EORI number - What is an EORI number?
An Economic Operator Registration Identification (EORI) number is an identification number required for businesses importing or exporting in/out of the EU
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Introduced by the EU in 2009, the EORI number is an important identifier for customs in the import and export of products and services from outside the EU zone. Previously, the Traders Union Reference Number System was in place to monitor international business shipments, but EORI replaced this system.
There are two different formats for the 12-digit EORI numbers: those for VAT-registered businesses, and those for businesses that are not VAT-registered.
- EORI for VAT-registered businesses: comprised of a country code (‘GB’, for example), combined with the business’ VAT number, followed by ‘000’
- EORI for non-VAT-registered businesses: a country code such as ‘GB’ combined with a unique number that is provided by HMRC
The number is used not only for customs verification and tracking, it is also used for exchanging information between relevant governmental authorities to track statistics and ensure proper security measures are in place.
Does your business need an EORI?
Any individual or business, no matter the size, that is dealing with the import or export of goods in the EU must possess an EORI number. This also applies to businesses in countries such as Switzerland, Norway, Jersey, Guernsey, etc.
The EORI number is used for goods that are imported or exported for commercial reasons. In other words, if you are importing or exporting the goods only for personal use, an EORI number is not necessary.
If you have a business that is operating imports/exports in different countries within the EU, it is necessary to have an EORI number in each country that is involved in any of the imports or exports.
If your business does not have an EORI number
Without an EORI number, a business that is importing or exporting goods outside the EU will at best face a lengthy wait in clearing goods, can face costly fees involved in the storage of goods while waiting for clearance. At worst, the goods will not be cleared, meaning that you will not receive them and you will not be reimbursed for any storage fees.
How to apply for an EORI in the UK
It is a fairly simple process to apply for an EORI number for your UK business. HMRC have a dedicated EORI page with information about the application process and a direct link to the online application (which they state takes between 5 and 10 minutes to complete).
Once you’ve submitted the application, you should receive confirmation and your unique EORI number either immediately, or within 5 working days, depending on whether it’s necessary for HMRC to follow up on anything.
EORI and Brexit for UK businesses
Brexit has introduced innumerable uncertainties when it comes to businesses operating in the UK and Europe. Currently HMRC are suggesting that any businesses currently importing or exporting goods with the EU (not even outside the EU) should apply as soon as possible for a GB-based EORI number.
This applies only to UK businesses importing/exporting goods with the EU, it is not necessary for businesses that are only dealing with goods to/from Northern Ireland and Ireland. It also isn’t necessary for UK businesses only dealing in services to get an EORI number.
Learn more about the impact of a no-deal Brexit on UK imports and exports, as well as details about the documents involved in our article by a UK accountant guest contributor: ‘Brexit and your EU imports and exports’.