With Britain’s impending exit from the EU still looming on the horizon, the government has launched a £100M campaign urging businesses to ensure they’re ready for life outside of the bloc – in particular, to prepare for the event of a no-deal withdrawal.
While noone really knows what’s going to end up happening with Brexit – or indeed when – if you’re a business that has dealings with the EU, then it’s better to be safe than sorry.
If you haven’t yet thought about future-proofing your operations ready for the event of a no-deal, you’re not alone. It’s estimated that less than 20% of UK companies have taken the necessary steps to safeguard their business’ ability to continue trading in the EU, once Britain leaves the common market.
Setting some time aside now to prepare could save you a lot of headaches and disruption later on. And if you import or export goods from the EU through customs, then getting an EORI number needs to be top of your agenda.
EORI numbers – essential for UK-Europe trade, post Brexit
What is an EORI number?
EORI stands for Economic Operator and Registration Identification. It’s a unique identification number that tracks the movement of goods in and out of the United Kingdom, through UK customs.
Currently, EORI numbers only apply to British businesses trading outside of the EU but in the event of a no-deal Brexit, EORI will come into effect for all UK companies seeking to continue importing and exporting goods.
Do I need an EORI number?
EORI numbers only apply to physical goods being imported and exported. They don’t apply to services that are provided electronically.
For example, if you are a design agency and working remotely for a European client, you won’t need an EORI to continue sending your designs via email. However, if you’re a furniture brand and export your products to EU countries, then you will.
Why hasn’t an EORI number been needed until now?
As part of the European Union, Britain has access to a single common custom union, which supports the easy transportation of goods between EU member states. If we leave without a deal, we automatically lose our rights to this single market access and preferential customs treatment.
In other words, if Britain doesn’t strike a deal with the EU, all imports and exports in and of the UK to Europe will require an EORI number to pass through UK customs.
What happens if I don’t have an EORI number?
If you don’t apply for an EORI number and Britain exits the EU without a deal, then it’s almost certain you’ll experience delays at customs for any goods you’re attempting to bring in or out of Europe.
Worst case, your goods won’t clear customs at all. Instead, they’ll be held until you can provide the necessary paperwork to release them and the cost of any associated storage will be billed back to you.
You’re also likely to incur much higher customs charges for goods after Brexit if you don’t have an EORI number and many freight carriers will no longer accept goods as cargo without one.
In a nutshell, you need one! Not having an EORI number could impact negatively on your delivery lead times for EU imports and exports from Britain, making the movement of goods far more costly and significantly disrupting business as usual.
How do I get an EORI number?
You can apply for an EORI number on HMRC’s website: https://www.gov.uk/eori.
You’ll firstly need to register for a Government Gateway user ID and password if you haven’t already done so. Anyone submitting tax returns online will already have a Government Gateway account. If you don’t, you’ll need to wait for a code to reach you via the post, before you can activate your account. It’s unfortunately not a quick process, but once it’s done it’s done!
Businesses applying for EORI will need to submit their company registration number, incorporation date and country of incorporation. For partnership businesses, the birthdate of each partner and national insurance number will also be required.
If you’re VAT registered, you’ll need your VAT number to complete the EORI application. If you’re a sole trader, or small business not currently registered for VAT in the UK, you can still apply for an EORI number, but the process will be slightly different.
Similarly, if you make customs declarations using a system such as CHIEF, NES or NCTS, you’ll need these details at the time of making your EORI application. If your business is one in a group of companies, then the parent or holding company must be the one to apply for EORI.
Top tip on VAT….
If you aren’t presently VAT registered, but your business is one that regularly receives or exports goods in and out of Europe, then it’s worth reviewing your VAT status before applying for an EORI number.
If Britain exits the EU without a deal, you may find registering for VAT benefits your company’s tax liabilities. It’s a complex area, so if you’re in this situation then please call us and we’d be happy to talk it through with you in more details. Either way, we’d always recommend speaking to a professional accountant before beginning your EORI application process.
HMRC will need to be made aware of any changes to your VAT status, even after your EORI number is issued. Likewise, if you change business address, name, or a founding partner connected to your EORI number leaves, you must make HMRC aware of the change in circumstance.
How long does it take for an EORI number to come through?
On average, EORI numbers can take around three working days to generate. However, it’s safer to assume that as Brexit draws nearer, an increase in applications may mean far longer waiting times.
Aim to get your EORI application in as soon as possible, to try and prevent any disruption to your business operations. Remember, if Britain leaves the EU without a deal, EORI numbers will immediately come into effect for any physical goods being traded with EU member states. Make sure you’re not caught out!
Will new customs charges apply on imports after Brexit?
If the UK leaves with no deal, it’s possible that revised rates of customs duty may be charged on goods entering the UK from Europe.
The government has issued guidance on the temporary rates of customs tariffs that may come into play if we leave the EU on a no-deal basis.
What do I do when I have my EORI number?
Once you have your EORI number you’ll need to use it whenever you contact HMRC concerning customs. You’ll also need to reference your EORI on all customs declarations you make and on any overseas deliveries you arrange or expect to receive from Europe.
Advice on completing your EORI application
If you need help completing your EORI application, want advice on VAT after Brexit, or you’re unsure whether EORI applies to you, then please give our friendly team here at ASFB a call on 01202 755600, or email us firstname.lastname@example.org.
We’re a team of chartered accountants who specialise in helping growing businesses achieve their ambitions and enhance their profitability. Even if you’re not currently an ASFB client, we’ll be happy to guide you through the EORI number application process.