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Impact of Brexit upon the movement of horses between GB and the EU and Northern Ireland

11 December 2020


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Currently the sale and movement of horses from one member state to another is an intra-EU movement and the paperwork required is relatively straightforward. In 2020, this sale is a zero rated intra-EU despatch if the buyer is VAT registered. In 2021, the same sale becomes a zero rated export. As a seller or a buyer, you will need a UK EORI number at the UK border from 1 January 2021, which is issued by HMRC. Once issued, the number is GB followed by your nine digit VAT number and three zeros.

From the 1 January 2021, even if a free trade deal is agreed in the next few weeks, the administrative burden for GB-EU trade will increase.  Most horse owners will employ either directly or indirectly a freight agent, so it is very likely that they will be familiar with these new procedures, some of which already exist for the movement of horses to or from the UK to a third country such as the USA.  Due to the special status of Northern Ireland from 1 January, the same rules will apply to horses moving from Scotland, Wales and England to Northern Ireland.


A full export entry must be submitted to HMRC for the movement of goods from GB to the EU, and on arrival in the EU, a full import entry must be submitted also.  The rate of customs duty for pure bred horses in both the existing EU tariff and the new UK tariff (to be introduced on 1 January 2021) is nil under commodity code 0101 2100.

In 2021, the purchase of goods including horses from the EU into the UK requires a full import entry.  Rather than pay import VAT outright, a new system called “postponed accounting” is to be introduced for all imports into the UK (from the EU and the Rest of the World) from 1 January 2021, so the import VAT is never paid, but declared as output tax in box 1 of the next VAT return and the input tax claimed in box 4 of the same return.  The freight agent “claims” this new Postponed Import VAT by either;

  • If the entry is submitted by the HMRC online system called CHIEF enter the letter G  in box 47e on line for import VAT (B00) and enter either the EORI number (which includes your VAT registration number) into box 8 (Header Consignee) or, if applicable, the VRN in box 44h (Registered Consignee)
  • If the entry is submitted via the HMRC online system called CDS, you need to enter your VAT registration number at header level in data element 3/40. VAT will be recorded against your EORI and will be at declaration level only.

To move horses and other equines from GB to the EU from 1 January 2021, in addition to the full customs entries, discussed above,  the seller will also need to:

  • Speak to your official vet to book an appointment so you can get blood tests taken in time;
  • Liaise with your freight agent or transporter and tell them when you plan to travel, as you may need more time to move through an EU border control post.

You will also need to:

  • Get tests for certain diseases including equine infectious anaemia;
  • Meet isolation and residency requirements;
  • Apply for an export health certificate (EHC) from the Animal Plant & Health Agency (APHA).  The EHC is an official document that confirms your export meets the health requirements of the destination country;
  • Check that you have the right equine identification, either a horse passport or a supplementary travel ID issued by the UK government;
  • Check that the person transporting the animals has the correct documentation.  To transport live animals from GB to the EU, the seller will need to apply to an EU member state for an EU-issued transporter authorisation, certificate of competence and a vehicle approval certificate.  The EU will no longer recognise GB issued versions of these documents;
  • Check if you need an equine welfare declaration.

Additionally it is recommended that you:

  • read the guidance from the Dept of Agriculture, Food and the Marine in the Republic of Ireland (ROI) if you regularly move horses or other equines between the UK and ROI;
  • consider applying for an ATA carnet to make movements of horses easier.

There will be no changes to the way horses are exported from NI to the EU. These exports will continue as before.

For services, such as b2b selling or buying commission earned from EU customers, or services purchased from EU suppliers, there is little change in 2021.

The VAT place of supply for these b2b services remains where the customer belong. So if commission is earned from an EU customer, the VAT place of supply is outside the UK and no UK VAT is charged.   The purchaser applies the Reverse Charge procedure, treating themselves as both the buyer and the seller.  If the purchaser is fully taxable, the Reverse Charge output tax equals the Reverse Charge input tax. For b2b sales of services such as commission (and goods) in 2020, you have to submit a quarterly European Sales List (ESL) but this is no longer needed for EU sales in 2021.