Documents you need for exporting

Last updated: 27 April 2017

If you plan on exporting goods to another country, you must make sure you have the right documents.


The rules vary for trading in the EU, outside the EU and internationally. Before starting to export to a new country find out:

  • what export documentation may be required by customs and other government bodies in your target market
  • what regulations may apply to your product
  • if you need a licence to export from the UK/import into the market
  • what government fees may need to be paid
  • what additional documents your customers may require over and above those required by customs and government bodies

You can find out what tax, licences and duties your goods need and the required commodity codes by using the UK Trade Tariff.

If you're shipping goods that are dangerous you'll need to complete a dangerous goods declaration


Depending on where you're exporting to, either the customs authorities and/or your customer may need a 'certificate of origin' as part of your documentation.

A certificate of origin is a document that confirms that your goods have been produced, manufactured or processed in the UK, in Europe or another country.

You can get certificates of origin for your goods from your local Chamber of Commerce.


Depending on what you're moving and where, you may need to:

  • get licences
  • follow certain rules about shipping and packing
  • know if your goods are regulated or banned

You can find out what tax, licences and duties your goods need and the required commodity codes by using the UK Trade Tariff.

Hazardous declaration

There are strict controls around the export of dangerous goods.

You need to check that what you're exporting or importing isn't restricted, banned or sanctioned.

If you export dangerous goods you must fill in a Dangerous Goods Declaration Note.

There are also rules around packaging, handling and shipping dangerous goods. Dangerous Goods Safety Advisers (DGSA) can advise you on the safest way on packaging and shipping the goods.

Export licences

Depending on what you're exporting from Scotland you may need an export licence.

These are only required in some areas, for example:

  • military goods
  • goods with more than one use (if they may have a use by military)
  • technology
  • artworks
  • plants and animals
  • medicines and chemicals

Customs declarations

If you're exporting to countries outside the EU, you must make a customs declaration.

If you use Parcel Force, you must complete a CN23 form and attach this to the goods' outer packaging. This is the same as making a customs declaration.

Otherwise, either you or your freight forwarder need to make a customs export declaration using the electronic National Export System (NES).

You'll need to use the correct commodity codes for your product whether you're completing a CN23 form or using NES.