31 Oct 2020

Trade, Importing & Exporting


From the 1st of January 2021, if a business trades with the EU there will be changes for moving goods which they will need to prepare for. If a business fails to comply with the new customs procedures in place, they won’t be able to import or export goods.

Key Actions

Make sure you have an Economic Operator Registration and Identification Number, otherwise known as EORI starting with GB. This is required for all businesses moving goods into or out of GB. It takes five to ten minutes to apply and a business should receive their EORI number within one week.

VAT registered businesses were previously automatically enrolled for an EORI number, so they should check whether they already have a number before applying. For further information businesses should visit www.gov.uk/eori

Consider using a customs intermediary such as a fast parcel operator or a freight forwarder to make declarations and simplify the process. Intermediaries can help businesses to find the information needed to complete formalities and submit the required declarations, for example customs information to HMRC systems.

Check if goods need an import or export licence e.g. for chemicals or food and if so, apply for what they need.

Ensure you understand your VAT responsibilities and what you may have to pay.

Consider the use of deferred declarations if goods are imported. If a business imports goods regularly they may benefit from having a duty deferment account. This enables customs charges including customs duty, excise duty, and import VAT to be paid once a month through Direct Debit instead of being paid on individual consignments.

More detailed information, including process flows, can be found on gov.uk by searching ‘how to import and export goods’.

The Detail

The changes for moving goods will be introduced in three stages.

Stage 1 From 1 January 2021 export declarations and UK exit Safety and Security declarations will be required for all goods.

Traders importing goods will need to prepare for customs requirements, such as customs declarations.

Businesses will also need to consider how they account for and pay VAT on imported goods.

Unless a business is importing goods that are controlled, they can opt to delay customs declarations for up to six months. They must make sure they keep sufficient records of imported goods.

While tariffs may be payable where due on relevant goods, duty payments can be deferred until the customs declaration has been made.

UK Safety and Security declarations will not be required on imports for the first six months.

Customs declarations will be needed from 1 January 2021 for controlled goods and excise goods like alcohol and tobacco products.

There will also be physical checks at the point of destination or other approved premises on all high-risk live animals and plants, and a requirement to pre-notify for certain movements, but they will not be required to enter Great Britain via a Border Control Post.

Stage 2 From 1st April 2021 when all products of animal origin, for example meat, honey, milk or egg products and all regulated plants and plant products will also require pre-notification and the relevant health documentation. Physical checks will continue to be conducted at the point of destination.

Stage 3 from 1st of July 2021 when there will be full controls in place for all goods.

For any goods businesses are moving they will have to make full customs declarations at the point of importation and pay relevant tariffs. Full Safety and Security declarations will be required, while for commodities subject to sanitary and phytosanitary controls, these will have to be presented to Border Control Posts and there will be an increase in physical checks and taking samples.

Sanitary and phytosanitary checks for animals, plants and their products will take place at Great Britain’s Border Control Posts and not at destination.

To discuss this further, please contact Alison Bradshaw.