Guides to EU Legislation

Enterprise Europe Scotland has produced a number of summaries of relevant EU Legislation to help guide you through the maze of Regulations, Directives and Decisions from Europe which may have an affect on your business. 

If you would like to find out more, or if have a specific question relating to EU legislation, contact us at

Practicalities of Exporting

Practicalities of Exporting

Before you start exporting you will need to find out the correct commodity code for your product.  Commodity codes are important in determining how your goods are treated, any export restrictions that may apply and what duty rates apply to your goods.  For exports, the commodity code is an eight-digit number and is used on all customs declarations.

You can find out the commodity code for your product by accessing the tariff directory on the Business Link website at . Alternatively, you can contact the HM Revenue & Customs Tariff Classification Service Enquiry Line on 01702 366077 and an advisor can assist you in determining the correct code for your product. 


Supplying to another EU country

Goods exported to other member states of the EU are known as supplies or dispatches and do not normally require customs clearance.  A list of EU member states can be found on   

Commercial documents
Goods can move between Member States without any documentation.   This does not apply to goods liable to excise duties or goods subject to prohibition or restrictions (e.g. weapons) which still need accompanying documentation.  However, it is still good practice to include a commercial invoice and packing list with any export.

For goods supplied in the EU import duty is not payable.  However, excise duty is a national charge levied on the importation of certain categories of goods (wine, spirits, cigars, cigarettes, tobacco, petrol and mineral oils) and is collected by the customs authorities in the country to which the goods have been exported and can vary according to the national policy on excise duty of the country. Payment of this duty is generally the responsibility of the importer unless the exporter is contracted to pay it under the sales contract.

Charging and accounting for VAT
Goods supplied between VAT registered traders in different EU member states can be zero-rated for VAT by the seller.  To be able to zero-rate the goods it is necessary to show both VAT numbers on the invoice and it is important that you check and verify your customer’s VAT number.  VAT numbers in all EU member states can be checked using the VAT Information exchange System (VIES).  See for more information.
For the supply of services between 2 VAT registered traders, the place of supply, determines which countries VAT rules should be used and how VAT is accounted for.  There are other rules around VAT on the supply of services so it is important to check the rules on the HM Revenue & customs website.

Responsibilities for trade statistics
If you are a VAT registered business and sell or move goods to other VAT registered traders in the EU you are required to report these supplies.  There are 2 systems you need to be aware of:

  • EC Sales List (ESL)

An EC Sales List must be completed by VAT registered traders showing details of supplies made to other EU countries to HM Revenue & Customs.  You will need to submit an ESL monthly or quarterly depending on whether you supply services or goods, and the value of those goods.  The information provided on the EC Sales List is used by the UK and other EU member states to make sure that VAT has been correctly accounted for.  When completing the form you will be required to provide details of your customer, the relevant country code and the value of the goods or services.  You can complete an EC sales list online at   for further information you can contact the HMRC VAT advice line on 0845 010 9000.

  • Intrastat

VAT registered businesses that trade in goods with other EU Member states above a certain threshold (the current threshold levels can be found on are required to supply supplementary statistical information on these transactions. These declarations are known as Intrastat and you have a responsibility to report this trade to HM Revenue & Customs.  The level of information you will be required to submit will depend on the value of your trade with other EU member states.  For further guidance on Intrastat see


Exporting outside the EU

Commercial documents
All exports to non EU-countries must be declared.   The Single Administrative Document SAD- (customs form C88) is used for export declarations when trading with non-EU countries and for the movement of non-EU goods within the EU.  It is required for all exports, except postal exports and must accompany the goods to the point of exit from the EU.  To obtain a Single Administrative Document SAD contact HM Revenue & Customs.

New export system (NES)
HM Revenue & Customs have introduced an electronic based system called National Export System which allows exporters to make export declarations electronically.  The new system replaces manual processing and has speeded up the process and given greater flexibility for exporters to make declarations. For details of NES see

Duty is charged at the place of importation and is usually paid by the importer unless the exporter has agreed to do so under the delivery term of a duty paid sales contract. There is one exception to this rule, for common agricultural policy (CAP) goods there is the possibility that a duty can be levied at the place of export.   Excise duty is a national charge levied on the importation of certain categories of goods.  As with import duty it is collected by the customs authorities in the country to which the goods have been exported and can vary according to the national policy on excise duty.  Payment of this duty is generally the responsibility of the importer unless the exporter is contracted to pay it under the sales contract.

Export licences
Some goods may be subject to export restrictions or require an export licence. These include military or paramilitary goods and technology, dual-use goods, artwork, plants and animals, medicines and chemicals.  The licence requirements may also depend on the country of destination of the product. The Export Control Organisation, part of the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills, advises businesses on the ‘controlled’ goods and issues the required licences for military and dual-use items. Further information is available here:  

Market Access database
The Market Access database is a tool provided by the European Commission to help EU businesses find the information they need when exporting outside the EU.  By entering the code or product description you can find out what the import procedures are, the documents required for the import of a particular product and what taxes and duties are applicable to the product.  In addition, you can also find out statistics on trade flows between EU and non EU countries.  You can access the database on

Charging and accounting for VAT
VAT is not charged on goods supplied to countries outside the EU as it is outside the scope of VAT.   However, it is important that you retain commercial evidence to show that the goods have left the EU.

International Commerce Terms (Incoterms) are an internationally recognised standard trade terms that set out buyer and seller responsibilities.  They are maintained and developed by the International Chambers of Commerce (ICC).  Each Incoterm establishes who is responsible for costs and risks such as transport costs, insurance, duties payable and customs clearance. Incoterms are accepted by governments, legal authorities and businesses worldwide for the interpretation of most commonly used terms in international trade.  It is good practice to use incoterms in international trade to ensure that there is no confusion over the delivery of the export and helps to prevent any misunderstandings between the buyer and seller.  Incoterms can apply to both domestic and international sale contracts.  See the incoterms 2010 on the ICC website