Wednesday 28th April 2021

ShipStation and Brexit Shipping: What Should You Consider?

Anna Thibout

Trusted by eCommerce businesses across the globe, ShipStation holds a vast amount of knowledge when it comes to UK and EU shipping. A valued Statement partner, take a read of this featured blog written by Anna, Marketing and PR Manager at ShipStation, to learn all about what you need to consider when shipping to the EU in a post-Brexit world. 

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As the dust settles on Brexit’s impact on UK and EU shipping, now is an appropriate time for us to revisit Brexit related topics and what eCommerce businesses should consider when shipping to the EU.

This is particularly important as around the world, COVID-19 has accelerated the shift towards online shopping. In the UK, it's unlikely that Brexit will reverse this trend, but it is having an impact. 

As a result, your customers' buying experience is of greater importance than ever, and is key to your growth. The new customs and tax regulations can complicate the eCommerce journey, resulting in delivery disruptions and delays if you don't get it right. For example, what's an EORI number or harmonisation code, the difference between DDP and DAP, how to update your fulfilment and delivery process software, communicate with the customer, and set realistic expectations. 

Understanding and addressing these will help you navigate the challenges and provide 100% customer satisfaction. This article pulls together official information and best practice to explain what you need to do and how to do it.

Any UK business that has shipped anything to the EU since 1 January 2021 has likely experienced one or more of the following:

  • More paperwork
  • Longer delivery times
  • Customs charges and duties
  • VAT headaches
  • Misinformation online or outdated guidance

Dealing with Brexit shipping varies from business to business. Some have abandoned returns policies; others have cut off European customers entirely.

Just because processes change, new policies are introduced or things become more time-consuming doesn’t mean you should abandon them altogether. Once you understand the basics, you can focus on the specifics that need a little more consideration. Even better, you can also keep the majority of your European customers happy by staying open for business. 

There’s no one-size-fits-all for Brexit trade but there are fundamentals that every business has to follow…

The basics 

All businesses need to provide the following information for items to pass through customs.

  • UK EORI Number
  • The importer’s EORI Number (if sending to another business)
  • Sender and recipient’s name, address and contact details
  • Item details (quantity, weight, value and description)
  • Country of origin
  • Harmonisation code (typically an eight-digit number)
  • Recipient VAT number (if applicable)

These specifics are non-negotiable and missing information will lead to delays, fines and additional duties, or failing to clear customs entirely.

Collectively this information tells the customs professional what an item is, its value, where it has come from and who it’s going to. For example, an EORI number helps identify the sender while harmonisation codes are in place to standardise how customs operate across the world.

Gaining an EORI number is simple and applying for one takes minutes via the UK Government’s dedicated portal at https://www.gov.uk/eori. Everyone from sole traders to global enterprises require an EORI number if you are sending an item to the EU commercially. Your EORI number should start with the letters GB. If you are located in Northern Ireland things are slightly different which we will cover later.

Harmonisation codes can be searched for at https://www.gov.uk/trade-tariff. Simply describe what the item is and its code, VAT rate, duties and other information.

Customs forms

Prior to Brexit, businesses didn’t need to worry about customs paperwork for items shipped to the EU. Now they do.

Forms will vary slightly depending on your courier:

  • Royal Mail and DPD use two types - a CN22 or CN23 form
  • DHL, Fedex and UPS use an EDI form

The CN22 form is used for items with a value up to £270. CN23 forms are for items valued above the £270 threshold and require additional accompanying paperwork such as a commercial invoice, the appropriate license or necessary certificates. EDI forms operate in the same way.

It’s important to ensure you know when a commercial invoice is required on your shipments. Some countries accept electronic commercial invoices, others do not and expect three copies to be included. It’s often better to be safe than sorry. 

If you’re using ShipStation to fulfil international orders, our customs declarations are equivalent to commercial invoices and our solution automatically populates all the information required.

EU import VAT

VAT is where things become more complicated.

Prior to Brexit, UK businesses didn’t need to worry about EU import VAT on exports to the European Union. Since Brexit, VAT is applied. 

