Frequently asked questions about Brexit

Brexit FAQ

The United Kingdom (UK) will be a customs territory from January 1, 2021. This means that a number of things will change if you send goods from the Netherlands to the UK from that date onwards. Which things will change? Below we have listed all the important questions and answers concerning Brexit.


Regarding shipments to the UK, is there a difference between shipments to consumers and shipments to companies?

Yes. Legislation in the UK places extra requirements on exporters selling to private individuals.

Why do I need to register for a UK VAT number?

If you sell goods with a value up to £135 (ex. shipping costs, VAT, and insurance) to a private individual, then you must charge the final VAT at the moment of sale.  If you sell to a company, then whether you need a VAT number in the UK depends on the conditions of sale. Your company is expected to routinely send a tax return to HMRC. Learn more about requesting a UK VAT number here.

Why do I need to register for a UK EORI number?

Your UK EORI number is linked to your VAT number in the UK. Without the UK EORI number, the customs office in the UK will not allow import declarations.

More information


In which cases must I apply for a UK VAT number?

You need a UK VAT number if you ship goods to consumers in the UK or if you ship goods to businesses in the UK using the DDP Incoterm. Learn more about a UK VAT number.

Does DHL eCommerce need my UK VAT number and UK EORI number if I send my goods to a company in the UK?

Yes. If you send your goods under the DDP Incoterm, then we need these numbers to advance the owed VAT and applicable import duties for you. If you want the buyer to pay these costs, then always report the UK VAT number and UK EORI number of the buyer on your customs invoice. Additionally, you are advised (but not required) to also report the deferment account of your buyer.

Is there a difference in exporting to Norway, Switzerland, or the United Kingdom?

We can only process your shipment if you send it via our My DHL Portal online shipping tool or customs API. You must also physically attach the customs paperwork to the parcel, and you – as an exporter – are expected to provide extra information to ensure that export and import declarations can be made.

Why must I sign an "authorization for direct representation"?

If you do not do this, we cannot represent your company in drawing up an export declaration in your name. Request the authorization and instructions using this form.


Are shipments that require customs clearance subject to extra costs?

Yes. In addition to the regular transport costs, a customs surcharge will be invoiced. Ask your account manager about the amount of this surcharge. Whether or not you will be invoiced for VAT and import duties – if applicable – depends on the terms of delivery. 

How are VAT and import duty costs charged if I use DHL eCommerce to send goods to the UK?

If you sell goods to a private individual up to a value of £135 per shipment, then no import duties apply. You will owe over the final VAT. If you sell goods to a private individual with a value of over £135 per shipment, then the VAT and import duties will need to be paid by the buyer.

If you sell goods to a company under DDP Incoterms, then we will invoice to you the VAT and import duties that we advance on your behalf. You will receive a separate invoice listing the incurred costs and a surcharge for the advance. If you sell goods to a company under DAP/CIF Incoterms, then the VAT and import duties, plus an administrative surcharge, will be invoiced to the buyer.

How do I become eligible for the 'zero-tariff' when shipping to the UK?

In some cases you will be eligible for the 'zero-tariff' (no import duties) negotiated during the Brexit-deal between the EU and the UK. By providing a proof of origin you declare the country of origin of your goods in the commercial or pro forma invoice. This is true for both shipments to consumers and businesses. For this proof of origin you need a UK EORI number.

It is not possible for DHL to adjust already submitted customs documentation in case you wish to add a proof of origin later. You will receive a confirmation from DHL which you can use to request a change to your declaration yourself at the Dutch customs authorities.

If the value of the shipment is £135 or less, is it the case that no VAT and import duties need to be paid?

If you sell goods to a private individual, then only the final VAT applies. If you sell goods to a company, then you will owe VAT and import duties. 

What is "reverse charge back" and do I always need to report this?

If you sell goods to a company under any Incoterm except  DDP, then you must always report "reverse charge back" on your customs invoice. This will ensure that your buyer will owe the VAT costs. Click here to learn more. If you sell to a private individual, then this does not apply.

What is a deferment account?

If your customer regularly imports goods, then this company can use a deferred account to pay for most of the customs expenses at a later stage. This includes import VAT (most common), import duties, and excise duties. This ensures that there are no extra delays, because these costs are deducted from the deferred account. 

What paperwork will I have returned to me after the clearance of my shipment?

In addition to your normal transport invoice, you will receive (if applicable) an invoice for the VAT and import duties that DHL eCommerce advanced. 

In which ways can the buyer pay for the VAT and import duties?

Companies can pay for the costs by bank transfer or by agreeing a contract with our import broker. Additionally, they can make use of payment at a later date through a deferment account

A private individual buyer can use a payment platform to make the payment through a PayPal or credit card payment.

Operational customs actions

Which data are required for correct customs handling?

We have listed all the required invoice data in our customs leaflet. For supplementary information, please consult our customs brochure.

What are Incoterms and can all of them be used for shipping to the UK?

Incoterms are standardized international terms for delivery via shipping by sea or air. We have listed all the useable Incoterms in our customs brochure.

What are HS codes?

A Harmonized System (HS) code is a code used by customs offices around the world to categorize products. Each product has a different HS code.

Do I need to use the EU-HS codes and/or the GB-HS codes?

You must always report the EU-HS codes on your shipments to the UK. This consists of eight numbers.

Which documents must I add to shipments to the UK?

You must attach three copies of the physical customs invoice to your shipment. Where applicable, you must also include the export and transit documents that you have drawn up.

What happens if goods need to be returned because the clearance of the shipment was not successful?

If you do not submit the required physical documents or digital data, then your shipment will immediately be returned to sender. In this case, you can submit a request to us for the correct documents to ensure that your records are correct.

How can I easily get all required information to DHL eCommerce?

Sending shipments to the UK via DHL eCommerce is only possible if you use our My DHL Portal online shipping tool, or by linking our customs API to your own IT system. If you use My DHL Portal, then the correct information will be sent automatically.

Do the new customs formalities influence the delivery times of my shipments to the UK?

Currently, it is difficult to give an answer in this respect. What we do know is that the shipments will be delivered as soon as the payment has been received from your customer. If the buyer has not yet paid for the costs owed, then the shipment will not be delivered.

Can shipments be sent in a consolidated way or as "break bulk"?

If you send large numbers of shipments to the UK, then DHL can offer you a break bulk solution. Please contact your account manager or our Brexit support department to discuss the options

Will Brexit have an effect on my shipments to Ireland?

The same customs formalities that apply to regular shipments to the UK also apply to shipments to Northern Ireland (the area of the island of Ireland that is part of the UK). For shipments to Northern Ireland, you do not need to include extra information. DHL eCommerce will ensure that such shipments will be sent via Transit UK or by ferry. We will keep you updated on potential additional costs or changes to delivery times.

IT solutions

Can I also send my customs invoice and export or transit documents either physically or by e-mail?

No. Sending shipments to the UK via DHL eCommerce is only possible if you use our My DHL Portal online shipping tool, or by linking our customs API to your own IT system.

Can I link my IT system to DHL eCommerce?

Yes. You can electronically submit customs information to us by linking your IT system to our API for customs documents or by simply sending your shipments via My DHL Portal. For more information, please contact our Brexit support department directly or ask your account manager. 

What should I do to make sure my customs shipments are properly prepared?

Use our My DHL Portal online shipping tool to format the labels and customs invoice for your shipments to the UK. Please consult the manual for instructions and explanations. If you don’t yet have an account for My DHL Portal, please contact us – we will arrange it in no time.