Brexit - Importing & Exporting

Charlotte Allen
November 22, 2020

The transition period ends on the 31st December 2020 and new procedures for importing from and exporting to EU countries comes into force on the 1st January 2021.  This will mean changes to the way you import and export from this date. We've laid out what you need to do before the 1st January to prepare for changes to customs.

1. Apply for a GB EORI number

To import or export goods into the UK you will need an GB Economic Operator Registration and Identification (EORI) number. This is required for all businesses (traders and hauliers) moving goods into or out of GB, including those delaying their import declarations. If you do not have an GB EORI number, you will not be able to import and export goods into the UK.

The application process takes about five to ten minutes, but it can take up to a week to get the number. Last year, HMRC auto enrolled VAT registered businesses with EU trade which did not have an EORI number, so you should check whether you already have a number before applying because you won’t be given a new EORI number. If in doubt or you have lost the piece of paper, contact HMRC to check, EU based traders and hauliers will need a GB EORI number to carry out border formalities in GB.

Get an EORI number >>

2. Get a Customs Intermediary Agent

Customs declarations are complicated. Most businesses that currently trade outside the EU use an intermediary, such as customs agents, Fast Parcel Operators (FPOs), Freight Forwarders (FFs) or brokers, to help them meet the customs requirements.

Intermediaries can help traders find the information needed to complete formalities and submit the required declarations into HMRC’s customs systems, including for example information such as the value and origin of goods. Using an intermediary simplifies the declaration processes for traders. The UK Government has announced a grant scheme to support intermediaries and those traders who want to make declarations themselves.

If a trader decides not to use an intermediary, the trader will need to make declarations themselves. To do this the trader will need to get access to HMRC systems and to purchase software. GB Traders may also need an EU intermediary or fiscal representative to carry out export and or import formalities in the EU.

We strongly suggest you look at using a customs intermediatory to help reduce your workload and give you more peace of mind. The website provides more information on how intermediaries work and a list of registered operators for you to choose from. Find out more here

3. Apply for a Duty Deferment Account

The basic rules of customs are that imported goods need to be declared, and any duties paid (which could include VAT, customs and excise duties), at the time of importation.  However, traders who import goods regularly may benefit from having a “duty deferment account” (DDA). This enables customs charges including customs duty, excise duty, and import VAT to be paid once a month through Direct Debit instead of being paid on individual consignments.

With effect from 1 January 2021, VAT registered traders can account for import VAT on their VAT return using postponed VAT accounting. To set up a DDA, traders, or their representatives, apply for a deferment account number (DAN) and will need to be authorised by HMRC. New rules are being introduced which will allow most traders to use duty deferment without a Customs Comprehensive Guarantee (CCG). This is something that your intermediary agent should be able to assist you with.

4.Know your tariffs

Your intermediary agent will help you determine what tariffs should be applied to goods you import on an individual basis.  But if you generally import similar types of goods, or export, then you should know what tariff will be applied to these goods to help you price your goods and control your margins. We still hold hope that the UK and EU will strike a deal for tariffs on most types of goods but at present this looks unlikely to happen before January. Here is a link to the current tariff rates. You will see from navigating through these lists that finding the tariff for your goods is a not an easy task >>> check it out here

5. Prepare for delays at customs

Be prepared for delays for your goods coming into the UK due to the new infrastructure being put into place at customs ports and the increased workload.  Also, goods you export may see delays due to customer in EU countries also having to see their UK imports stopped at customs.

6. Know your VAT

VAT will also be affected.  Although in most cases VAT should not ultimately be a cost to a UK VAT registered businesses dealing in imports/exports. There are changes to the way in which VAT is accounted for in terms of your invoicing, on VAT returns and potentially having to pay VAT on imports up front to then later reclaim it. More information to come on this.

We'll try to keep you as updated as possible with regards to Brexit changes and changes throughout 2021. If you have any questions or would like to speak to one of the team please call 01858 289 189 or email Speak to the team about your accounts and bookkeeping.

Thanks for stopping by,


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