How to ship within the EU

From EORI numbers to IOSS, there are a few terms you need to be aware of when shipping to an EU country.  Find out what they mean and what else you need to check before shipping. 

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What is the EU?

The European Union is a political and economic union of 27 member states, consisting of countries located in Europe. It’s a single market based on four freedoms – people, goods, services and capital. And all four can move freely between all member states.

This means most goods can be transported between member states without the need for customs control and payment of duties and taxes. So goods from an EU country can be shipped to another EU country in free circulation without a commercial invoice.

However, while movement within the EU may be free of customs regulations, certain rules may still apply to highly regulated goods like dangerous goods dual-use items, or excise goods going in and out of your country.

Which countries are part of the EU?

The 27 member countries of the European Union are Austria, Belgium, Bulgaria, Croatia, Cyprus, Czech Republic, Denmark, Estonia, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Hungary, Ireland, Italy, Latvia, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Malta, Netherlands, Poland, Portugal, Romania, Slovakia, Slovenia, Spain and Sweden.

If you are shipping from the UK, keep in mind that as of January 1, 2021, it is no longer part of the EU. However, Northern Ireland will continue being part of the EU VAT area for goods. Check our Brexit shipping guide to learn more.

What about the EU special territories?

Within the EU, there are overseas and special territories such as Guadeloupe and the Canary Islands. While they form part of the EU, they may require a customs declaration to move goods in and out of their country, and duties and taxes may have to be paid.

For more information about the specific customs regulations of the EU's overseas and special territories, check the European Commission website. You can also ask the receiver or your chosen carrier.

What is EFTA?

It’s important to note that while Norway, Switzerland, Iceland and Liechtenstein are a part of Europe, they’re not in the EU. But they have a trade agreement with the EU as another customs union called EFTA, the European Free Trade Association. This means you need to declare your goods at customs, as well as provide a commercial invoice and other necessary documents. Find out more about this topic on the EFTA website.

What are the main requirements for shipping to the EU?

Generally, the customs clearance process is more or less the same in all EU countries. However, when it comes to regulated goods, some countries may require additional paperwork.   

As far as shipping documents go, a commercial invoice and air waybill are required for all international shipments. 

Personal shipments of low-value, unregulated goods can usually clear customs without any additional documentation. Commercial shipments or regulated goods may need extra documentation to comply with EU shipping regulations. Some things to keep in mind are:

  • All businesses based in the EU that trade internationally must be registered with their national authority and have an EORI number
  • Businesses in non-EU countries will only need an EORI number if they will be making customs declarations for shipments to EU countries
  • As of July 1, 2021, VAT will be charged on all commercial goods shipped to the EU, regardless of their value
  • Customs duties will be charged for shipments valued above €150
  • Licenses or import permits may be required depending on your goods and the destination country
  • If the shipper's country shares a trade agreement with the EU, the shipment may be eligible for reduced or waived import duties (depending on the goods)

What is an EORI number?

‘EORI number’ is short for ‘Economic Operators Registration and Identification Number’. It's a system of unique identification numbers used by customs authorities throughout the European Union.

How do I get an EORI number?

Shippers based in the EU can request an EORI number from the customs authority in their own country. Shippers based outside the EU can request it from the customs authority in the EU country where they first lodge a customs declaration. Remember to apply for your EORI number well in advance as it can take a week or more to process in some places.

Do I need to charge VAT?

On July 1, 2021, the VAT regulations for shipping to the EU will change. Currently, goods valued below € 22 are exempt from VAT. As of July 1, all commercial goods shipped to the EU will be subject to VAT.

How do I charge and remit VAT?

From July 1, 2021, when selling consumer goods valued up to €150 into the EU, non-EU e-commerce businesses no longer need to manage multiple VAT registrations. Instead, you can choose to make use of the Import One-Stop-Shop (IOSS). EU-based e-retailers have the possibility to choose One-Stop-Shop (OSS) to collect and remit VAT on sales in other EU member states.

The VAT regulation for goods with a price tag of over €150 and up remains unchanged. 

If IOSS is not used, VAT will be charged upon importation. This may mean your carrier might charge you additional processing or handling fees.

What is an Import One-Stop-Shop (IOSS)?

IOSS is a solution that simplifies charging and remitting VAT on B2C goods valued up to €150. With IOSS, VAT is simply added to the total price at checkout. Collected VAT is then remitted to the local authorities on a monthly basis. IOSS is available to online sellers and marketplaces from outside the EU as long as your goods are not subject to excise duty. When registering for IOSS, a seller who ships goods into multiple EU countries will only need one VAT registration in an EU country of their choice. 

On the buyer's side, with IOSS, there will be no postponed VAT costs or surprise handling fees. Plus, because the VAT is already collected before shipping, the goods will clear customs much faster.

Who can register for IOSS?

If you are already selling goods in the EU, you can register for IOSS in a member state of your choice. If you don't yet have an EU presence, you will need to appoint an intermediary to register and declare VAT on your behalf. Your carrier may be able to assist you with it.

Marketplaces can also become deemed suppliers and handle VAT collection for their sellers'  B2C transactions on goods up to €150 that aren't subject to excise duty.

What is a One-Stop-Shop (OSS)?

The One-Stop-Shop is an electronic solution available to EU businesses. It makes it easy to collect and remit VAT on consumer goods sold within the EU. A seller can register for OSS in the local OSS portal. When using the system, you can apply the VAT rate of the country you'll be shipping the goods to and file quarterly VAT reports using OSS.

The information provided does not, and is not intended to, constitute legal and/or tax advice; instead, this information is for general informational purposes only. Readers of this information should contact their own advisor to obtain advice with respect to any particular legal and/or tax matter. Shipping requirements and documentation may vary between carriers. All liability with respect to actions taken or not taken based on the contents of this site are hereby expressly disclaimed. The content on this posting is provided “as is”; no representations are made that the content is error-free.


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