If you’re an established seller on Amazon in the US and looking for a way to expand your business, exporting is a logical step. The UK great market to start out in, as it gives access to other Amazon European marketplaces, as well as Amazon UK — including some 240 million customers. You’ll find you can also start to sell in Spain, France, Germany and a total of 27 European countries giving a great expansion opportunity, no matter what your business speciality.¹
This handy guide gives you all you need to know about selling on Amazon UK from the USA, including:
- How to start selling on Amazon UK, and reach other European marketplaces easily
- The best ways to import products to EU markets to grow your ecommerce business
- All you need to know about business registration, paying VAT, and maximizing your business profitability
Before you get started expanding your ecommerce business into Europe, you’ll need to make a couple of decisions about how to register and manage your business. Here are some of the points you need to think about.
When you start to sell in Europe, you may choose to register a new UK business, or depending on the circumstances, you could continue to use your existing LLC if you prefer. There are advantages to both options — so you might want to seek some professional advice if you’re not sure which will work best for you.
If you keep using your existing LLC when you register to sell on Amazon UK, you’ll have to register for VAT, and start to pay this sales tax immediately. Your Amazon UK and US accounts will also be linked. That means that, if there is a problem with one and your activities are blocked or suspended, your sales in both the US and in Europe will be impacted.
On the other hand, if you register a new UK business, you don’t need to register immediately for VAT if you choose not to, and your UK and US Amazon accounts will be separate entities. However, you’ll have to weigh this benefit against the added hassle of registering your UK business, to decide if it’s right for you.
Whenever you’re moving goods across country borders, there are a few administrative hurdles you’ll need to figure out. Taking advice from an expert can help here, if you’re not sure about your obligations — although Amazon and the UK government both publish fairly comprehensive guides to how to get started with importing to the UK. Here are a few things you’ll need to do.
If you’re importing goods into Europe, including the UK, you need a EORI number — which is short for economic operator registration and identification number. ²
You can apply online for this, and should receive the number within around 3 working days. This number is used when declaring your imported goods to customs. You’ll also need to find the correct commodity code to help customs officers check the goods are legal in Europe, and calculate any duty which has to be paid on them.
Before your goods can enter the EU, you’ll need to pay any import duty which is owed, to the customs authorities. Freight forwarders and courier services can help with this stage of the process.³
You may also need to register for the European sales tax, VAT. As we noted earlier, if you start to import in the UK using your existing LLC, you’ll have to register for VAT immediately. However, if you’re registering a new UK business, you may be able to choose to delay registering until your taxable sales hit the VAT threshold, which is at the time of writing this article £85,000. ⁴
Once you’re registered for VAT, you must charge VAT on any eligible sales, and pay this money to the UK tax authority HMRC. At present VAT is set at 20%, although it can change from time to time. You will also be able to claim back the VAT you pay on some business costs, once you are registered for VAT.
Once your business is up and running in Europe, you’ll need to be able to receive an increased number of international payments as your customer base grows. One great way to do this, is to get a Transferwise borderless account for business.
You can add your borderless details to your Amazon seller account, and then easily take payment in British pounds — or any of dozens of other currencies as your business expands. When you’re ready to withdraw your income to dollars, you can switch your foreign currency to USD using the mid-market exchange rate, and for just a low upfront fee.
The mid-market rate is the one banks use when they trade large volumes of currency on global financial markets. But this rate is often not passed on to retail and business customers converting smaller amounts of money. Instead, banks commonly add a markup to the exchange rate they use, which means they make a bigger profit, and you lose out.
Transferwise likes to do things differently. Because the borderless account is built for people sending and receiving international payments often, it offers a great deal, with low cost, secure and fast currency conversion and overseas transfers. All transfers use the mid-market rate — the one you’ll find on google — and there are no hidden fees to worry about. This can mean you protect the profit you make by selling on Amazon UK, and can concentrate on growing your business even further.
A great way to get your products to customers in Europe is to choose FBA — Fulfilled by Amazon. This involves sending your stock to an Amazon fulfilment centre in Europe, and having the Amazon team deal with the day to day logistics of distributing your goods to customers. This can make delivery times much quicker, giving a better customer experience — although there is a fee to pay for the service.
Because of the Amazon unified account, you have access to not only the UK, but the other amazon European marketplaces, and can sell using FBA throughout Europe if you choose to. More on the unified account below.
