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  • 12 min read
  • Feb 1, 2022

Brexit: Customs, EORI-number, import declaration?

What Great Britain's EU exit means for online merchants and what to pay attention to.

Puzzle of the European flag, with Brexit at the center

What Great Britain's EU exit means for online merchants and what to pay attention to.

Brexit: customs, EORI number, import declaration - it's easy to lose track of everything. What does Brexit mean for online retailers? What needs to be considered for lucrative sales and reliable parcel shipping to England and what opportunities does the Brexit perhaps even offer?

On Jan. 1, 2021, the United Kingdom finally left the EU's single market as well as the European Customs Union - and since then, like any country that is not a member of the European Union, has been considered a third country.

On May 1, 2021, an agreement concluded between the EU and the United Kingdom came into force that regulates trade relations between the two parties. The two key points of this trade agreement for the movement of goods are the topics of value-added tax and customs law.

For online retailers who want to sell out of the EU to the UK, the new regulations mean a comprehensive adjustment to the framework conditions that now apply there - and that presents them with some challenges. 

If customers in the UK are to continue to be supplied quickly and reliably, this can only be achieved under the company's own management, if at all, with a great deal of additional time and personnel, which results in additional costs.

Of course, from this point of view, the question quickly arises: Is it possible to sell lucratively to the UK under the given circumstances?

We show you what you need to consider for smooth parcel shipping to England and how you can (continue to) make your customers in England happy despite Brexit, VAT, customs declaration and import declaration.

The most important facts about export to England summarized:

  • Apply for Vat and EORI number‍

For a smooth and thus fast customs clearance, it is important to have some important documents ready. Early application saves a lot of time and nerves.

  • Determine commodity codes and determine the value of goods‍

For parcel shipment to the UK, corresponding commodity numbers and the specification and transmission of the respective commodity values are required for your goods.

  • Brexit Customs‍

According to UK customs law, the declarant must be based in the UK. Online traders without their own branch in the UK must therefore have indirect representation.

  • Import declaration and import VAT‍

There is a limit of 135 GBP for import VAT.

What online retailers must now consider when sending parcels to England:

1. apply for Vat and EORI number

For smooth customs clearance, a VAT number is required for importing goods and a UK EORI number for importer identification for imports from other EU countries.  

Important to know: The EORI number must start with the letters GB for shipping to England. If this is not the case with your EORI number, you must apply for a GB EORI number.

2. commodity numbers and value of goods

The corresponding commodity code must be indicated in the import declaration. This determines which customs duty must be paid and whether an import license may be required.

In addition, the value of the goods must be specified, because this value determines the amount of customs duties and VAT to be paid in the further procedure.

Good to know: In most cases, the import duty is calculated on the basis of the transaction value, i.e. the sales price excluding tax and transport or insurance costs. 

3. customs declaration & EU origin goods

The import and export of goods to and from England is now subject to customs duty - this means that a customs declaration is required for every product. The obligation to declare also applies to items that are basically duty-free.

It is mandatory to submit customs declarations digitally to the Customs IT System (CDS).

But watch out: According to UK customs law, the declarant must be resident in the UK. Residency within the meaning of the law means that he must have a registered office, a head office of the company or a permanent establishment in the UK.

Online retailers without their own branch in the UK must therefore have indirect representation. At this point, it is once again important to rely on a trustworthy partner who acts as an indirect representative during import processing.

In addition, the free trade agreement with the UK includes a customs tariff for goods originating in the EU with a zero percent tariff throughout. This means that there are no import duties for goods with preferential origin in the EU.

For this purpose, declarations on the origin of the goods must be complied with via self-declarations and proven by the customs declarant. When making use of this preferential right, however, it is essential to check the exact definition of the origin of the goods, as misconduct can be punished with fines or even criminal proceedings.

4. Import declaration and import sales tax

In addition, an import declaration must be made for cross-border goods. The regulations on the payment of import VAT are new - the all-important limit here is the value of goods of 135 British pounds.  

  • Deliveries with value below GBP 135‍

Supplies valued at less than GBP 135 are exempt from UK import VAT.‍

But beware! Nevertheless, the goods must be declared when crossing the border and they are subject to regular UK VAT. The seller is responsible for the payment and the VAT must be paid directly to HMRC (Her Majesty's Revenue and Customs).

  • Deliveries with value over GBP 135‍

Deliveries with a value of more than GBP 135 are subject to UK customs rates and UK import VAT. However, as part of a VAT registration, the import VAT can be paid in the following month after the import.


Online Shopping England - Is selling to England worthwhile for retailers?

After these are only the most important specifics and requirements that Brexit has brought with it, the all-important question naturally arises:


Is it worth it?


The average British citizen spends 3,315 euros a year on online purchases. This puts the British ahead of the USA and South Korea in terms of their online purchasing behavior, making them the world's most affluent online shoppers.

This is a potential that should not be missed under any circumstances - not even under the (admittedly) difficult conditions brought about by Brexit.

Nevertheless, the complicated processes involved in exporting to the UK with regard to customs conditions and tax matters deter many companies and online stores from (continuing to) serve the UK market. 

Acquiring the necessary know-how, procuring the required documents, knowing and serving the right contact points with the British authorities, and reorganizing one's own structures in such a way that the deliveries reach the customers reliably and quickly... all this takes a lot of time, perseverance and additional personnel - which consequently reduces margins. And despite all the effort, the complexity of the many individual features will ultimately mean that delivery times and customer satisfaction will suffer as a result of Brexit. 

Cooperation with a partner who specializes in all these processes and for whom contact with customs authorities, handling of tax matters or fast transport on optimized shipping routes are the order of the day, seems to be the only lucrative solution here. One such partner is exporto.

exporto simply makes the border between Germany and England and all the peculiarities involved in crossing the border of goods disappear, thus providing the answer to the question raised above: 

Yes, it is worth it. And how!


How to avoid the Brexit when sending parcels to England and make your British customers happy

The experts at exporto take care of:

  • the organization of all necessary documents
  • the processing of all necessary declarations
  • the import declaration
  • a fully automated customs declaration 
  • the legal representation you need to act at customs
  • the handling of all tax matters
  • the coordination of cross-border transport of shipments thanks to locations close to national borders and optimal shipping routes
  • Comprehensive tracking of all parcels and thus maximum transparency

Thanks to a maximum degree of automation and its own software and interface to all common WMS systems, exporto manages to handle the required processes in just a few minutes. This saves precious time - but above all it gives you happy customers thanks to fast and reliable deliveries without additional fees.

Thanks to exporto, Brexit might even become your friend. Thanks to the optimally coordinated processes, exporto gives you a massive competitive advantage over your competitors - and while others are still working on the customs declaration, your customers are already holding their shipments in their hands. 


With exporto at your side, you can be sure that the processing of your sales to the UK will be uncomplicated - and that not only saves your nerves but primarily increases the satisfaction of your British customers. Contact us easily and without obligation via our contact form. We look forward to getting to know you.


About the Author

Image of Katharina Knoop

Katharina Knoop

As Marketing Manager for exporto GmbH, Katharina Knoop is coordinating the planning, production and publication of content relating to all aspects of cross-border e-commerce for over 3 years.