. Any recommendations for a good agent? Also, I live in London—what’s the nearest seaport for the shipping process? Thanks!

  4. need to know conversion from kmh mph in a honda fit hybrid. can you guide in detail

  5. Hi,
    I am looking to import toyota prius 2014 from Japan.do I need to submit any documents to prove the car is made in Japan get 5% vat charged.how much the clearing charges pls.

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