Brexit has changed the way goods are sent across the English Channel, so how can ecommerce businesses navigate a safe route through to the continent?

The good news is that the pre-Christmas free trade deal ensured that the UK and European Union (EU) avoided the dreaded no-deal scenario. However, that doesn’t mean it’s all plain sailing, as ecommerce businesses need to get to grips with new rules on taxes and tariffs.

To help you, here are our top six most important Brexit issues for online traders.

  1. Do your homework

As the Scouts say “be prepared”. The success or failure of any ecommerce venture will ultimately come down to the ability of your business to adapt to the challenges ahead.

The major online marketplaces, such as Amazon, will be up to speed with the latest Government advice and will circulate the necessary information. Businesses need to protect themselves by making sure they have money in the bank and stock on the shelves.

Review and update your company’s procedures and policies to take into account the Brexit changes.

  1. Double check the paperwork

Businesses which import or export products into or out of the EU need to register for a UK EORI (Economic Operator Registration and Identification) number. Established businesses should have done this long before the transition period ended on December 31, 2020.

You also need to double check the HS Codes which classify every item, including the relevant customs duties and taxes. Is your shipping platform set up to handle customs data?

To avoid delays at the border, label goods correctly and provide carriers with comprehensive copies of the paperwork so they can swiftly pass through customs clearance.

Every customs declaration should include the following:

  • VAT number for the country storing the product
  • EORI number for the UK and destination EU state
  • Revised contracts and Incoterms reflecting your status as an exporter
  • Country of Origin information
  • HS Codes
  • Licenses and certifications.
  1. Adapt your supply chain

UK businesses need to identify their main markets on the continent and check the legislation for countries in the wider European Economic Area (EEA), which includes EU states plus Iceland, Liechtenstein and Norway.

UK based traders may be subject to “prior authorisation” schemes or licensing requirements. Many ecommerce businesses are avoiding the issue of paying ‘double duty’ by shipping goods direct from the manufacturer to warehouses in the EU.

Shipping prices may increase, so check that you are getting the best deal from parcel forwarding services or shipping aggregators. If in doubt, source alternative companies who can meet your needs.

  1. Customer service

It’s all too easy to focus on the paperwork, and forget to inform your customers about the new post-Brexit arrangements. Keep them informed about new procedures and potential delays to delivery times.

You could also offer more choice through various delivery and payment options. Can they purchase goods in using their own currency?

Review the buying process on your ecommerce platform to make things smoother and easier to understand. Offer guides and tips on the new Brexit processes.

Make sure your customer service team has all the information they need to answer queries. Posting a frequently asked questions section on your website can limit the number of enquiries.

  1. VAT changes

The post-Brexit changes to VAT include:

  • VAT will be applied on EU goods exceeding £135 in value
  • Different rules apply to good valued less than £135
  • VAT-registered importers can use postponed VAT accounting
  • LVCR (Low Value Consignment Relief) no longer applies to goods arriving in the UK
  • All goods entering the UK will be liable for VAT
  • Overseas businesses will charge VAT at the point of purchase
  • VAT-registered UK businesses can still zero-rate goods exported to the EU, but will no longer be required to complete EU sales lists.
  1. Take advantage of the opportunities

While there have been plenty of negative Brexit headlines, keep your eye open for potential opportunities in new markets. Explore the possibility of selling goods to other parts of the world, such as North America or developing nations.

Need advice?

If you need help to get across the choppy waters of Brexit, email contact@evolvecommerce.co.uk or call eVolveCommerce on +44 (0) 207 030 3644.

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