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Everything online sellers need to know

Since July 2009, an EORI number has been mandatory for regular (more than ten imports p.a.) participants in cross-border trade. This also applies to the UK from 1 January 2021, as the UK has left the EU and is to be treated as a third country like Switzerland or the USA. We explain how you can obtain an EORI number and apply it in trade and customs.

The EORI number, established in 2009, is essential for businesses engaging in trade with non-EU countries, as it simplifies customs clearance procedures. Issued exclusively within the EU, this unique identifier is a legal requirement for all economic operators involved in importing and exporting goods to and from non-EU countries.

To obtain an EORI number, businesses must apply to their respective national customs authority, which then issues a unique identifier that remains valid across all EU member states. The EORI number must be used in all customs-related communications, including customs declarations, applications, and appeals.

The EORI system fosters transparency, efficient communication, and secure trade by enabling customs authorities to easily recognize, track, and exchange information about economic operators across the EU. The centralized EORI database, managed by the European Commission, stores the master data and ensures seamless sharing with the customs authorities of all EU member states. This coordinated approach helps minimize potential delays, reduce administrative burdens, and enhance the overall security of international trade.

The structure of the EORI number consists of a two-letter country code followed by a unique identification code assigned by the national customs authority. The country code corresponds to the ISO 3166-1 alpha-2 standard, representing the EU member state where the economic operator is registered. The identification code is a combination of alphanumeric characters unique within each member state. This structured format ensures easy identification and tracking of economic operators by customs authorities across the European Union, facilitating efficient communication and secure trade.

Who needs an EORI number?

An EORI number is required for businesses, individuals, and economic operators involved in importing or exporting goods between the EU and non-EU countries, including manufacturers, wholesalers, distributors, and retailers. This unique identifier facilitates efficient and secure customs procedures.

The European Commission manages the EORI master data and shares it with each member state’s customs authorities for smooth cross-border data exchange. Access the publicly available EORI database search tool through the European Commission’s online platform here: EORI number validation.

Before applying for an EORI number, verify if one has already been assigned to you or your business by visiting the EORI validation section on the European Commission’s Customs and Tax Union website. By entering the necessary details, you can confirm the existence and validity of your EORI number, ensuring compliance with customs regulations and avoiding potential delays in international trade transactions.

How to apply for an EORI number?

To apply for an EORI number, businesses, and individuals must apply to their respective national customs authorities. The application process may vary slightly across EU member states, but generally involves providing relevant personal or business information and details about the nature of your trading activities. You can find the contact information for each country’s customs authority on the European Commission’s website: Customs authorities contact list.

Often, online application forms are available, making the process more efficient and user-friendly. Once the application is submitted and approved, the customs authority will issue an EORI number unique to your business or individual registration. It is essential to apply for an EORI number before engaging in international trade to ensure compliance with customs regulations and avoid potential delays in customs clearance procedures.

EORI and the Brexit

The United Kingdom’s exit from the European Union, commonly known as Brexit, significantly impacted the customs landscape and EORI requirements for UK- and non-UK-based businesses and individuals. Before Brexit, UK businesses used EORI numbers issued by the UK customs authority for trade within the EU. However, the situation changed after Brexit, necessitating different EORI numbers for trade between the UK and the EU.

UK-based Businesses and Individuals

Post-Brexit, UK-based businesses and individuals trading goods with the EU must apply for a UK EORI number, which starts with the letters ‘GB’. This is a separate requirement from the EU EORI number. Businesses must obtain a UK EORI number to comply with customs regulations and facilitate smooth trade with the EU. The application process for a UK EORI number can be found on the UK government’s official website: Apply for an EORI number.

Non-UK-based Businesses and Individuals

For non-UK-based businesses and individuals trading goods with the UK, more than an EU EORI number issued by an EU member state is required. They must now apply for a UK EORI number to ensure compliance with UK customs regulations. The application process may vary depending on whether the non-UK-based entity has a legal presence in the UK. Relevant information and guidance on obtaining a UK EORI number for non-UK-based entities can be found on the UK government’s website: Get a UK EORI number to trade within the UK.

Do you want to make your VAT and customs clearance more efficient? Get in touch.


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