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If your business is involved in the import or export of commercial goods to countries outside of the EU then you will require an EORI (Economic Operator Registration Identification) number, irrespective of the mode of transport being used to move your goods from one place to another.
Introduced from 1 July 2009, the EORI number replaced the Traders Union Reference Number System, and essentially is a method for tracking products being traded to and from the EU so shipments, and there origins, can be easily identified by customs.
The EORI number acts as a means of providing security and statistics in international trade and is used by customs authorities when exchanging information between themselves and with government departments.
Do you only need an EORI number if regularly undertaking commercial trade outside of the EU?
In short, no! For any commercial business transactions undertaken with countries outside of the EU, you will need to have an EORI number. This applies even if you only make occasional purchases outside of the EU for your business, such as machinery or office stationary, or if you are sourcing product samples from overseas markets outside of the EU.
In some European states you are not even required to register a company in order to undertake commercial activity. In these instances you will still need to apply for an EORI if importing as an individual as opposed to a registered business entity.
So, how is an EORI Number Formatted? And how do you know if you are already registered?
An EORI number is formed of the ISO country code (EU member state) and a maximum of 15 digits. Generally speaking, in the UK, a VAT registered company’s EORI number will consist of the prefix ‘GB’ followed by the company VAT number, and suffixed with ‘000.’ Despite being based on the traders VAT number, the EORI isn’t automatically generated. Upon deciding to trade outside of the UK you will still need to apply with HMRC for your EORI number to be activated.
Not VAT registered? Not a worry! For non VAT-registered operators EORI numbers will be issued that follow a similar format.
When applying for your EORI number, don’t get caught out into thinking one EORI number is enough. It may not be! If your company is established in more than one EU state, a Separate EORI number is required for each.
If you’re not sure if your company is already registered with an EORI number, there is an online EORI checker
Registration process for an EORI number
If you don’t have an EORI number registered for your commercial transactions, don’t panic! It really is quite a straightforward (and relatively quick!) process.
UK applications are handled via HMRC. All that is required from yourself is the completion of a simple form; either one for VAT registered applicants, a non VAT registered from if exporting or a non VAT registered form if importing. This can take up to 3 working days to process, and HMRC will email you with your number. Once the application is complete then there’s no need to apply again for future transactions. Your EORI number is valid irrespective of how many transactions you undertake in the import and export of goods. (Just remember to apply for the relevant EORI number from any other EU country you decide to set up business in!).
It’s worth noting, if you’re not VAT registered it’s advisable to apply for your EORI number after your first shipment has been dispatched as you will need carrier and tracking information for the application.
So that’s an EORI number in a nutshell. If you have any further questions about EORI numbers and relevant processes then please give us a call and our customs compliance team will only be too happy to help. But, better still for you, send us your EORI number to use in making customs declarations on your part.