Doing business with the EU? We’re here to help

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Dear customer,

We know that adapting to the new rules for trading with the EU can be daunting but we’re here to help you. Every week, we’re answering common questions from businesses like yours and doing all we can to help you keep your business moving.   

This week we’re answering questions about:

  1. What the UK’s zero tariff deal with the EU means for businesses?
  2. What proof you need to claim the preferential zero rate of duty for goods you import into the UK?
  3. Do traders need to pay VAT for goods they import?
  4. Where to find help and support about importing and exporting

Question 1: What does the UK’s zero tariff deal with the EU mean for businesses?

Answer: The UK has left the EU customs union so there are changes to the way that we do business with the EU. The deal that the UK has agreed with the EU means that UK businesses may be able to continue to:

  • sell goods to the EU without their EU customer being charged Customs Duty
  • buy goods from the EU without being charged Customs Duty when their goods arrive in the UK.

However, this isn't the same as being in a customs union. To benefit from the zero rate of duty, businesses will have to provide proof that their goods (or their parts/ingredients) originate in the EU or the UK (as the exporting country). Where the goods originate from means where they are manufactured or produced, not just where they are shipped or bought from. The answer to question 2 explains what proof you will need to claim the zero rate of duty.

Businesses will still need to pay VAT on goods imported from the EU into Great Britain, where applicable. For more information on paying VAT on goods imported into the UK, please see the answer to question 3.

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Question 2: What proof do businesses need to claim the preferential zero rate of duty for goods they import from the EU into the UK?

Answer: If you import goods from the EU into the UK, that originate in the EU, you need to prove to HMRC that you can claim the preferential zero rate of duty.

First, you will need to classify your goods and check if they meet the rules of origin requirements included in the UK’s deal with the EU; the Trade and Co-Operation Agreement (TCA). Here’s more information about the rules of origin requirements under the UK’s deal with the EU. If your goods meet the rules of origin and product specific rules, you will be able to claim the preferential zero rate of duty.

To claim, you will need to provide proof that your goods comply with the rules of origin. This can be either:

  • a statement of origin – showing that the goods are originating, made out by the EU exporter
  • through evidence you’ve obtained (‘importer’s knowledge’) that the goods are originating in the EU.

You can find more information about the proof you need to provide and how to claim the preferential rate of duty on GOV‌‌‌.UK.

If you choose to delay making declarations for goods you import into the UK from the EU, you do not need to provide proof of origin until you make your supplementary declaration.

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Question 3: Do traders need to pay VAT for goods they import?

Answer: VAT will be due on all goods:

  • imported into Great Britain from overseas
  • imported into Northern Ireland from outside the EU
  • sold between Great Britain and Northern Ireland, as well as movements of own goods from Great Britain to Northern Ireland.

VAT on goods imported from outside the UK

If you buy goods from outside the UK which don’t exceed £135 in value the seller, or online marketplace (OMP) if sold through one, must charge and account for VAT when the goods are sold.

Business to business sales that do not exceed £135 in value are also covered by the new rules. Where the UK VAT registered business provides the OMP or direct seller with its VAT registration number, the responsibility to account for VAT is with the UK VAT registered business customer, who will account for it if the goods are supplied in:

If a valid UK VAT number is not provided, the direct seller or OMP, must treat the transaction as though it were a business to consumer sale and charge VAT accordingly.

You can find more information on GOV‌‌‌.UK about the VAT treatment of overseas goods sold to UK customers either directly or through an online marketplace. If you buy goods from outside the UK that exceed £135 in value, you will need to pay import VAT when your goods arrive in the UK. HMRC uses commodity codes (also known as tariff codes) to work out the amount of VAT and Customs Duty that you owe on goods you move in or out the UK. When you complete your import declarations, you must make sure you included the correct commodity code. Once you have the correct code, you can check if you need to pay VAT or duty, and how much. You can use the Trade Tariff tool on GOV‌‌‌.UK to find the correct commodity code for your goods. If you have hired a customs intermediary to deal with your import and export declarations, they will be able to help, but you will need to provide accurate information about your goods.

VAT on goods sold or moved between Great Britain and Northern Ireland

Import VAT will be due on goods sold between Great Britain and Northern Ireland, as well as movements of own goods from Great Britain to Northern Ireland. However, it should be accounted for by the seller/sender of the goods on the VAT return. You can find more information regarding the VAT treatment of goods moving to and from Northern Ireland on GOV‌‌‌.UK.

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Where to find help and support about importing and exporting

We have a range of customer support, online guidance and tutorials available to help you adapt to these new rules. Here’s some of the support that’s available for you:

YouTube videos

Watch our short videos on HMRC's YouTube channel to familiarise yourself with the new customs processes and what you need to do before trading goods with the EU.

Live webinars

We’re delivering daily webinars including:

  • Customs Import Declarations: An overview
  • Exporting: what you need to do to keep your goods moving
  • Importing: what you need to know about Staged Controls
  • Trader responsibilities when using an intermediary.

If you’d like to attend a webinar you can register here.

Check out our forums

To ask and get answers to specific questions about HMRC processes for importing or exporting, please visit our customer forums.

Give us a call

Our customer service advisors are available to answer your queries on the Customs and International Trade helpline. They’ll help you with importing, exporting and customs reliefs. The helpline is open from 8‌‌‌‌am to 10‌‌‌‌pm Monday‌‌‌ to‌‌‌ Friday and from 8‌‌‌‌am to 4‌‌‌‌pm at weekends.

Call to speak to an advisor on 0300‌‌‌ ‌322‌‌‌ ‌9434.

We will continue to provide guidance and support to help you and your business, including information on GOV‌‌‌.UK, our popular live webinars and through this weekly email.

If you know of a business who would also find these weekly emails helpful, please forward it on, or suggest they register to get these updates directly to their inbox.

Yours sincerely

Katherine Green and Sophie Dean

Katherine Green and Sophie Dean 

Directors General, Borders and Trade, HMRC