There are several different options within FBA, including the PAN-EU Program which means you only pay a local fulfilment cost, even if an order is shipped to a different European marketplace. Or you could choose the European Fulfilment Network (EFN), which allows you to store your goods in one fulfilment centre and only sell in other European markets when you have localized your listings for different countries. Finally, you can choose to send your goods to a number of different fulfilment centres to make for quicker delivery if you plan on shipping to many different European locations.
Amazon provide a great range of guidance on the FBA options available so you can pick the right one for you, if you decide to use this fulfilment route.
When you register for an Amazon UK account, you will be able to sell throughout Europe thanks to the Amazon unified account.
You’ll choose your source marketplace — in this case, the UK, but you’ll actually be able to sell your inventory on Amazon’s German, Italian, Spanish and French marketplaces, as well as within the UK. All your orders will be visible in the same place in your sellers account, which makes it simple to manage and promote your sales wherever they might be.
We mentioned above that you might need to register for VAT before you can sell in the UK or elsewhere in Europe. VAT is a sales tax applied to many goods within Europe, and as a seller, you may be required to collect VAT and pass it on to the local tax authorities.
You’re responsible for VAT compliance — although Amazon do offer support via online tools and a discounted arrangement with third party tax advisers who can help you navigate the VAT regulations in the UK and any other marketplaces you choose to sell in.
Amazon’s service lets you register for VAT, and file your VAT reports and submissions, all within Seller Central. As a non-EU seller, you can use this service for sales within the UK, Germany and the Czech Republic, for a fee of around €400 a year per country. You’ll need to provide business documentation, and details of your banking arrangements to get started — there are full details and guidance available on the Amazon website.
Getting started with Amazon UK isn’t too tricky, and there’s plenty of help out there. Here are the main steps you’ll need to take:
- Create your seller account in the UK by visiting the Amazon.co.uk website. If you’ve already got a professional account in the US, you can then link the 2 accounts to manage all your sales from the same place in Seller Central
- As part of the registration process, you will need to provide some documents to prove your identity, including your passport or driver’s license, proof of address, bank statements and some business registration details
- To protect your account you will also need to set up two-step registration, which involves having a code sent to your registered phone via SMS, voice message or using an app
- Build your listings. You’re now ready to start selling in Europe, and have access to all 5 EU Amazon marketplaces. Amazon’s Build International Listings tool makes it easy to synchronize your listings across all of the eligible markets
- Fulfil your European orders — either by shipping goods to customers yourself, or using one of the Amazon FBA options available to make the job even easier
You might also find our handy guide to selling on Amazon Global a helpful tool to grow your ecommerce business.
Here are a few more great ideas about how to make the most of selling on Amazon UK, and within the EU:
- Before you get started, make sure the products you want to sell are allowed in the UK and EU. There are different regulations in different countries regarding the sale of certain products, particularly medical and cosmetic products, electronics and food and beverages
- Amazon has partnerships with third party providers offering a range of support services to help you grow your business, including advertising and tax advice — these partners can make expansion into the UK significantly easier and less risky
- Get yourself a Wise borderless account for business, to make sure you can convert your overseas payments back to dollars using the mid-market exchange rate, and without any hidden fees to worry about
- Make sure you know when the key sales periods are in Europe, as they may vary slightly from those in the US. A full list of dates to know about is available on the Amazon website
- Amazon has a wide range of tools to help you improve your own sales — including Seller University, Selling Coach and customer metrics which let you track and grow your business performance
If you’re already running an ecommerce business in the US and want to expand, Amazon’s UK and European markets can be ideal. With a large and growing market, and great tools to help you access new customers, selling on Amazon UK can be a great springboard for your business. Make sure you invest some time learning about importing and selling goods, as well as thinking about how to minimize the fees you need to pay to do business abroad. Then you can focus on doing what you do best - sourcing, developing and selling products you love.
All sources last checked 18 March 2019
This publication is provided for general information purposes only and is not intended to cover every aspect of the topics with which it deals. It is not intended to amount to advice on which you should rely. You must obtain professional or specialist advice before taking, or refraining from, any action on the basis of the content in this publication. The information in this publication does not constitute legal, tax or other professional advice from TransferWise Limited or its affiliates. Prior results do not guarantee a similar outcome. We make no representations, warranties or guarantees, whether express or implied, that the content in the publication is accurate, complete or up to date.
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