UPDATED: If you’re considering growing your business internationally, or if you have suppliers based overseas, you’ll probably already have heard of an EORI number.
From January 1 2021, businesses based in Great Britain will need an EORI number (starting with GB) to import and export goods to the EU.
If you’re just getting started in importing or exporting, the registration process can seem daunting. Don’t worry though – we’ve got you covered.
Here’s all you need to know about the EORI system, who should register, how to apply, and where to go for more help.
What is an EORI number?
An EORI number – which stands for an Economic Operator Registration and Identification Number – is a unique ID code used to track and register customs information in the EU.
Who needs an EORI number?
You can register for an EORI number as a business or an individual. Any business importing and exporting goods to the EU needs one, though if you only do digital services then you won’t need one. You also won’t need one if you’re passing goods between Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland.
It’s helpful to know that if your company is part of a larger holding group, then the application must be processed by the parent company, not the subsidiary.
Tip: If you’re just getting started in importing or exporting, there are ways to make sure you’re not paying more than you have to.
You can save money by using a company that specialises in international transfers. One example is TransferWise. It’s a multi-currency borderless account that lets businesses send and receive money in foreign currencies without high fees or bad exchange rates.
TransferWise will always give you the real, mid-market exchange rate – traditional banks could inflate their rates, which could make your transfers up to eight times more expensive. TransferWise also charges no hidden fees. All you’ll just pay one, fair fee each time you make a transfer.
So if you’re regularly paying suppliers based overseas, or receiving payments in a currency other than sterling, see if you could save with TransferWise.
How to apply for an EORI number
If you’re based in the UK, then you’ll have to complete the correct paperwork to get an EORI number. The document you need will vary depending on your circumstance – more on that in a moment – but the basic steps you’ll have to take are as follows:
- Visit the EORI information page on the UK government website
- Find and complete the correct form for your needs, based on your location and business type
- Submit the form electronically
- Receive your EORI number by email within a week
- Pass your EORI number to your freight forwarder to use for customs declarations.
If you’re not based in the UK, or if need some extra help, there’s a helpful e-learning resource provided by the EU authorities, included in the sources below.
Which application form do I fill in?
There are several different forms you can use, depending on your circumstances. Make sure you find and complete the right one, with this quick guide.
|Registered for VAT||Not VAT registered + exporting||Not VAT registered + importing|
|Registered for VAT in the UK||Not VAT registered in the UK||Not VAT registered in the UK|
|Sending goods to a country outside the EU||Receiving goods from a country outside the EU|
|Goods relate to commercial use||Goods relate to commercial use|
|Apply here||Apply here||Apply here|
These application forms are used for companies which will use couriers or freight forwarding services to import or export. If you’re applying for an EORI number to complete customs declarations yourself, you’ll need a different form. If you intend to use the CHIEF, NES or NCTS systems, then you should use this application process.
What information do I need when applying for an EORI number?
The online application process for an EORI number is fairly straightforward – but you will have to have a number of details handy to complete it.
It’s worth noting that you’ll need to give details of the shipment you’re currently intending to clear in or out of the EU. The form can’t be completed ahead of time, and if you skip this information your application will be rejected.
Here’s what you can expect to need:
|Registered for VAT||Non VAT registered + exporting||Non VAT registered + importing|
|Full name||Business name and Business address||Business name and Business address|
|Position in business||Contact details||Contact details|
|Contact details||Legal status of the business and subsequent information||Legal status of the business and subsequent information|
|VAT registered number||Description of goods; quantity and value||Description of goods; quantity and value|
|VAT registered name||Delivery address and freight agent name if known||Supplier details and freight agent name if known|
|VAT Address||Method of export||Method of import|
The government website lists your business’ start date and Standard Industrial Classification (SIC) code, your Unique Taxpayer Reference (UTR) and your Government Gateway user ID and password.
Individuals and sole trader should make sure they’ve got a note of their National Insurance number too.
How long will the EORI application take?
If you complete the paperwork correctly, you should have your EORI number by email can take up to a week, so if you need one, apply now. HMRC advise that you check your spam folder if the email doesn’t arrive, as it may have been delivered there instead.
The format of an EORI number
An EORI number is made up of a country code, to show where the organisation or individual is registered, and a unique code or number. For GB businesses the number is made up as follows:
- VAT registered businesses: GB + VRN (VAT registration number) + 000
- Non-VAT registered businesses: GB + unique number issued by HMRC
It’s worth mentioning that you may still need an EORI number starting with GB to use some UK customs systems.
You will also need an EORI number if you move goods between Northern Ireland and non-EU countries. Your number will start with XI in this case. To get an EORI number that starts with XI, you must already have an EORI number that starts with GB.
If you’re not sent one automatically, you can apply online for an EORI number that starts with XI from December 11 2020. You can apply for an EORI number that starts with GB and one that starts with XI at the same time. You’ll get your number starting with XI within four working days.
Before you submit your application for a new EORI number, you should check that your company is not already registered.
If your company is registered for VAT, it may have already been issued an EORI number automatically. EORI numbers are permanently associated with the company they’re issued to – so you won’t get another EORI number if you’ve simply forgotten yours.
You can check if your company has a number already easily with an EORI number validator.
Even if you’re not sure about needing one, it’s worth applying anyway – and the application is free.
How to find an EORI number by company name
If you need help finding an EORI number, you can contact the HMRC EORI team using their contact form. However, data protection regulations across the EU mean that you might not be able to get full data on a registered company if they’ve not consented to make their details publicly available.
What happens if you’re not EORI registered
If you don’t have an EORI number then you can’t import or export goods from the EU legally. This is because the number is used for customs declarations of all goods entering or exiting the EU. Without a number, you could face increased costs (such as storage fees) and delays.
How to contact the EORI team
If you need to get advice or ask questions about obtaining an EORI number, you have a few options:
- To get specific EORI advice, contact the HMRC EORI team using the online form
- For more general queries you can call HMRC on 0300 322 9434, Monday to Friday, 8am – 6pm
- Write to HMRC: HM Revenue and Customs – CITEX Written Enquiry Team, Local Compliance S0000, Newcastle, NE98 1ZZ
When you should contact the EORI team
The EORI team can help you with any initial queries you might have when you’re getting started with importing or exporting in the EU. However, you’ll also have to contact the EORI team for the following:
- To update your company details, such as the registered name, address, or VAT number
- If you register for VAT for the first time
- If you don’t want to use your EORI number any more
- To remove your company details from the public EORI database
An EORI number is crucial if you’re planning on growing your business abroad, or working with suppliers based overseas. Getting set up shouldn’t be too tricky. Just follow the steps outlined here, and your business could be working across borders in no time.
Having the right accounting software is also important for growth: