Businesses trading in the United Kingdom, the European Union, and around the world are required to comply with customs procedures and regulations in line with national trade policies. One such regulation is the implementation of EORI numbers since July 2009.
Economic Operators Registration and Identification (EORI) numbers are required for many businesses and individuals to trade in the EU and around the world. EORI numbers are a vital part of the international trade and customs system that may have been overlooked by many individuals and companies trading to and from the United Kingdom whilst the country was a Member State of the European Union.
Since the end of the Brexit transition period on 31st December 2020, there are new obligations that UK businesses or must now adhere to.
Due to the globalisation of commerce in the 21st century, you must understand how identification numbers work in relation to your products and company. This is of particular importance for companies that must adapt due to changing regulations post-Brexit.
This article will outline key issues around registration and identification numbers in the UK and Europe. It will also look at the impacts of Brexit on registration and identification numbers and how to prepare for changing regulations in the years to come.
What is an EORI number?
An Economic Operators Registration and Identification (EORI) number is a registration and identification number used in the customs administration process. Companies that want to trade with the EU and most countries in the world have required an EORI number since July 2009 to identify their goods and to adhere to proper customs procedures.
The EORI number system replaced the Traders Union Reference Number System in 2009 which helped identify traders and businesses for customs purposes in the export and import process. These changes have helped expedite and simplify the customs process. EORI numbers today are a vital part of the international trade system and should not be ignored as part of your obligations as a business owner or operator.
Prior to Brexit, many UK companies and businesses did not require an EORI number as they traded primarily within the European Union free trade area. This allowed companies and businesses to bypass many of the customs procedures required of non-EU nations and created incentives to trade within Europe.
The free trade area agreement of the European Union was one of the more complicated areas for Brexit negotiators to manage as the interlinkages between the United Kingdom and the remaining 27 European Union Member States over the 20th century were considerable.
Since the end of the Brexit transition period on 31st December 2020, businesses in Great Britain and Northern Ireland have been required to adapt to the changing trade and customs regulations to comply with new legislation. The EORI number system is a quick and simple process that traders can easily apply for online, so it is important that you learn about how and why you should comply with this trade and customs registration system.
Why are EORI numbers important?
The EORI number system simplifies the customs process when trading, allows for greater security monitoring and aids statistical research related to trade. It serves as a common reference system for goods flowing through countries and overall better assists the global trade system.
If you require an EORI number but do not provide one throughout the customs process, your goods could be held in customs clearance and be charged high fees for goods storage. These fees, known as demurrage fees, can amount to tens of thousands of pounds per shipment.
Shipping terminals may require vendors to pay all demurrage fees prior to moving goods into the country. This is one of the greatest unnecessary stressors in international trade and customs processes for businesses and companies and could entail losing thousands of pounds due to unnecessary errors and overlooking regulatory requirements.
Depending upon your mode of shipping, you will need to consider how long it will take for your EORI number to be processed prior to shipping goods. If you are shipping via sea or inland water, you will have more time to ensure that you have an EORI number in hand before your goods arrive at the country of destination. If you are shipping via air, you will have much less time to ensure that you have an EORI number in hand prior to your goods arriving at the country of destination. You should ensure that you have your EORI before shipping any goods internationally to avoid potential complications.
Who needs an EORI number?
EORI numbers are required for the trade of goods rather than services. They are therefore concerned with customs procedures rather than international tax implications. This is also only relevant for businesses that engage in international rather than domestic trade.
You will need an EORI number if your company falls under any of the following categories:
- Your business or company trades goods between Great Britain (England, Scotland, and Wales) or the Isle of Man and any other country including the European Union
- Your business or company trades goods between Great Britain (England, Scotland, and Wales) and Northern Ireland
- Your business or company trades goods between Great Britain (England, Scotland, and Wales) and the Channel Islands
- Your business or company trades goods between Northern Ireland and nations outwith the European Union
This broad list of categories entails that if you engage in international trade outside of Great Britain, you will most likely require an EORI number. The size of your business, regardless of whether you are a sole trader, partnership, limited liability partnership, or limited company, will likely require you to obtain an EORI number. It is the location of your business establishment that takes precedence over all other factors.
