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Importing goods from the EU

If you are currently importing to the EU or plan to do so after 31 October 2019, there are some steps you need to take: 


Check your EORI number

Make sure you have a UK EORI number with a GB prefix. If you are VAT registered, and currently trade exclusively with the EU, the UK Government should have automatically issued you a GB UK EORI number. However if you are below the VAT threshold, and you trade exclusively with the EU, you will need to apply for a UK EORI number via the GOV.UK website

If you are importing through receipt of parcels in the post (e.g. Royal Mail or Parcelforce) – you will not need a GB EORI number.

If you are importing via a platform such as ETSY or Amazon that uses a parcel company (e.g. DHL or UPS), if the parcel is low value, you will not need a UK EORI as the parcel company is likely to be acting as exporter and importer.

If the parcel is high value, you are likely to be the importer and will need an EORI number.

In a minority of cases, perhaps because of your INCO terms or because you are importing from a subsidiary of your own company, you may need to engage with the EU Customs Authorities. In these instances, you will need an EU EORI number that should be issued from the EU country that you are importing from.

Check if you need an import license

Certain types of goods, called controlled goods (such as food, livestock, chemicals) may require an import license.

Check the Temporary UK Tariff Schedule.

If you are trading with the EU post 31 October, customs and or excise duties may apply. This does not apply to goods imported into Northern Ireland from the Republic of Ireland which will continue to be tariff free. The temporary rates of customs duty tariffs was published in March 2019. Minor changes are anticipated with the revised schedule being published before 14th October 2019. If the goods you are importing from the EU are subject to a tariff (customs or excise duty) you may wish to consider setting up a duty deferment account. This will enable you to pay duties owed on goods by monthly direct debit. The duty deferment account needs to be set up before you import your goods

Decide on which import procedures to use 

You will need to decide whether to use standard import procedures or (where appropriate) simplified standard import procedures or the Common Transit Convention.

The advantage of using simplified import procedures (Transitional Simplified Procedures), is that for most goods this allows you to delay submitting a full import declaration and paying customs duties for up to six months. If you are using a freight forwarder or other intermediary through a direct relationship (i.e. you, as opposed to your customs agent are responsible for keeping records, the accuracy of any information provided on your customs declarations and any Customs Duty or VAT due), then you can still benefit from Transitional Simplified Procedures (TSP), you can find out more and enrol for TSP via the GOV.UK

There are further things you need to be aware of depending on which procedures you use. Expand the boxes below to find out more. 

If you want to use the standard import procedures (rather than the simplified ones), and you choose not to/are unable to use a customs agent, then you will need to buy specialist software to complete declarations which will also involve training your staff and applying for a CHIEF badge

If you are using the standard import procedure and also engaging the services of a customs broker you will need to provide the following information to the customs agent: your commodity code and your customs procedure code.

If you are using the standard import procedures and not engaging a customs agent as well as completing the full customs declaration yourself which will require your commodity code and your customs procedure code, you will also need to provide your haulier with the following information including: Movement Reference Number, your UK EORI number and the excise eAD or ARC (if available).

If you are using the standard import procedure, irrespective of whether you have engaged a customs agent or not, you will be responsible for updating the customs declaration to show goods have arrived in the UK. This should be done by close of business, the working day after the goods arrive in the UK. In both instances, you will need to pay the following:

  • Customs duty – should be paid once the goods arrive in the UK. This can be paid to HMRC directly or you can register for a duty deferment account which allows you to delay payment
  • Import VAT be accounted for on your VAT return if you are registered for VAT
  • Excise duty must be paid unless the goods are placed into excise duty suspension

there are differences in relation to how transitional simplified procedures (TSP) will work for standard goods and controlled goods

See here for a definition of controlled goods: https://www.gov.uk/guidance/list-of-controlled-goods-for-transitional-simplified-procedures

If you are using TSP for standard goods, you need to record your import in your own records and provide your haulier with your UK EORI number. Once the haulier informs you that your goods have arrived in the UK you must update your records. You should submit your declaration by the fourth working day of the following month. However, you can delay submitting your supplementary declaration for up to the first six months after the UK leaves the EU. If you are VAT registered, you must use Postponed VAT accounting to account for your import VAT. If you are not VAT registered, you will pay your import VAT by another means.

If you are using TSP for controlled goods, you will need to complete a simplified frontier declaration and provide your haulier with a Movement Reference Number/ Entry Number, your UK EORI number and the excise eAD or ARC if available. Once the haulier notifies you that the goods have arrived in the UK you must update your simplified frontier declaration to show their arrival time by the end of the next working day of the following month. You must submit your supplementary declaration by the fourth working day of the following month. Your duty deferment account will be debited after you have submitted your supplementary declaration.  If you are VAT registered, you must use Postponed VAT accounting to account for our import VAT. If you are not VAT registered you will pay your import VAT with your customs or excise duties.

More details on how to submit a supplementary declaration under TSP can be found here: https://www.gov.uk/guidance/making-declarations-using-transitional-simplified-procedures#standard-goods-procedure.

When moving goods between or through EU and common transit countries, it is possible to use the Common Transit Convention (CTC).

This will allow you to:

  • move your goods quicker because customs declarations are not required at each border crossing
  • only pay customs duties when the goods reach their final destination
  • complete some customs procedures away from the border

You will need the following if you wish to use the CTC:

  • A UK EORI number
  • You will need to register for the New Computerised Transit System to make transit declarations

You will need to do the following if you wish to use the CTC;

  • complete the declarations yourself
  • get a customs agent, broker or freight forwarder to help complete declarations - you must give written permission for them to do this first
  • Consider applying for authorised consignor or consignee status
  • If you are regularly moving goods using the Common Transit Convention, you can apply for authorised consignor or consignee status. This will allow you to start or end transit at your own premises rather than at a customs office
  • You can apply for both authorised consignor and consignee status

You can find out more about the CTC at https://www.gov.uk/guidance/how-to-move-goods-between-or-through-common-transit-countries-including-the-eu.


Decide on your declarations

Decide if you want to make customs declarations yourself or get someone to make declarations for you. If you want to use a freight forwarder or customs broker, the British International Freight Association and Institute of Export can provide further information.

Think about how to account for Import VAT

If you are above the VAT threshold, a UK business can register for postponed VAT accounting which means they can defer the payment of import VAT by accounting for VAT on their VAT return rather than paying import VAT at or soon after the time that goods arrive at the UK Border. Postponed VAT accounting will also be available for imports from outside of the EU.

The Government has confirmed that in the event of a no deal scenario, import VAT on parcels up to the value of £135 will need to be paid for by the overseas sender/ exporter, at the point of export.
UK businesses will be able to continue to use the EU VAT number validation service to check the validity of EU business VAT registration numbers The EU VAT Registration. UK VAT registration numbers will no longer be part of this service. HMRC is developing a system so that UK VAT numbers can continue to be validated

UK business will no longer have access to the EU VAT refund system. UK businesses will continue need to claim refunds of VAT from EU member states by using the existing processes for non-EU businesses. This process varies across the EU and businesses will need to make themselves aware of the processes in the individual countries where they incur costs and want to claim a refund. Further information about claiming VAT refunds from EU member states is available on the EU Commission’s website.


Next steps

If you need further information about importing and exporting goods after Brexit, contact the Government’s helpline for cross border traders:

Imports and exports: Brexit enquiries
Telephone: 0300 3301 331
Monday to Friday, 8am to 6pm