The last few years have certainly thrown some curveballs at UK businesses, most notably in the form of Brexit and a global pandemic. Brexit forced businesses to change up and revaluate planning and processes within a certain amount of time. Talking Tables' Director Mark McCormack discusses the trails and tribulations we faced:
How easy was it to navigate Brexit?
It has been quite a challenge being able to understand and then implement all the changes that have been required to successfully continue exporting and importing from the EU. Exporting has proved by far the biggest hurdle. It was important to us from the start that EU customers would not be faced with the problem of having to customs clear our goods into their own countries, paying import VAT and duty. Unless you are already a big importer, you won’t have any experience of these areas. We could have easily lost all our EU businesses to competitors based on the EU mainland.
How long ago did you start?
We first started in planning in late 2019. There is a requirement for any company whose products are sold in the EU to have the name and address of an authorised representative shown on the product. That address needed to be in the EU. Our UK address would no longer work. Therefore, we set up an EU subsidiary, Talking Tables BV, based in The Netherlands, in March 2020, to solve this issue.
What was the biggest hurdle to overcome?
We needed to find a cost-effective way to import goods into the EU and handle the import VAT and duties. We have worked closely with our fiscal representative in The Netherlands, EDCR, to act for us to handle the import process into the EU mainland. The solution for Eire was more complicated, as these goods could not ship via The Netherlands, we needed to VAT register Talking Tables in Eire to be able to reclaim any import VAT on goods shipped from the UK. In both cases, we have had to make software amendments to our ERP package so that the correct paperwork can be produced earlier in export process.
What are you most pleased with?
In terms of supplying the EU, I am very pleased that the new method of supply via our EU hub has meant goods have continued to flow to EU customers with little inconvenience to them other than the fact that orders are taking longer to arrive. The UK has introduced a new duty tariff code for goods coming from the Far East which replaced the existing EU tariff. This has resulted in duty savings in a number of product areas. We have been able to put these savings towards the additional costs that have emerged through having to deal with more paperwork and customs entries. The UK has also introduced postponed VAT accounting for all imports, not just those from the EU (or non-EU), this has brought a cashflow benefit as the import VAT is now paid later.
Any top tips for other businesses?
Read around the subject as much as possible. Attend training courses and webinars. There is a lot of free resource out there, and the UK Government are also providing training grants to help companies understand the additional complexities of training. Do as much networking as you can with peers. For instance, we spoke to other users of our ERP software to understand how they found ways around the various challenges that were being introduced to EU trading.