Individuals and businesses are required to provide information about the goods they’re moving in and out of the UK in the form of Electronic Customs Content Data. This data includes information that postal couriers and customs authorities need to know before processing your goods.
You will be required to provide all relevant information in the correct format to ensure legal and security requirements are met. Failure to do so may result in penalties, delays, refusal to deliver or even the confiscation of goods. Countries such as the US, Russia and China are heavily enforcing electronic customs content data and will not accept goods that do not include the required information.
We’re here to help
When using our platform to import or export products from the UK, we’ll ask you for all of the relevant information needed. This is the same for both business and personal customers, so you just need to focus on sourcing accurate data for your shipments.
- On January 1st 2021, the information required when moving goods in and out of the UK was changed.
- Anyone exporting or importing goods will have to provide more information than they previously had to.
- Individuals shipping for personal use will be required to include commodity codes with their parcels.
- Businesses will be required to provide their EORI number and include relevant commodity codes alongside the usual required information.
- Failure to comply with new requirements may lead to processing delays, additional charges, the refusal to deliver goods, or your goods destroyed.
- UK Postbox will update their platform so that you’re asked for all of the relevant information when sending or receiving parcels from overseas.
What information will you need to provide?
Depending on whether you’re sending goods for personal or business use, you’ll need to attach the following information to any package being sent to and from the UK.
Prepare detailed product descriptions
If customs cannot fully understand the contents of your package, then you may experience additional fees or delays. Customs authorities need comprehensive descriptions to know the type of goods entering or leaving the country, down to specific details such as the materials used, product model and even the manufacturing brand.
When detailing product descriptions within your shipment, consider the following five questions:
- What are the goods?
- What materials are they made of?
- What are they used for?
- Who are they used by?
- Is it used in a specific location?
If you are shipping a chair, the following is an example of what would be considered insufficient or acceptable:
Insufficient Information - Chair.
Detailed Description - Oak wooden chair with black leather upholstered seat for bedroom use.
State the country of origin
Where goods originate from can determine the level of duty, taxation and security required when processing them through customs. You’ll need to include this information when shipping goods internationally, through the form of a two digit country code such as those shown in the examples below:
For a full list of country codes, check out the UK government’s published list
Why are you sending the package?
Regardless of whether you’re an individual or a business, you’ll be required to provide a reason for the export. This helps customs to apply the relevant taxes and duty rates, as well as understanding what goods their country is exporting, and for what purposes. We’ll ask you for this information when processing your goods, but here are some of the accept reasons for sending goods:
- Gifting goods
- Selling goods
- Sample product
- Returning goods
Personal correspondence, such as documents or bank cards, do not require a customs declaration or harmony code.
What quantity of goods are you shipping?
Detail the number of units of each good or product being shipped. If you’re exporting or importing for business purposes, this will help you to calculate the total weight and value of your package being shipped.
How much do your goods weigh?
You’ll need to detail the individual weight of each unit, as well as the total weight of any parcel you are sending in Kilograms (KG). This includes the weight of the contents of your package. If you do not know the individual unit weight, follow this formula:
Total Unit Weight / No. of Units = Individual Unit Weight
If you’re shipping various items, follow this formula for each type of good.
What about parcels below 1KG?
You still need to provide the total weight in Kilograms. For example, a product weighing 500g should be detailed as 0.5kg.
What’s the value of your package?
It’s essential that the value stated for your package is accurate. This information is used to determine the level of tax and duty that needs to be paid. When shipping goods internationally, use your local currency. To calculate the value of your package, follow this formula for each type of good being shipped:
Unit Price x No. of Units = Total Units Value
If you’re shipping multiple goods, add all total units values together to get your total package value.
Provide contact information for both parties
You must provide contact information for the shipper and the recipient, regardless of whether you’re sending goods for personal or business use. Couriers and customs may need to contact involved parties to discuss the shipment, or secure fees and payments.
Find your relevant Commodity Codes
Commodity Codes are used to help classify goods and commodities that are being transferred internationally. For every type of goods, a numeric commodity code will exist. These codes are agreed upon on an international level, making the transition of goods between all countries easier to understand and process. It’s essential that you source the most accurate Commodity Codes for your goods, down to minute details such as the materials used and the intended purpose of the item. For further explanation on what Commodity Codes are, click here to watch HMRC's explainer video.
Example Commodity Code: 94035 - Seat with wooden frame, upholstered (excluding medical, surgical, dental, veterinary or barber furniture).
How are Commodity Codes used?
As well as helping customs departments across the world understand what goods are leaving or being brought into the country, Commodity Codes will help to understand:
- What duty to apply on the package
- The rate of import VAT or other taxes that need paying
- Whether a licence is required to move the goods
- If there are unique laws relating to the movement of said goods
How should you prepare?
We advise that anyone who will be moving goods in and out of the UK understands the commodity code system. If you’re a business and know which products you’ll be shipping, then you can prepare your codes beforehand!
To help our customers transition, we've also integrated Commodity Codes into our platform, making it easy for you to find the relevant codes and include the information with your shipment.
To find out the commodity codes relating to your package, use the UK government's look up tool.
Have your business’s EORI number ready
An EORI number, or Economic Operator Registration and Identification Number, is a unique code that helps customs administrators identify which business is sending and receiving goods, as well as helping governments to monitor trading levels between their country and others.
From January 1st 2021, businesses will need an EORI number to move goods in or out of the UK
Without an EORI number, expect to experience delays, additional fees and even the refusal to deliver your goods. If your business currently doesn’t have an EORI number, don’t worry as there’s still time to apply and get organised. Applying for an EORI number can be done online and shouldn’t take more than 5-10 minutes, and your application may be approved automatically. If additional checks are needed, HMRC estimate a maximum delay of 5 working days.
If you’re VAT registered
Complete the following online application: https://www.tax.service.gov.uk/shortforms/form/EORIVAT
If you’re not VAT registered
And you’re exporting from the UK, this is the correct EORI form.
And you’re importing to the UK, use this form to get an EORI number.
Example EORI Number: GB123456789000
If you’re registered for VAT and you regularly import or export goods, then you may already have an EORI number. Add “GB” before your UK VAT code and insert “000” at the end of the sequence, and then use this EORI validation tool.
How we’re preparing for the changes
Regardless of whether the UK and the EU reach a trade agreement, we’ve been updating our platform to account for both eventualities. If you’re using our services to send goods or packages internationally, we will make sure to ask you for the relevant information. This doesn’t mean that we can tell you what information to enter, such as your commodity codes or EORI number, but we’ll make it clear when information is needed from you.
You can use our below checklist to make sure you understand the information required when moving goods between the UK and other countries. Preparing as much as you can beforehand will help you to minimise any disruption or delays, but making sure you’re aware of what’s needed will help you to transition sooner:
- Understand the commodity code system and prepare any codes you can before Jan 1st 2021.
- Read up on product descriptions. If you know the products you’ll be shipping, have this information ready before the changes.
- Gather information on the value and weight of any goods you’ll be shipping.
- Provide up to date contact information for the sender and recipient of all parcels.
- Include the reason for sending goods to ensure your package is processed correctly.
- If you’re a business, confirm or apply for your EORI number and provide it to us so that we can assign it to your account.
If you'd like to speak to a member of our team regarding these changes, contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org