Exporting goods outside the EU

Exports are goods that are transported to a country outside the European Union. If you plan to export, you must make sure you have the right licences and pay the right taxes and duties.


1. Disclaimer

This guide contains information relating to the EU that may be out of date due to Brexit. We are working to update our guidance as the situation unfolds. For urgent assistance please contact your local Business Gateway office or visit https://www.prepareforbrexit.scot/.

2. Overview

Exports are goods that are transported to a country outside the European Union (EU). Countries outside the EU are known as 'third countries'.

If you are exporting goods to a third country, you need to have the appropriate licences and make export declarations to customs through the National Export System. You must also make sure that VAT, import taxes and duties in the destination country are paid where necessary and follow transport procedures.

There are also a number of export procedures, including duty relief schemes which can benefit your business.

3. VAT and other taxes on exports

When a third country (a country outside EU) receives your goods, it may charge duty. A third country may also charge an equivalent of VAT or purchase tax.

VAT on exports

You can usually zero rate goods you are exporting out of the EU as long as you:

  • ensure they leave the EU within set time limits (typically three months).
  • keep satisfactory evidence of their departure.
  • hold evidence from your accounting records to prove that a transaction has taken place.
  • keep official evidence of export

VAT treatment will depend on whether you're exporting the goods directly or indirectly, when you organise delivery and when your customer arranges collection.

Find Starting to export guidance on mygov.scot.

HM Revenue & Customs (HMRC) provide detailed guidance on VAT and exporting goods.

You will also need to consider third country duties, including:

  • Common Agricultural Policy - exports of agricultural goods and processed foods covered by the Common Agricultural Policy may be entitled to a refund or required to pay a levy.
  • Origin Rules - Third countries may have import duty regimes in place, but in some countries your exports may qualify for a reduced rate of duty or be classed as duty free.
  • The Tariff - The Integrated Tariff of the UK (the Tariff) - is the official HMRC guide to importing and exporting taxes and duty. The Tariff contains the codes and customs requirements you need for import and export paperwork.

Ultimately, third country duties are based on the type of goods you're exporting, their origin and their value, all of which are subject to change in the destination countries.

4. Export licences and other controls

Exports of some goods are controlled. You may need to apply for a licence, or comply with specific regulations.

Weapons and other goods and technologies with a potential military use may require an export licence from the Department for Business, Innovation & Skills (BIS).

If goods are to pass through more than one country, you are likely to need a licence for each transit country.

All military controlled items and some highly sensitive dual-use goods need a licence, even if the export is made to another European Union (EU) country. Some may be subject to sanctions or embargoes with total or partial bans on exporting such goods to named third countries.

Less sensitive controlled dual-use goods exports need a licence if shipped outside the EU.

Controls also apply to the brokering - which can include warehousing and shipping - and transport of dual-use goods. Download guidance on brokering dual-use goods from the BIS website (PDF, 168K). In addition, UK nationals who trade outside the UK in strategically controlled goods between overseas countries may need a trade control licence through the UK.

Use the Goods Checker on the ECO Checker website (registration required).

5. Export declarations

If you want to permanently export goods out of the EU, you must first submit an electronic export declaration via the National Export System (NES), part of HMRC's Customs Handling of Import and Export Freight (CHIEF) system. Indirect exports (ie those moving from the UK but exiting in another Member State must be accompanied by an Export Accompanying Document (EAD).

You're not generally required to complete an export declaration for goods being sold within the EU.

When you export goods out of the EU to third countries, you can usually zero-rate the goods for VAT purposes.

How to make the declaration

You will need to have an Economic Operator Registration Identification (EORI) number and register for NES, which you can then access via:

  • email - not to be used for CAP declarations
  • a web form via the HMRC website
  • XML
  • Community System Provider (CSP) and software houses
  • a paper declaration that HMRC staff will input for you in exceptional circumstances

You will have to classify your goods as part of the declaration, including a commodity code and a Customs Procedure Code (CPC). A CPC identifies the nature of the movement of exports.

6. Duty relief schemes

You can claim money back (or delay payment) for various customs duties and VAT for some exports outside the European Union (EU).

Types of relief schemes available include:

Inward processing

Inward Processing (IP) gives exporters relief on customs duty to boost sales from the EU.

Outward processing relief

Outward Processing Relief (OPR) may be used if you're re-importing goods that have previously been exported from the EU for processing in a third country (a country outside the EU).

Temporary Admission relief

Subject to certain conditions, authorised traders can claim relief from customs duty, CAP charges, anti-dumping duty and countervailing duty on a range of goods temporarily imported for use in the EU, provided the goods are re-exported outside the EU in the same state. HM Revenue & Customs provide detailed guidance on Temporary Admission relief (TA).

Community system of duty reliefs (CSDR)

CSDR is the name for a group of reliefs that promote culture and science.

HMRC provide guidance on CSDR.

Onward supply relief

UK VAT-registered traders can claim VAT relief for goods imported into the UK from outside the EU if goods are being moved through the EU to another EU country. This is called Outward Supply Relief (OSR).

To apply for TA, CSDR or OSR, use the correct six-digit Customs Procedure Code (CPC) on your export paperwork. CPCs can be found in the Tariff.

Business Gateway can help you find the right organisation or programme to give you further exporting advice. Call us on 0300 013 4753.

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