EORI quantity: what it’s and the way to get or verify one

UPDATED: If you are considering expanding your business internationally, or if you have suppliers based overseas, you have likely already heard of an EORI number.

As of January 1, 2021, UK-based companies will need an EORI number (starting with GB) to import and export goods to the EU.

If you're just starting to import or export, the registration process can seem daunting. Don't worry, we are here for you.

Here is everything you need to know about the EORI system, who should register, how to apply, and where to get more help.

What is an EORI number?

An EORI number – which stands for a registration and identification number for business operators – is a unique ID code that is used to track and register customs information in the EU.

Who needs an EORI number?

You can register for an EORI number as a company or individual. Every company that imports and exports goods to the EU needs one. However, if you only offer digital services, you don't need any. You don't even need one if you're transporting goods between Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland.

It is helpful to know that if your company is part of a larger holding group, the application must be processed by the parent company, not the subsidiary.

Some small businesses have been automatically given an EORI number.

Tip: If you're just starting out importing or exporting, there are a few different things you can do to make sure you're not paying more than you have to.

You can save money by using a company that specializes in international money transfers. One example is TransferWise. It's a borderless, multi-currency account that allows businesses to send and receive money in foreign currency without high fees or poor exchange rates.

TransferWise always gives you the real exchange rate for medium-sized businesses – traditional banks could raise their exchange rates, which could make your transfers up to eight times more expensive. TransferWise also doesn't charge any hidden fees. You only pay a fair fee with every transfer.

So, if you regularly pay overseas based suppliers or receive payments in a currency other than sterling, see if you can save with TransferWise.

How to apply for an EORI number

If you are a UK based resident, you will need to complete the correct paperwork to obtain an EORI number. The document you need will depend on your circumstances – more on that in a moment – but the basic steps you need to take are as follows:

  • Visit the EORI information page on the UK government website
  • Find and fill out the right form for your needs based on your location and type of business
  • Submit the form electronically
  • Receive your EORI number by email within a week
  • Give your EORI number to your carrier to use it for customs declarations.

If you are not based in the UK or need additional help, a helpful e-learning resource is available from the EU authorities and can be found in the following resources.

Which application form do I fill out?

You can use different shapes depending on your circumstances. With this quick start guide, make sure you find the right one and complete it.

Registered for VAT No VAT registered + exported Not VAT registered + import
Registered in the UK for VAT There is no VAT registered in the UK There is no VAT registered in the UK
Shipping of goods to a country outside the EU Receipt of goods from a country outside the EU
Goods relate to commercial use Goods relate to commercial use
Apply here Apply here Apply here

These application forms are used for companies that use couriers or freight forwarding services to import or export. If you apply for an EORI number in order to fill out the customs declarations yourself, you will need a different form. If you want to use the CHIEF, NES or NCTS systems, you should use this application process.

What information do I need to apply for an EORI number?

The online application process for an EORI number is fairly straightforward – however, you need to have a number of details on hand to complete them.

It is worth noting that you will need to provide details about the shipment you are currently planning to process inside or outside the EU. The form cannot be filled out in advance. If you skip this information, your application will be rejected.

Here's what you can expect:

Registered for VAT Not subject to sales tax + exported Not subject to sales tax + import
Full name Company name and business address Company name and business address
Position in business Contact details Contact details
Contact details Company legal status and information below Company legal status and information below
Sales tax identification number Description of goods; Quantity and value Description of goods; Quantity and value
VAT registered name Delivery address and name of the freight agent, if known Details of the supplier and name of the freight agent, if known
VAT address Export method Import method

The government website lists your company's start date and Standard Industrial Classification (SIC) code, your Unique Taxpayer Reference (UTR), and your Government Gateway user ID and password.

Individuals and sole proprietorships should ensure that they also get a note of their social security number.

How long does the EORI application take?

If you have filled in the documents correctly, your EORI number via email should take up to a week. So if you need one, apply now. HMRC recommends that you check your spam folder if the email doesn't arrive as it may have been delivered instead.

The format of an EORI number

An EORI number consists of a country code, which indicates where the organization or person is registered, and a unique code or number. For UK companies, the number is made up as follows:

  • Companies subject to VAT: GB + VRN (VAT identification number) + 000
  • Companies not subject to VAT: GB + unique number issued by HMRC

It's worth noting that you may still need an EORI number starting with GB in order to use some UK customs systems.

You will also need an EORI number when moving goods between Northern Ireland and non-EU countries. In this case your number starts with XI. To get an EORI number that starts with XI, you must already have an EORI number that starts with GB.

If you don't get one automatically, you can apply for an EORI number online starting with XI from December 11, 2020. You can apply for an EORI number that starts with GB and one that starts with XI at the same time. You will receive your number within four working days with XI.

EORI checker

Before submitting your application for a new EORI number, you should check that your company is not yet registered.

If your company is registered for VAT, it may already have been automatically assigned an EORI number. EORI numbers are permanently linked to the company to which they were issued. So you will not receive another EORI number if you simply forgot yours.

With an EORI number checker you can easily check if your company already has a number.

Even if you're not sure if you need one, it's still worth applying – and it's free to apply.

How to find an EORI number by company name

If you need help finding an EORI number, you can contact the HMRC EORI team using the contact form. Due to EU data protection regulations, however, you may not be able to access all the data of a registered company if they have not consented to make their data publicly available.

What happens if you are not registered with EORI?

If you do not have an EORI number, you cannot legally import or export goods from the EU. This is because the number is used for customs declarations of all goods entering or leaving the EU. Without a number, increased costs (e.g. storage fees) and delays could occur.

Contact the EORI team

If you need advice or have questions about getting an EORI number, there are a few options:

  • For specific EORI advice, contact the HMRC EORI team using the online form
  • For more general questions, you can call HMRC Monday through Friday from 8:00 a.m. to 6:00 p.m. on 0300 322 9434
  • Write to HMRC: HM Revenue and Customs – CITEX Written Inquiries Team, Local Compliance S0000, Newcastle, NE98 1ZZ

When should you contact the EORI team?

The EORI team can help you with initial questions when you start importing or exporting to the EU. However, you also need to contact the EORI team to learn about:

  • How to update your company information such as registered name, address or VAT number
  • If this is your first time registering for VAT
  • When you no longer want to use your EORI number
  • How to remove your company data from the EORI public database

An EORI number is crucial when expanding your business overseas or looking to work with suppliers overseas. Setting up shouldn't be too difficult. Just follow the steps outlined here and your business will be up and running across borders in no time.

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