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export

Introduction

You can post goods abroad if your business gets small orders from overseas.

For bigger orders, most businesses use a transporter or customs agent.

What you need to do depends on whether you’re exporting:

There’s a different process if you take goods abroad yourself.

 

Export advice and finance

You can get help choosing where to export and finding overseas business opportunities.

You may be able to get export insurance or finance to:

  • protect you against the risk of not getting paid
  • help finance an export deal your bank cannot do on their own

 

Doing other types of business abroad

Follow the rules for tax if you sell digital services in the EU, for example, downloadable videos, music, ebooks or software.

You may need permission to:


Exporting and doing business abroad

Move goods to the EU

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

If you’re distance selling to the EU

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 to the EU or 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.


Exporting and doing business abroad

Export outside the EU

You need to complete certain tasks to move goods to outside the EU. Import duty might need to be paid in the country you’re exporting to.

  1. Check the import rules of the country you’re exporting to. Talk to your importer or get help researching your export market.

  2. Get an EORI number, if you do not have one. It usually takes 5 working days. You’ll need it to move goods to a country that is not in the EU.

  3. Check if you need a licence to export restricted goods outside the UK.

  4. Find your goods’ commodity code - you’ll need this for your export declaration and commercial invoice.

  5. 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.

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

Your transporter or customs agent will use your commercial invoice to make an export declaration. Your goods can be held up in customs if the information you give is not accurate.

It’s possible to make your own customs declarations, but most businesses use a transporter or customs agent to make customs declarations for them.

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

 

Applying zero-rate VAT

Check if you can zero rate the goods for VAT. This means you can charge your customers VAT at 0%.


Exporting and doing business abroad

Export licences and special rules

You may need a licence or to follow special rules to export restricted goods or to sell certain services abroad.

Check the import rules of the country you’re exporting to. Talk to your importer or get help researching your export market.

 

Animals, plants and agricultural products

 

Medical devices and agricultural machinery

 

Chemicals, drugs and waste

 

Diamonds and arts

 

Goods that could be used for torture or capital punishment

 

Firearms and ammunition

 

Military goods, services and technology

You must get a licence to:

  • export military goods, or sell military services or technology outside the UK
  • arrange the sale of military goods, services or technology outside the UK
  • arrange the transfer of military goods, services or technology between 2 countries outside the UK
  • provide classified military information to someone based outside the UK

 

Goods and services used for both civilian and military purposes (‘dual use’)

You may need a licence for some civilian goods, technologies and information if they could also have a military use. These things are called ‘dual use’.

Check if you need a licence if you:

  • export high-tech products like specialist computers, radios and other communications equipment
  • develop software that could be used for information security systems (for example, cryptographic technology)
  • share information, knowledge or skills that could be used to make weapons

 

Sanctions

There are different types of sanctions for finance, trade and immigration. Check if your goods or services are controlled under UK sanctions when exporting.

You may not be allowed to export to someone on the financial sanctions list.


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