If you have questions regarding the applicability of EORI numbers for your business, you can inquire with Her Majesty’s Revenue and Customs (HMRC) Customs & International Trade Helpline via telephone at 0300 322 9434.
What kind of EORI number does my business or company need?
You will need to determine whether you need an EORI number beginning with ‘GB’ or ‘XI’. You will require a ‘GB’ EORI number if your business is based in Great Britain (England, Scotland, and/or Wales). This is required for companies that already have an EORI number in a different country, such as businesses in the European Union that previously traded to or from Great Britain before Brexit.
You will require an ‘XI’ EORI number if your business is based in Northern Ireland or if you intend to trade in Northern Ireland, though this step will come later in the process. The requirement for an XI EORI number is due to changes in post-Brexit trade regulations; the Northern Ireland Protocol of the EU-UK Withdrawal Agreement entails that Northern Ireland has special trade regulations that require different procedures than those for Great Britain. Your business or company will not require an XI EORI number if you already have an EU-based EORI number. Your business or company will require an XI EORI number if you have a GB EORI number and are trading to or from Northern Ireland.
You will require an EU EORI number from a country within the European Union if your business or company will require a customs decision or a declaration within the EU. You should contact EU customs authorities from specific EU countries if you believe that you need an EU EORI number in this case; the UK Government does not participate in this system. Your business or company will not require an EU-based EORI number if you already have an XI EORI number for trading to or from Northern Ireland.
How can I apply for an EORI number?
EORI numbers are not automatically allocated to businesses and companies as the requirements differ depending on the nature of your trading. You will need to apply for an EORI number before engaging in international shipping due to changes resulting from post-Brexit transition arrangements and regulations. Your business or company must be issued an EORI number by the relevant issuing authority for the destination and source of your goods well in advance as it will be required for numerous steps in the customs and shipping process.
To obtain an EORI number, you must first ensure that your business has physical premises in the country you seek to export goods from or import goods to. This condition for your business, known as ‘being established’, will require that your physical premises are a central headquarters, a registered office, or a permanent business establishment. For countries with an established physical presence based in England, Scotland, and/or Wales, you will be considered established in Great Britain. If you do not have physical premises in the country you seek to trade to or from, you will still require an EORI number if your business meets any of the following criteria:
- Your business makes a customs declaration
- Your business makes an entry summary declaration
- Your business makes an exit summary declaration
- Your business makes a temporary storage declaration
- Your business makes a customs declaration for temporary admission
- Your business acts as a carrier to transport goods via sea, air, or inland waterways
- Your business acts as a carrier within the customs system and needs lodging notifications and/or notifications regarding amendments to entry summary declarations
- Your business is established in a common transit country where declarations are utilised instead of entry summary declarations or are used in place of a pre-departure declaration.
This will include the majority of businesses importing or exporting out of a given country. If you have questions regarding the applicability of EORI numbers for your business, you can inquire with Her Majesty’s Revenue and Customs (HMRC) Customs & International Trade Helpline via telephone at 0300 322 9434. You will need to contact EU customs authorities from specific EU countries if you have questions about EU regulations and requirements.
Before submitting your EORI number application, you must ensure that you have the following information:
- Your Government Gateway user ID and user password – if you do not have this at the point of application, you can create a new account
- Your Unique Taxpayer Reference (UTR)
- Your business start date and Standard Industrial Classification (SIC) code
- If you are a sole trader or an individual – your National Insurance Number
- If you are Value Added Tax (VAT) registered – your VAT number and the effective date of VAT registration
Once you have collected all of the above information, you can apply for your EORI number online. In most cases, you will be immediately issued an EORI number after submitting your application, though it could take 3 working days if the automatic system is not functioning as normal. In some cases, Her Majesty’s Revenue and Customs (HMRC) may contact you for additional information or to make checks on your application. This could take up to 5 working days if needed. If you do not receive your EORI number within 5 working days, you should contact the HMRC Customs & International Trade Helpline via telephone at 0300 322 9434 to request an update on your application.
