Doing Business In Colombia

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Tariffs and taxes

General documentation requirements

It is important that you comply with all aspects of Colombian regulations on documentation. A good partner and/or freight forwarder with a local office in Colombia can provide invaluable advice on documentation.

The general documentation requirements for Colombia are:

  • customs import declaration

  • manifest

  • declaration of dutiable value

  • commercial invoice

  • pro forma invoice

  • packing list

  • Certificate of Origin

  • Air/Sea Waybill

  • Bill of Lading

  • Single Tax Register (RUT) of importer

Details for each of these are available in the Exporters' Guide to Import Formalities within the European Commission's Market Access Database

It is important to know what import duties a product will attract when it lands in Colombia. Duties payable on imports to Colombia are generally no higher than 15 per cent, but there are exceptions.

The Harmonised System (HS) code is an international method of classifying products for export purposes. This classification is used by customs officials around the world to determine the duties, taxes and regulations that apply to the product. To obtain an HS code, you should contact HM Revenue & Customs, (Tel: +44 (0)1702 366077).

In addition to import duties, IVA (equivalent to VAT) is levied on the value of the items. The general rate of IVA is 16 per cent but certain products are subject to higher or lower rates. We recommend the European Commission's Market Access Database as a useful resource to research how much it will cost to import your product. The database is available at but can only be accessed from an internet service provider within the EU.

Within the database, the Applied Tariffs Database section allows users to enter an HS code or product description to obtain a tariff rate and details of taxes applicable, enabling you to calculate a landed cost.


Additional documentation

Some goods may be subject to additional requirements with regard to documentation, such as sanitary certificates, licences, permits and Certificates of Free Sale. The European Commission's Market Access Database provides details, including an explanation of each relevant form, and can be searched by tariff code. The Colombian National Institute for Control of Medical Products and Foods (INVIMA) is the principal body responsible for such certifications, although certain specific requirements are operated by others, such as the Ministry of Environment.

A Certificate of Free Sale can be required to show that goods are available for retail sale, that they comply with EU regulations and that they are suitable for use by EU consumers. For more details, please contact:

  • Department for Business, Innovation and Skills (BIS) - cosmetics, chemicals, detergents and cleaners, and disinfectants.(Tel: +44 (0)20 7215 5000)

  • Defra - food, drinks, additives, disinfectants, pesticides, animal medicines, milk and dairy products, pet food and animal feed, fertilisers, sugar and sugar products, protein crops, tea, coffee, cocoa, herbs, spices, tobacco flavouring and wines (Tel: +44 (0)845 9 335577)

  • Department of Health - medical, dental and surgical equipment and prostheses (Tel: +44 (0)20 7211 6200)

  • Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency - medicinal products (Tel: (+44 (0)20 3080 6000)

  • Health and Safety Executive - pesticide products (Tel: +44 (0)151 951 4000)

  • Forestry Commission - phytosanitary certificates for products or packaging material made from or containing wood. (Tel: (+44 (0)117 906 6000)

Export controls apply to goods upon which the UK Government has placed export licensing requirements. Typically, export controls relate to goods that may be used in some way for military applications, goods of national heritage (such as works of art) and certain chemicals used in the production of controlled drugs.

The BIS Export Control Organisation's helpline +44 (0)20 7215 4594 is the first point of contact for information on export controls. The helpline provides advice on many issues, including how to establish whether or not specific goods need an export licence, the different types of export licences, how to complete export licence application forms and how long they take to process. The helpline is also the point of contact for Export Control Organisation publications and licence application forms. If you think your goods may be applied to military purposes, you are advised to phone the helpline or visit:

If you think your goods may be of importance to national heritage, you are advised to contact the Department for Culture, Media and Sport (Tel: +44 (0)20 7211 6200).

For chemicals that are used in the production of drugs, contact the Home Office (Tel: +44 (0)20 7035 0445).
If the above departments consider your products to be sensitive, you will need to apply for an export licence before you can take them out of the UK.


Labelling and packaging

Imported products can be sold in Colombia in their original packaging provided a label is attached, giving the following information in Spanish:

  • a description of the product;

  • the weight (metric) according to local standards;

  • the composition of the product;

  • its validity (sell-by date or expiry);

  • the country of origin;

  • the name and address of the importer;

  • and any special warning on risks to health or security.

Usually this label is placed on the product in Colombia by the importer. Special labelling regulations apply to imported pharmaceutical specialities, antiseptics, disinfectants, cosmetics, beauty and hygienic preparations, alcoholic beverages and foodstuffs.


Commercial samples and temporary imports

Samples should not be sent to Colombia without prior discussion with the customer or partner in Colombia. Some samples may first require authorisation from specific government departments in Colombia, such as the Ministry of Health and the Ministry of Agriculture. Samples cannot be sent if the product is forbidden.

Short-term importation of products that will not be altered is allowed, usually for a period of six-months with the possibility of a three-month extension. It is usual for the customs authority to require a deposit equivalent to 10 per cent of applicable duties/taxes as a guarantee.

An alternative scheme exists for longer-term (but still temporary) imports of some goods (for example capital goods).


Technical help for exporters

This service is provided by the British Standards Institution (BSI) to give information and advice on compliance with overseas statutory and other technical requirements. BSI produces a wide range of publications and provides a special updating service of information in some product fields. It can supply detailed information on foreign regulations; identify, supply and assist in the interpretation of foreign standards and approval procedures; research and give consultation on technical requirements for a specific product; and provide translations of foreign standards, items of legislation and codes of practice. Fees vary according to the amount of work involved.

For specific enquiries, contact BSI:   Tel: +44 (0)20 8996 9001  Email:


Source - UKTI


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