Brexit and E-Commerce

At the time of writing, negotiations between the UK and the EU on post-Brexit trade are continuing, with time running out for a deal. With the deadline looming at the end of December 2020, customers have now started to ask us what they may need to do to prepare for sales to the EU.

Unfortunately, uncertainty still prevails. Government advertising has been encouraging us to prepare but many businesses still do not understand what preparations may be required. Secondly, as a service provider our expertise is in building and developing websites, providing hosting and domains. All we can do is read the same information that is available to customers. Our interpretation would be potentially subject to the same subjective conclusions that any non-bureaucratic reader may derive.

While we would love to offer the reassurances that our customers are seeking, we are unable to provide actionable advice, particularly where penalties for non-compliance may apply. We would therefore always recommend taking legal advice or consulting a tax professional who specialises in this subject for definitive guidance.

However, what we can do is offer assistance to update e-commerce sites with changes to shipping rates, taxation settings and privacy policies. Please do get in touch with us if you feel your website requires such updates.

We can also identify relevant official information online, to which links follow below. We’ll aim to add more relevant information if possible, as it arises.

For a typical e-commerce vendor who wants to continue selling to EU customers, we might propose three areas to consider, to see if you already trade or handle data in the appropriate way (for overseas online sales) or if changes are required. These areas might be defined broadly as:

  1. Customs regulations for selling into the EU
  2. Tax regulations
  3. GDPR & data protection

General information for business on the transition to Brexit

The UK government has a portal to their official information here:
https://www.gov.uk/transition

Shopify has also complied a good (non-official) overview regarding e-commerce and Brexit here:
https://www.shopify.co.uk/enterprise/what-brexit-means-for-ecommerce

Customs regulations for selling into the EU

E-commerce vendors who wish continue selling into the EU will want to pay attention to this notice, advising on goods sent by post to the EU. 

In short, the advice, at the time of writing, is “You do not need a customs declaration for packages sent to a country within the EU.”

Tax regulations

The previous article linked above also states: “For private persons there is no legal requirement to obtain evidence of posting. However, if you’re in business and registered for VAT you will need to obtain and retain a certificate of posting (C&E132) to support the VAT zero-rating of your supply, and to discharge your liability to customs charges on goods temporarily imported into the UK.”

This may mean that adjustments are required on your website to change the application of taxes to EU countries. This will depend on how you have been trading to date.

GDPR & data protection

UK government advice confirms that GDPR will be retained in UK law. Existing data protection legislation will continue to apply.

While we cannot offer formal advice here on privacy, data protection and GDPR, we do recommend following as closely as possible the guidance and directions of the Information Commissioners Office as it is their judgement which will apply on any issues that arise. They offer substantial guidance for organisations about privacy at the end of the Brexit transition period.

It’s important to bear in mind that GDPR and UK data protection legislation applies to an entire business and not just its website. If you are concerned about best practice in security and data management in the office and online, we recommend you contact the IT experts at our parent company Cloudstream Technology. The IT professionals there can advise on Cyber Essentials and other methods of securing and managing data.

 

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