The EU and the UK use the Economic Operators Registration and Identification System (EORI) to identify traders.
What is an EORI number?
Businesses and people wishing to trade in the EU and the UK must use the EORI number as an identification number in all customs procedures when exchanging information with customs administrations. The EU has one standard identification number across the EU, while the UK requires a separate GB EORI number for trade in the UK post-Brexit.
The purpose of having one standard ID in the EU is that it creates efficiency for both traders and the customs authorities. However, it’s vital to ensure all aspects of the system are considered.
Who needs an EORI number?
The primary need for an EORI number is to be able to lodge a customs declaration for both imports and exports. Guidance is that a trader should obtain an EORI number in the first country of import or export. Carriers will also require an EORI number.
EORI number format
The EORI number exists in two parts:
- The country code of the issuing Member State; followed by
- A code or number that is unique in the Member State
The UK has also adopted this format, with both GB EORI numbers for trade into Great Britain (GB) and an XI EORI number for trade via the Northern Ireland protocol. The UK and EU have online databases where it is possible to check the status of an EORI number.
GB and XI EORI numbers
Since the UK left the EU, it is now required to have a separate GB EORI number to import and export from GB. This number will not be valid in the EU. However, should businesses be trading from Northern Ireland, then due to the Northern Ireland protocol, it is possible to apply for an XI EORI number to import into the EU.
Initially, after the introduction of the XI prefix, there were several reported issues. They included tax authorities being unable to recognise XI EORI numbers or link them to existing EU VAT numbers. Often it is the case that businesses have found it simpler to cancel an XI EORI number and apply for an EU EORI number in a Member State, particularly if that Member State is the main point of entry for imports into the EU.
Practical issues around EORIs
Some of the most common issues we see at Sovos include:
- Businesses not having an EORI before starting an import and goods being stuck at the customs border.
- Traders being told they need an EORI number in every Member State of import – however, this is not the case, and usually the reason for the customs delay is another matter.
- Businesses not linking the EU EORI to their other EU VAT registrations.
- Traders being told they need an EU address for the EORI – this is normally related to indirect customs representation, which we covered in our last article.
- Businesses thinking it’s possible to use their carrier’s EORI number.
How Sovos can help
Sovos provides an EORI registration service for traders who must apply for an EORI number. We can also link any existing EU VAT numbers to the EORI to ensure that customs declarations can be logged correctly, ensuring a smooth process and avoiding delays. You can find more information about EU VAT and the EU VAT e-commerce package here.
Contact us if you need help with VAT compliance.