But this is different to UK VAT. Currently, UK businesses only need to collect VAT on sales after they surpass a £85,000 threshold. These domestic limits do not change, although all businesses should ensure they understand what their UK VAT obligations are.

EU import VAT varies from country to country and its collection depends on how you operate as a business, the value of the item you are sending and the item’s country of origin.

It’s important that you seek official tax advice when necessary to ensure your business is charging VAT appropriately and meeting its legal requirements in every country you sell in. Some Member States have different thresholds to those outlined in the next section so, where appropriate, we recommend checking what the current rate is if you plan to collect EU import VAT from customers.

Do I need to pay EU import VAT?

1) Firstly, is your item valued less than €22?

Your item is not subject to EU import VAT.

This threshold may change after 1 July 2021 as currently there are low value consignment relief thresholds in place.

2) Is your item valued between €22 and €150?

EU import VAT is due.

This is often charged at 20 percent but can vary from country to country.

3) Is your item valued more than €150?

EU import VAT is due and additional import duties may apply.

Important: If the item is alcohol, perfume or a specialist product, additional excise duties may apply no matter what the item’s value is. Always check first.

How do I pay EU import VAT?

There are two ways. One option is often simpler for you, the seller, but can lead to extra charges for the customer. The other benefits the buyer ensuring that they don’t encounter any nasty surprises.

1) You leave EU import VAT unpaid

Your customer sees the item price without VAT. You complete the necessary paperwork and ship. The courier charges the recipient the EU import VAT and releases the item to them.

While seemingly easier for you, this can lead to delays at customs, customers refusing to pay and therefore items being stored at a cost or shipped back to you alongside additional accounting. This is known as Delivered at Place (DAP) or Delivered Duty Unpaid (DDU).

Be sure to check whether you need to register for tax in the countries you are operating in. 

2) You collect EU import VAT and pay the courier

As before, your customer sees the item price, but this time, VAT at the appropriate rate for that country is added and collected by you.

You choose to pay the VAT and other duties to the courier. The buyer pays nothing more. This is often called Delivered Duty Paid (DDP).

Again, check whether you need to register for tax in the countries you are operating in. 

Some marketplaces do provide shipping programmes that simplify this process further by paying EU import VAT on your behalf, although using those services comes with their own pros and cons. For example, shipping can be more expensive and delivery times are sometimes slower.

Northern Ireland

Northern Ireland has different rules. If you are located in Northern Ireland and shipping to the EU, you require an additional EORI number starting with XI.

Duties do not apply if you are shipping from Northern Ireland to the Republic of Ireland. The shipment is treated as ‘intra-community’ and not subject to extra charges.

Northern Ireland to Great Britain exports are considered domestic shipments even though they require customs information.

What else do you need to consider?

For many businesses, the above might be as complicated as things get. While it can initially appear daunting, once you understand what’s expected of your business, adjust to new systems and check with a tax professional, things become easier as time goes on.

Remember:

  • Be detailed: It’s better to add too much information than not enough
  • Be aware: Additional measures may prompt carriers to increase pricing - monitor the situation
  • Be truthful: Specifying gift on a customs form is illegal
  • Be considerate: The more complicated you make life for customers, the less likely they will buy
  • Be patient: Shipping will take longer than before Brexit - communicate that carefully

If you decide to go it alone, remember that Brexit has happened and now is the time to act. Brexit related EU import VAT, customs charges and changes to how you ship items are here to stay.

ShipStation and Statement

As the leading order management and shipping software solution, ShipStation makes processing, fulfilment and shipping of your eCommerce orders more efficient. Manage your order processing, inventory management, creation of shipping labels and customer communication in one easy-to-use interface that integrates directly with your Shopify store.

A third-party solution we regularly implement across our international projects, ShipStation ensures your EU shipping is made easier through management of many of the new administrative procedures created from Brexit. If you want to find out more about how this platform could help you grow your eCommerce business or you have any questions around going global, please don’t hesitate to get in touch with the Statement team

 

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