Customs declarations post Brexit – what it means to me from outside UK?

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If your shipping address is in England, Scotland or Wales then there is no change for you and you can ignore the rest of this article.

As you know the UK left the EU on 31st December 2020. This means that shipping processes are a little different for our customers outside of the UK Mainland. This does not mean you should panic though. I personally voted Remain in the EU referendum and will always do everything possible to try to make the service as easy for our customers outside the UK as for those in the UK wherever possible. Hence I have written this short article to help you make things simple and reduce the hassle involved in customs paperwork. I hope you find this useful and if you have any questions or are stuck please do not hesitate to contact us using the contact button on the bottom right of this page.

If your shipping address is outside of UK mainland (i.e. Northern Ireland, EU and RoW) customs processes apply. Although Northern Ireland is still part of the UK, there is a border in the Irish sea for customs checks. Hence Northern Ireland should consider themselves as requiring customs processes as per the EU for the purpose of this article.

What does this mean for me?

  • Sample kit costs remain the same – First of all, we have frozen all your sample analysis prices for an additional 12 months and there are no plans to put any Brexit related sample price rises. So you can rest assured your competitive rates will remain so.
  • Shipping costs would benefit you to bulk order – The shipping and paperwork costs for customs declarations for shipping outside the UK have gone up with every major courier. This is the same for all UK businesses and many couriers have introduced a “UK Border Fee”, which is essentially a price rise to cover the extra paperwork UPS, TNT etc have now when samples cross the border. This means the shipping cost has had to go up, however, we think you can negate these costs by bulk ordering. So if you normally order once every 3 months, why not buy 6 months and this means the number of shipments is reduced and hence the postage costs. Many of our customers have already started doing this and are actually saving on pre-Brexit shipping rates.
  • Shipping times slightly longer – the shipping times for samples to and from the UK are expected to be longer. We recommend always carrying enough stock of samples to ensure you don’t run out of bottles. On the return of samples side, we track the sample shipping date vs when we receive the package and anything that appears to have been delayed during shipping will automatically get a priority turnaround service at the lab on receipt to ensure your overall turnaround times are as fast as possible.
  • Trade Deals (low or zero tariffs) – Tariffs are a tax on goods coming from outside your customs area charged by your country on import of goods. The receiver (i.e. you) pays these fees if they apply when you receive the empty plastic bottles. At the time of writing the UK currently has a trade deal with the EU meaning low or zero tariffs on goods coming from the UK to EU, but things can change. Hence you should check with your respective country if they have a trade deal with the UK. The latest UK government guidance is here. If tariffs do apply, plastic bottles are not usually highly taxed and depending on your country rates are usually between 4% and 7% of the value of your order, but you will need to check with your local country regulations for the exact rate as rates do vary between countries.

What do I need to do?

When ordering empty sample bottles – not very much

  • If you import goods from abroad normally you will already have an EORI number. This is a number – usually linked to your VAT number issued by your country in the EU (you do not need to register for a UK VAT Number). This field must be completed on the online checkout when ordering as it will be required for customs declarations. For Northern Ireland customers we will need in addition an XI EORI number. The can find out how to get an XI EORI number here. This is a special EORI number to cover the within UK trade from mainland UK and NI. These numbers need only be filled in once and will be stored for all your future orders. To see how to place an online order see here.
  • Non Business customers – If you do not have an EORI number, you are not EU VAT registered and you are from the EU e.g. if you are an individual, not a company, living in the EU you cannot purchase directly under the terms of the UK-EU trade deal owing to VAT rules for business to consumers rather than business to business sales. Please contact us using the contact us button below and we can help you get in contact with authorised re-sellers in the EU.

When returning samples

  • We have a NIRU licence issued by HMRC (UK customs) to allow our lab to re-import fluid samples back into the UK for testing purposes. This means the returning of samples should equally be very simple. To make the shipment, with each package you need to print a shipping invoice and the NIRU document and provide this to your courier. We have a template you can download below, which you just have to fill in your name, company details and sign. We recommend the return courier you use to be one of the big international shippers that can act as their own customs brokers – i.e. they can declare the parcels when they reach customs checks. UPS and Fedex are two of the big names that can do this and we have good experiences with. Both are used to shipping samples with NIRU licences fairly hassle-free.
  • When filling out any courier online forms for the description of contents or description of goods use: “Samples for testing. No commercial value <1GBP. NIRU attached”. In the value of the goods choose the minimum amount you can enter e.g. 1 GBP or 1 Euro. Our address, VAT, EORI and XI EORI numbers are on the shipping documents below should you require to fill out any online courier forms.

Download the return shipping documents here (2 pages – print both).



I am being asked for a HS commodity code for my samples by the courier. What is this?

This is a code that allows the exporting and importing countries to understand what item type is being shipped so they can decide on tariffs. These are often quite crude and arbitrary descriptions of items and there is not a specific fluid sample for testing description code. The reason for this is samples for lab testing are not subject to duties for import and this is why you send the NIRU (National Import Relief Unit) form (the download link above second page with the HMRC logo on) with the samples so the UK government know these are items for testing and not for resale or for manufacture of goods. Often this information is not needed and is superseded by the NIRU document, however your courier at point of shipping may have made this a mandatory field. Hence you may use the HS code off the MSDS sheet of your fluid in use or these generic ones, which will be later superseded by the NIRU document at the customs authorities.

  • Engine lubricants, compressor fluids and turbine lubes: HS27101981
  • Hydraulic oils: HS27101983
  • Gear, axle and transmission oils: HS27101987

Note: using these HS codes and forgetting to send the NIRU document as well with the samples will delay your samples and cause import duties to be applied. Hence please under all circumstances always send the NIRU document with your samples in addition to any other paperwork.

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Customs declarations post Brexit - what it means to me from outside UK?
Customs declarations post Brexit - what it means to me from outside UK?

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