HMRC’s FAQs on new trade rules

Feb 03, 2021

HMRC has made a list of the answers to some of the most frequently asked questions on the new trade rules and has provided links to where you can find more information and support.

Below are some questions businesses have been asking HMRC this week.

Customs processes are complicated. Who can help me complete them?

Most traders find that they need specialist support to help with importing from or exporting to the EU. For instance, you might decide to use a customs intermediary.

A customs intermediary is someone who makes customs declarations for you or your business. This could be:

  • a freight forwarder – a company that helps their clients move cargo globally, including supporting the customs process
  • a customs agent or broker – these make sure your goods clear through customs.

If you decide to use an intermediary, make sure you approach them as soon as possible, as there is high demand for these services. You can find a list of businesses that can help on GOV.UK. 

What is an EORI number, and why do I need one?

You must have an Economic Operators Registration and Identification (EORI) number that starts with ‘GB’ if you wish to move goods between Great Britain or the Isle of Man and other countries. Without it you will not be able to complete your customs declarations and you may experience increased costs and delays.

You will also need a separate EORI number that starts with ‘XI’ if you:  

  • move goods between Northern Ireland and non-EU countries (including Great Britain)
  • make a declaration in Northern Ireland
  • get a customs decision in Northern Ireland.

To get an EORI number that starts with ‘XI’, you must already have an EORI number that starts with ‘GB’.

An EORI number consists of two parts, the country code followed by a unique code or number. If you already have an EORI number and it does not start with ‘GB’, you will need to apply for a new one.

If you do not have an EORI number that starts with ‘GB’ or ‘XI’ for Northern Ireland, you can register for one for free on GOV.UK.

I’ve heard that I can delay my customs declarations, how do I do that?

If you import goods from the EU into Great Britain that are not on the controlled goods list, and they are moving from EU free circulation to GB free circulation, you may be able to delay import declarations for up to 175 days after import.

You can do this by making a record of the imported goods in your commercial records at the time of import and you don’t need to get authorisation in advance. You will need to send HMRC full information about your goods in a supplementary declaration within 175 days of your goods arriving in Great Britain. You must get authorisation from HMRC before you submit supplementary declarations, and we recommend that you apply for this as soon as possible. You can find more information about delaying import declarations on GOV.UK.

If you decide to get someone else to deal with your customs declarations for you, they’ll be able to do this for you using their own authorisation.

You must still apply and be authorised for a duty deferment account to pay any duties owed on goods by monthly direct debit, even if your goods do not attract customs or excise duty. You need to have set this up before you complete your supplementary declaration. Even if you choose to use a customs intermediary, they may ask you to get your own duty deferment account.

My business is located in the United Kingdom and I export goods to EU customers, can you explain how I should account for VAT?

If you sell, send or transfer goods out of the UK you do not normally need to charge VAT on them in the UK. You can zero-rate most exports from:

  • Great Britain to a destination outside the UK
  • Northern Ireland to a destination outside the UK and EU.

If you incorrectly charge UK VAT on exports of goods, your customers may also have to pay VAT in the country where the goods are imported.

Different rules may apply in different countries. Therefore, it’s important that you understand the import VAT rules of each EU country that you sell to.

You can find out more about exports, sending goods abroad and charging VAT on GOV.UK.

I send goods from the UK to my customers in the EU. Has anything changed about how I should account for VAT?

Yes. Previously, before the end of the transition period the following applied:

  • VAT was due on the goods that you sold to your EU customers. If your EU customer was not VAT-registered themselves (for example, because they were a private individual) you accounted for UK VAT in the UK. If your sales to EU customers breached an annual distance selling threshold you had to register for VAT in that EU Member State and account for EU VAT in that country.
  • If your EU customer was registered for VAT in their own country your business zero-rated the sale as a 'dispatch' and your EU customer accounted for the VAT as an 'acquisition' in their own country.

Now, following the end of the transition period:

  • if you are a business subject to the Northern Ireland Protocol, the above rules will still apply
  • if you are a business moving goods from GB to the EU, your goods should be zero-rated exports from the UK and import VAT will be due to be collected from the EU recipient at import into the EU and subject to EU rules
  • different rules may apply in different countries – therefore, it’s important that you understand the import VAT rules of each EU country that you sell to.

You can find more information and guidance about the conditions for zero-rating VAT on the goods you export, and what you should do when you export goods in specific circumstances on GOV.UK.