Exporting guide to Italy

Italy is one of the UK’s closest trading partners and biggest export markets, and presents significant opportunities for UK businesses. There is demand for defence, cyber security, aerospace and engineering skills. Trade with the city of Milan and the surrounding region is especially strong.

Focus on innovation

Italy’s industrial strategy creates opportunities in innovative industries like cyber security, digital transformation and life sciences. In 2019 the government will launch a national artificial intelligence strategy to promote investment.

Strong relationship

UK businesses are very important to Italy, and investors are committed to their UK projects. There is an appreciation for British professional services, technology and quality consumer goods.

Growing trade exchange

Total trade between the UK and Italy reached £44.5 billion in 2018, an increase of 3.4% from the previous year. The northern region of Lombardy is particularly important to the Italian economy, and trade between the UK and Lombardy has been growing in recent years.

Modern business buildings in Italy

Italy: at a glance



Business languages


You may need a translator

GDP per capita


2018, IMF, UK is $42,560

Economic growth


2019, IMF

Time zone

GMT +1

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Opportunities for exporters

Italy is one of our largest export markets. There is high demand for skills in technology and engineering. Some important sectors include defence, aerospace, advanced engineering and life sciences technology.

Doing business in Italy

Preparing to export


VAT is known as IVA in Italy. The standard rate is 22%. There are reduced rates for some products, including basic foods, and some services are exempt.

You can find out more about VAT in Italy from the website of the Italian Revenue Agency.

Payment terms

Payment periods are longer than in the UK. Business-to-business payments can take several weeks but in some sectors can take months or longer, especially where creditors are public bodies. A prompt payment code of practice has recently been introduced.

Standards and regulations

Products and packaging should meet EU standards, but Italy is more strict in some areas. This includes packaging and labelling.

Ente Nazionale Italiano di Unificazione (UNI) has responsibility for Italian national standards. Comitato Elettrotecnico Italiano (CEI) is responsible for electrics, electronics and telecommunications regulations

Services regulations

Information on rules for selling services and business travel to Italy is available on gov.uk

Trade barriers

Check for any reported barriers to trading with Italy.

Report any trade barriers that are affecting your business so we can help fix them.

Operating in Italy

Business culture

Reforms in recent years have made it easier for companies to enforce contracts, register properties and resolve insolvency.

Using agents or distributors

Often the best way to start selling in Italy is to use an agent or distributor.

You should find a tax and legal adviser before entering into any contracts. Contact DIT's team in Italy for help.

Next steps

DIT can advise you on doing business abroad, and help put you in touch with other people who can help such as lawyers and distributors.