How to get an EORI number and prepare for Brexit: a guide for small businesses and the self-employed

On 31 October 2019, the UK will leave the EU whether a deal is reached beforehand or not, according to the government.

What will it mean for your small business if there’s a no-deal Brexit?

While there are still plenty of unknowns, there are things you can do to get ready for Britain’s departure from the EU.

Trading with businesses based in the EU

If you buy from EU-based suppliers or sell to EU-based customers, you’ll need to abide by new import and export regulations that’ll take effect from 31 October.

Selling to the EU

You’ll need to apply the customs, excise and VAT processes that previously only applied to goods and services traded outside the EU to the goods you sell into the EU.

Buying from the EU

Similarly, EU-based businesses you buy from will have to apply the customs, excise and VAT processes they previously reserved for trade with non-EU customers.

To start preparing for Brexit, HMRC has automatically applied EORI numbers to some UK businesses. Read on to find out whether you need to apply for yours.

What is an EORI number?

An Economic Operator Registration and Identification or EORI number will allow you to import and export physical goods after Brexit – you won’t be able to trade with other countries, including those in the EU, without one.

If you try to trade without one, you may have to deal with delays and storage costs if HMRC can’t clear your goods.

There’s one exception to the rule, which is trade between Northern Ireland and Ireland – you won’t need an EORI number to buy and sell between these two countries.

I’m VAT registered

If you’re VAT registered, you may be one of the 88,000 businesses the tax man has already written to with your EORI number.

I’m not VAT registered

If you’re not set up for VAT, you won’t receive your number automatically, but you’ll still need one if you want to trade outside the UK.

Your EORI number will be 12 digits long, start with ‘GB’ and, if you’re VAT registered, it’ll include your VAT registration number.

How do I get my EORI number?

You can apply for your EORI number at gov.uk/eori. It’s also the place to check the status of an application and contact HMRC if you have questions.

Having the following information to hand before you start the 5-10-minute application process should make for a smoother experience.

  • VAT number and effective date of registration (on your VAT registration certificate)
  • National Insurance number (if you’re an individual or a sole trader)
  • Unique Taxpayer Reference (UTR)
  • business start date and Standard Industrial Classification (SIC) code (in the Companies House register)
  • Government Gateway user ID and password

It can take up to five working days to receive your number.

Your Brexit preparation checklist

The tax authority has put together a checklist for businesses to help them get ready for when the UK leaves the EU.

Steps to get ready

  1. Get an EORI number
  2. Get the right customs forms (you may want to seek specialist advice)
  3. Check the Brexit import and export guidance on gov.uk

Steps for importing after Brexit

  1. Register for simplified import procedures to get extra time to submit your customs documentation
  2. Check the customs duty you’ll need to pay
  3. Apply for an online account to simplify paying your customs and excise duties

Steps for exporting after Brexit

  1. Check with your postal service, courier or haulier to find out if they’ll need extra information from you
  2. Check the people you’re selling to are ready to bring your goods into their country, are following their country’s customs processes, and are ready to send you the relevant paperwork – for example, the import declaration

You can sign up for Brexit updates from HMRC.

Visit gov.uk for information on trading to or from Northern Ireland and Ireland.

What are your thoughts on how Brexit may affect your business? Let us know in the comments below.

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