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VAT-registered businesses in Great Britain and Northern Ireland are set to receive letters with details on the actions they should take after the UK has left the European Union. The letters are being sent to businesses which have advised HMRC that they are trading with the EU, or with the EU and the rest of the world.
On January 31st, 2020, the UK will formally leave the European Union and will enter an 11 month transition period with the EU, as laid out in the UK's Withdrawl Agreement. The letters explain what actions need to be taken during the transition period, and what businesses will need to do after December 31st, 2020, at the conclusion of the transition period.
The letters are split into one which focuses on businesses in Northern Ireland, and one which offers guidance for businesses in Great Britain. In both letters, it is explained that after January 31st, "we'll enter an implementation period that lasts until 31 December 2020. During this time there will be no changes to the terms of trading with the EU or the rest of the world, unless the rules change for the whole of the EU. This means EU rules for customs, VAT and excise will continue to apply to the movement of goods and trade for this limited time. There will be no new customs procedures at present."
In terms of what happens after 31 December, both letters explain that "From 1 January, the way you trade with the EU will change ... for trade between Great Britain (GB) and the EU, you will need to make customs declarations to import and export goods once the UK is outside of the EU's customs territory." The letters then go on to explain that further guidance and information will be offered during the implementation period.
Where the letters differ is a section which explains changes for businesses which trade between Northern Ireland the EU. The letter for Northern Ireland based businesses says that "The guidance that we previously shared with you about the UK government's approach for moving goods between Northern Ireland and Ireland if the UK had left without a deal no longer applies ... New arrangements will replace this and ensure that there is no hard border on the island of Ireland and that Northern Ireland remains in the UK's customs territory."
The two letters also offer guidance on actions UK businesses should take. These actions include:
- Signing up with HMRC's online updates via http://www.gov.uk/hmrc/business-support (select 'Sign up to help and support emails from HMRC')
- Make sure you have an Economic Operator Registration and Identification (EORI) number. If you do not have an EORI, you can register for one via www.gov.uk/eori
- Decide how to make customs declarations going forward. HMRC's letters note that "If you've only ever traded with the EU, or if you already trade with non-EU countries but need to expand or change your processes to cover your GB-EU imports and exports, you should start to prepare now to make customs declarations, by deciding if you want to use a third party such as a customs agent or make declarations yourself."
The letters note that a number of changes that may be needed after 31st December will be announced during the course of 2020. As such, the best recommendation is to keep up to date and remain aware of what changes take place.
If you'd like to keep up to date, The Exporter magazine will offer updates throughout 2020 - you can subscribe to the magazine by going to www.the-exporter.com/subscribe.
The full letters sent by HMRC can be found via https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/letters-to-businesses-about-trade-arrangements-after-the-uk-has-left-the-eu
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