What is an EORI number?

EORI stands for “Economic Operators Registration and Identification number”. It’s a code that’s unique to your business, and is recognisable by all customs officials within the EU. It’s needed when dealing with trade with EU countries. As of January 2021, UK-based businesses need an EORI number to carry out trade with EU countries, and vice versa. 


Do I need an EORI number? 

By and large, an EORI number is always needed for shipping goods into and out of the European Union as a business (anything up from a sole trader). You don’t need an EORI number as an individual (e.g. if you’re buying something for yourself, or sending something to a friend). 

As a business, there are some circumstances in which you won’t need your own EORI number to ship goods into or out of the EU. If you’re UK-based, you’ve probably browsed the local government website for advice on this and swiftly given up, and we don’t blame you. 

EORI numbers are free and easy to apply for, so we basically think it’s something worth doing, even if you’re not 100% sure you need one. 

There are, however, a couple of easy-to-rule-out exceptions. You don’t need an EORI if: 

  • You’re shipping from Northern Ireland into the Republic of Ireland, or into an EU country (but you do need one to ship from Northern Ireland to the rest of the UK, or to other non-EU countries)
  • You’re shipping from one EU country to another EU country 

How do I get an EORI number? 

How to request an EORI number if you’re based in the UK

To apply for a GB EORI number, you will need: 

  • Unique Taxpayer Reference (UTR) – here’s where you can find your UTR if you do not know it
  • Your business start date and Standard Industrial Classification (SIC) code – these are in the Companies House register
  • Government Gateway user ID and password
  • VAT number and effective date of registration (if you’re VAT registered) – these are on your VAT registration certificate
  • National Insurance number (if you’re an individual or a sole trader)

If you do not already have a Government Gateway user ID, you’ll be able to create one when you apply.

To start your application, make sure you have all the above information to hand, then head to this page on the government website. The application starts around halfway down, with the green ‘Apply for a GB EORI number’ button. 

There used to be separate applications for VAT registered and non VAT-registered businesses but thankfully this seems to have been knocked on the head, and is all done through the same form.  

Once you fill in the form, your EORI number should arrive by email within a week. Keep an eye on your spam folder in case it accidentally slips in there.  

How to request an EORI number if you’re based in an EU country 

The process for applying for an EU EORI number varies a little depending on which country you’re based in. 

Check out this list of the relevant advice by country.


FAQs 

Do I need an EORI number?

If you’re a business shipping goods into or out of the EU then almost definitely yes. If you don’t, it doesn’t hurt to apply for one just in case. 

Is an EORI number the same as a VAT number?

An EORI number isn’t the same as your VAT number, but your VAT number does form part of your EORI number (if you have one). 

What is an EORI number example?

EORI numbers follow the following formula: [country-specific code] [12 numbers based on your VAT number]. For example, GB123412341234.

Can you import without an EORI number?

Nope. Without an EORI number you can’t import goods from the EU to Great Britain (England, Scotland and Wales), and vice versa. If you don’t have one, you’re looking at a bunch of extra storage fees and delays. It’s really not worth the risk, so try to get one in place before you need to import goods. 

Can I get an EORI without a VAT number?

Yes, you can, and you should! If you’re in the UK, just apply through the same form as above, and select ‘No’ when asked ‘Is your organisation part of a VAT group in the UK?’.

Can I use someone else’s EORI number?

No, you shouldn’t use someone else’s EORI number. If you’re importing another business’ goods into or out of the EU, there’ll be a part where you need to put their EORI number on the relevant forms. But you should never use someone else’s EORI number as a shortcut for not applying for your own — this could lead to fees, fines, and delays. 

Do I need an EORI number for personal use?

No, you do not need an EORI number for moving personal items only. EORI numbers are only needed by businesses (anything from a sole trader upwards). 

Do I need an EORI number for each EU country?

You need a different EORI number for every country you’re shipping from, but not every country you’re shipping to. If you’re only based in one country, you only need one EORI number. 

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Hannah is Creoate's Content Marketing Manager. She's passionate about bringing you content that's actually useful and — dare she say it —inspirational. Running a small business is hard, and we really want to help with that. Drop her an email at [email protected] if there's anything you'd like to read (or if you'd like to be featured!). She's all ears.
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