Skip to main content

How to manage cross-border transactions between the UK and the European Union

managing cross-border transactions between the UK and EU

The United Kingdom’s departure from the European Union, often referred to as Brexit, has had profound implications for businesses engaged in cross-border transactions between the UK and the EU. Among the numerous aspects to consider, Value Added Tax (VAT) is a central element that requires careful management. In this in-depth guide, we will explore the intricacies of managing VAT in cross-border trade post-Brexit, offering detailed insights into the challenges faced by businesses and providing comprehensive solutions to address these challenges effectively.

VAT in the EU and the UK

The UK’s exit from the EU reshaped the landscape of VAT in cross-border transactions. Prior to Brexit, the UK was a member of the EU’s Single Market, which facilitated frictionless trade with minimal customs and VAT formalities. However, post-Brexit, the UK transitioned to a third-country status in VAT matters. This transition brought forth significant changes and complexities for businesses involved in cross-border trade between the UK and the EU.

VAT for Exports and Imports

Exports from the UK to the EU:

In the case of businesses exporting goods from the UK to the EU, VAT is no longer levied at the point of export. However, customs duties and import VAT come into play upon entry into the EU. This means that the recipient of the goods in the EU is responsible for paying the import VAT, which must be declared and paid at the point of entry into the EU.

Imports into the UK from the EU:

Conversely, when goods are imported into the UK from the EU, they become subject to import VAT and customs duties. To facilitate trade and cash flow, businesses can make use of the postponed VAT accounting (PVA) system, which allows them to declare and recover import VAT in their VAT returns.

Challenges in Managing Cross-Border VAT

Effectively managing VAT in cross-border transactions between the UK and the EU presents several challenges, which businesses need to navigate carefully. These challenges encompass the following areas:

  1. VAT Registration: UK-based businesses selling goods to EU customers may be required to register for VAT in each EU member state where they conduct trade. This can lead to a significant administrative burden, including language barriers, as businesses must communicate with tax authorities in different EU countries.
  2. VAT Recovery: Businesses must be aware of the rules and procedures for recovering VAT incurred in both the EU and the UK. These procedures may vary, and understanding these nuances is essential for optimizing cash flow.
  3. Tax Compliance: To avoid potential penalties and ensure the smooth flow of goods, businesses must diligently adhere to VAT regulations in both the UK and the EU. This includes proper invoicing, record-keeping, and the timely filing of VAT returns. Click the bold link to learn more about our outsourced VAT and customs duty compliance solutions.
  4. Customs Procedures: In addition to VAT considerations, understanding and complying with customs procedures for goods entering or leaving the UK and the EU is essential. Non-compliance can result in delays and additional costs.

Solutions for Businesses

To effectively manage cross-border VAT in the post-Brexit era, businesses can consider several practical solutions:

  1. VAT Registration: Carefully assess whether it is more efficient to register for VAT in specific EU member states or to take advantage of the One-Stop Shop (OSS) and Import One-Stop Shop (IOSS) systems. These systems simplify VAT reporting for e-commerce sales and can significantly reduce the administrative burden.
  2. Postponed VAT Accounting: Consider utilising postponed VAT accounting (PVA) to defer import VAT payments, which can improve cash flow by allowing businesses to reclaim import VAT on their VAT returns.
  3. VAT Recovery: Establish and maintain a comprehensive record of all incurred VAT, both in the UK and the EU. Follow the necessary procedures for VAT recovery to maximise the financial benefits.
  4. Customs Expertise: Invest in developing in-house expertise in customs procedures or consider engaging a customs expert or consultant. An in-depth understanding of customs regulations is crucial for smooth cross-border trade.


The management of cross-border transactions between the UK and the European Union post-Brexit requires a comprehensive understanding of the VAT implications for exports and imports. While challenges exist, businesses can adapt and succeed in this evolving landscape by exploring VAT registration options, utilising postponed VAT accounting, and implementing robust VAT recovery procedures. Ensuring compliance with tax and customs regulations is essential to prevent delays, penalties, and additional costs. By carefully planning and staying informed about the dynamic regulatory environment, businesses can navigate the post-Brexit era successfully, fostering continued growth in cross-border trade between the UK and the EU.

The VAT Consultancy is highly experienced and provides relevant and practical advice to help you deal with the VAT and customs duty issues your organisation faces.  We provide global VAT and customs duty advice and VAT compliance services.  To discuss how we can help contact us today.