Exporting and doing business abroad

Move goods within the EU

You need to complete certain tasks to move goods within the EU.

  1. Check if you need a licence or to follow special rules to export restricted goods from the UK.

  2. Your courier or freight forwarder will ask you to complete a proforma invoice. Charge VAT if you’d do the same for customers in the UK.

  3. Attach the proforma invoice (and licence, if you need one) to your consignment.

Some countries may have import rules for certain goods. You can check by talking to your importer or getting help researching your export market.

Exporting after Brexit

If the UK leaves the EU without a deal, you’ll need to follow the rules for exporting goods to the rest of the world.

Your goods will need to meet EU customs rules if they arrive in the EU after 11:59pm Central European Time (10:59pm UK time) on the day the UK leaves the EU.

After you export

You must keep records of proforma invoices and any official paperwork for 6 years.

Tasks for bigger exporters

Register for VAT in the country you’re selling to if you’re distance selling and both:

  • the total value of goods is over the country’s distance selling threshold (PDF, 147KB) - in most countries this is €35,000
  • you’re selling to consumers (rather than businesses)

If you moved goods anywhere within the EU worth over £250,000 in the last calendar year, make an Intrastat declaration. You do not need to do this if you’re not registered for VAT in the UK.

  1. Step 1 Check if you need to follow this process

  2. Step 2 Check the rules for exporting your goods

    Check if you need a licence or certificate to export your goods from the UK. You also need to check if there are any restrictions or special rules in the country you want to export to.

    1. Check if you need a UK licence or certificate to export your goods
    2. Check the duties, rules and restrictions for your goods in the destination country

    The rules for trading with some countries outside the EU might change after Brexit.

    1. Check if the UK has negotiated a trade agreement with the country you are exporting to after Brexit
  3. Step 3 Register your business for exporting

    1. Get an EORI number
    2. Check if you should register for VAT

    You can apply for simplified declaration procedures and for Authorised Economic Operator status. These are most suitable for businesses that export goods regularly.

    1. Find out about using simplified declaration procedures
    2. Check if Authorised Economic Operator status is right for you
  4. Step 4 Apply for a licence or certificate if you need one

    How soon you need to start the application process and what you need to do depends on the type of goods you’re exporting.

    1. Apply for a licence or certificate if you need one
  5. Step 5 Decide who will make customs declarations and transport the goods

    You can hire someone to deal with customs and transport the goods for you, or you can do it yourself. Most businesses that export goods use a transporter or customs agent.

    1. Find out how to hire someone to deal with customs for you
    2. Find out what you'll need to do if you make the customs declaration yourself
    3. Find out how to transport goods out of the UK by road yourself
  6. Step 6 Classify your goods

    You must find the right commodity code to classify the goods you're exporting.

    Your customs agent or transporter might be able to help you with this.

    1. Find the right commodity code for your goods
  7. Step 7 Prepare the invoice and other documentation for your goods

    The completed invoice and any licences or certificates must travel with the goods.

    When filling in the value of your goods on the invoice, use the price you’re selling them for. List separately any freight or export insurance you included in the price. For free samples, use the market value of the goods.

    You might be able to zero rate the goods for VAT. This means you can charge your customers VAT at 0%.

    1. Check if you can zero rate the goods for VAT
  8. Step 8 Get your goods through customs

    If you've appointed someone to deal with UK customs for you, they'll make the declaration and get your goods through the UK border.

    1. Make an export declaration and get your goods cleared by UK customs

    You may need other documentation to get your goods into the destination country. Ask the person or business buying your goods what information you need to provide.

  9. Step 9 Keep invoices and records

    You must keep records of commercial invoices and any customs paperwork.

    If you exported controlled goods, for example firearms, keep the paperwork that shows who owns the goods.

    If you're VAT registered, record the goods in your VAT accounts and report them on your VAT Return. You'll need to do this even if you zero rated them.

    1. Find out how to record the goods in your VAT accounts
    2. Fill in your VAT Return