What is an EORI number and do you need one before Brexit?

If you trade with the EU, it is possible you will need an EORI number (Economic Operator Registration and Identification Number). This will be crucial should the UK leave the EU without a formal deal in place.

What is an EORI Number?

According to the European Commission, businesses and people wishing to trade must use the EORI number as an identification number in all customs procedures when exchanging information with Customs administrations. They say that having one common type of identification number across the EU is more efficient, both for economic operators and customs authorities, as well as being more efficient for statistical purposes and security purposes.

HMRC advise that if the UK leaves the EU with no deal many UK businesses will need to apply the same processes to EU trade that apply when trading with the rest of the world. If you do not already have a UK EORI number, you’ll need one if you’re going to import or export goods with the EU from 11pm GMT on 29 March 2019, and either:

  • You’re a sole trader who is resident in the UK
  • your company or partnership has a registered office in the UK
  • Your company or partnership has a permanent place of business in the UK where they carry out their business activities

It is very likely now that the UK won’t be leaving the EU at 11pm GMT on the 29th of March, so there’s a bit more time to get your EORI number which normally can take up to three days.

Check if you have a valid EORI Number

If you are VAT registered, you can easily check if you have a valid EORI on the Europa website here.

You can of course also check any trading partner’s EORI number.

How to get an UK issued EORI Number

HMRC are advising you apply to them for your EORI number but you may already have one. Most VAT numbers issued by HMRC automatically have an EORI number associated with them. Generally for VAT registered UK companies your EORI Number will be GB followed by your VAT number with three zeros on the end e.g. GBXXXXXXXXX000. (replace the X’s with your VAT number)

To apply, depending what type of business entity you are, you may need your:

  • VAT number and effective date of registration – these are on your VAT registration certificate
  • National Insurance number – if you’re an individual or a sole trader
  • 10-digit Unique Taxpayer Reference (UTR) – find your UTR if you do not know it
  • Business start date and Standard Industrial Classification (SIC) code – these are in the Companies House register

You will also need your Government Gateway user ID and password. When you have your documents, you can apply for your EORI number here.

Question: Will UK issued EORI numbers be valid after Brexit?

There is a question which HMRC don’t address on their website and that is will UK EORI numbers be valid after Brexit or will they cease to be valid.

The EU state that there are two circumstances where EORI Numbers can be issued:

  • Persons established in the customs territory of the Union should request the assignment of the EORI number to the customs authorities of the EU country in which they are established.
  • Persons not established in the customs territory of the Community should request the assignment of the EORI number to the customs authorities of the EU country responsible for the place where they first lodge a declaration or apply for a decision.

Currently, HMRC appear to be of the opinion that UK issued EORI numbers will continue to be valid, although there have been reports warning that they’ll expire in the event of a no deal Brexit. If UK issued EORI numbers do expire, then everyone will have to reapply in the first EU country they have to make a customs declaration in.

The best advice in the short term is to apply for your UK EORI Number, if it transpires that you didn’t get one issued along with your VAT number. It costs nothing other than a few minutes of your time and hopefully sense will prevail and they will remain valid after Brexit.

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