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How to apply for an EORI number: a guide for businesses

2-minute read

Conor Shilling

4 July 2022

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If your business imports or exports goods from the UK, you’ll need an EORI number. Since the UK left the European Union, the type of EORI number you need may have changed.

Read on to find out the EORI number meaning, if your business needs one, and how to apply.

What is an EORI number?

Businesses can only import and export physical goods if they have an Economic Operator Registration and Identification or EORI number.

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.

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

Before Brexit, British businesses only needed an EORI number if they were trading with countries outside of the EU. This is because the UK was part of a free trade area.

What is an EORI number used for?

An EORI number is used by customs to manage businesses that import or export physical goods to another country.

EORI numbers are used to:

  • identify traders that import or export goods to other countries
  • complete customs declarations and clearances

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Do I need an EORI number?

A business only needs an EORI number if it moves physical goods across borders. For example, if your company sells furniture to EU countries, you’ll need an EORI number.

An EORI number isn’t needed if you sell services, such as accounting or consulting, to other countries.

What’s more, there are no restrictions on company sizes. Whether you’re a sole trader, partnership, or limited company, you’ll need an EORI number if you import or export goods abroad.

If you already have an EORI number but it doesn’t start with GB, it’s likely you’ll need to apply for a new one. Meanwhile, if you’re sending goods to and from Northern Ireland, you may need an extra EORI number that begins with XI.

If you don’t have an EORI number and think you might need one, you can find out more on the government website.

How to apply for an EORI number

Applying for an EORI number should only take around 10 minutes. You can do it on the government website and you’ll need the following information:

Your EORI number will be sent to you by email. You’ll usually get it instantly, although it can take up to three working days. You can check the status of your application on the government website.

How much does an EORI number cost?

It doesn’t cost anything to get an EORI number. However if you try to import or export goods without one, it could cost you a significant amount of money in storage fees.

The delays caused by not having the right EORI number could also result in lost income for your business.

That’s why it makes sense to apply for an EORI number sooner rather than later if you think you need one, or you’re planning to import or export physical goods in the future.

Do you have any unanswered questions about getting an EORI number? Let us know in the comments below.

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