For businesses exporting from or importing to Northern Ireland, you will be required to request an additional EORI number specifically for Northern Ireland. This is due to changes in trade regulations due to Brexit. Once you have been issued an EORI number commencing in GB, you will need to fill in the UK Government inquiry form to request an additional EORI number commencing in XI. This XI EORI number will only be used for Northern Ireland exports and imports.
How does EORI apply to Value Added Tax (VAT)?
Value Added Tax (VAT) is the taxation system for goods purchased by consumers. Businesses that are registered for VAT are issued a VAT identification number. EORI numbers and VAT numbers are linked due to international trade regulations that require businesses to identify their goods and adherence to customs procedures.
EORI applies to Value Added Tax (VAT) insofar that these two numbers are generally linked for companies that are VAT registered. If your company or business is VAT registered, your EORI number will be the country prefix, your 9 digit VAT registration number, and a suffix of 000. For example in Great Britain, if your VAT registration number is 123456789, your EORI number will be GB123456789000. This will differ for companies and businesses that are not VAT registered in Great Britain, though the vast majority of businesses are VAT registered due to tax requirements. For example in Northern Ireland, if your VAT registration number is 123456789, your EORI number will be XI123456789000. This will differ for companies and businesses that are not VAT registered in Northern Ireland.
EORI number changes due to Brexit
The EORI number system has changed significantly due to Brexit. Before Brexit, many UK businesses trading within the European Union did not require an EORI number as they engaged in trade within European Economic Area regulations. As the UK is no longer part of the European Union, businesses in Great Britain (England, Scotland, and Wales) have different requirements when trading with the 27 Member States of the European Union. This entails that the EORI system will be required for many more businesses today. Special attention must be paid to regulations and businesses must ensure that they keep up to date with the changing policy and legislative landscape to avoid fines and other ramifications.
Additionally, EORI numbers are now slightly more complex for businesses trading from or to Northern Ireland. In addition to an EORI number commencing in the prefix ‘GB’, businesses will require an EORI number commencing in the prefix ‘XI’ to be used solely when trading from or to Northern Ireland.
EORI Number FAQs
How do I find my EORI number?
You can find your EORI number in several ways. You can use the HMRC ‘Check an EORI Number’ website to look up your EORI number or the EORI number of any business. This service is only valid for EORI numbers beginning in GB. You can also find your EORI number by looking at your VAT registration status to see if it is linked with an EORI number.
Is your EORI number the same as your VAT number?
Your EORI number is not the same as your VAT number. Often, EORI numbers are linked to your VAT number and comprise a number of the same digits as your VAT number with the addition of a few numbers and letters. If you have both numbers, your EORI number and VAT will be linked.
Do I need an EORI number?
You will need an EORI number if your British business engages in international trade with European Union nations, including if you export from or import to Northern Ireland and the Channel Islands. You will need to be issued with an EORI number before shipping goods.
Will Brexit impact EORI numbers?
Brexit has and will continue to impact EORI numbers insofar that many more businesses and companies are now required to obtain country-specific EORI numbers to trade between the United Kingdom and other countries, including the Member States of the European Union.
The matters contained in this article are intended to be for general information purposes only. This article does not constitute legal advice, nor is it a complete or authoritative statement of the law, and should not be treated as such. Whilst every effort is made to ensure that the information is correct, no warranty, express or implied, is given as to its accuracy and no liability is accepted for any error or omission. Before acting on any of the information contained herein, expert legal advice should be sought.