Excise Movement and Control System

The Excise Movement and Control System (EMCS) is a computer system which captures and processes information in respect of movements of excise goods in duty suspension within the European Union (EU). The legal framework for EMCS is provided by European Council Directive 2008/118/EEC.

Background to EMCS

Getting started with EMCS

Managing your EMCS

Different trading roles

EMCS and exporting to non-EU countries

Additional EMCS guidance

What does EMCS do?

Since 1 January 2011, UK traders have been required to use EMCS when receiving and dispatching duty suspended excise goods that are moving within the EU. EMCS must also be used for intra-UK duty suspended movements except for those involving energy products or where the movement is one that meets the criteria for simplified procedures to be used instead. Further information about the simplified procedures and other duty suspended movements not required to go on EMCS can be found in Notice 197 on the HMRC website.

EMCS captures and processes information about the duty suspended movement online. It provides validation of data and allows real time notification of the dispatch and receipt of duty suspended excise goods. Authorised warehousekeepers, Registered Consignors, Registered Consignees and Temporary Registered Consignees can exchange messages online containing specific consignment and movement information with their trading counterparts throughout the EU.

EMCS links over 150,000 traders in the different national administrations across the EU. Each Member State has developed their own national EMCS application and these systems are linked to all other Member States through a central domain, maintained by the European Commission.

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When was EMCS introduced?

EMCS was introduced in the following stages:

  • 1 April 2010 -
    This stage introduced EMCS to record the dispatch and receipt of duty suspended excise goods between EU Member States using an electronic Administrative Document (eAD). Not all Member States, including the UK, were able to dispatch duty suspended excise goods using EMCS so paper AADs and manual receipts continued until 1 January 2011.
  • 31 December 2010 -
    From 1 January 2011, all UK traders must use EMCS to dispatch or receive duty suspended excise goods to and from the EU. Intra-UK movements that previously required a W8 form or commercial equivalent must also use EMCS - except for movements of energy products or those meeting the criteria for simplified procedures. Consignors can now cancel a movement or change the destination using EMCS.
  • 1 January 2012 -
    From January 2012 traders can send and receive a notification message when a consignment is either incorrect or incomplete. Traders are also able to split a consignment of energy products when they are going to more than one destination. You can read more details about the changes brought in at this stage by following the EMCS - January 2012 stage link below.
  • 15 October 2012 -
    From October 2012 traders are able to send new messages about inconsistencies with deliveries (for example shortages) and provide additional information to the Member State administration regarding events in transit. In addition the transport mode restrictions on splitting movements of energy products were removed, and Registered Consignors are able to cancel eADs. You can read more about the changes which were introduced at this stage by following the 'EMCS - October 2012 stage' link below.

EMCS - January 2012 stage

EMCS - October 2012 stage

Additional information about the functional specification and phased implementation of EMCS can be found on the European Commission website by clicking on the link below:

EMCS Computerisation Project (Opens new window)

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How does EMCS work

The European Commission developed the EMCS Business Prototype (BPR). This is a useful tool that illustrates how EMCS operates and is available from the Commission website which you can access using the link below.

EMCS in Practice (Opens new window)

You can also see an overview of the standard process which covers most EMCS movements using the link below.

EMCS overview (PDF 39K)

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The benefits of EMCS

EMCS allows for the secure online transmission of data between all parties and immediate validation of the electronic Administrative Document (eAD). This makes sure that before duty suspended excise goods are dispatched the consignee is approved to receive the goods. On screen validation and 'core checks' help minimise the risk of incorrect data being placed on the system. EMCS also reduces the scope for excise fraud as it allows both Member States and traders to monitor movements online in real time.

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EMCS - options available

There are a number of options available to you. You can:

  • use a commercial software package
  • develop a suitable in-house solution
  • use the free EMCS service on the HM Revenue & Customs (HMRC) website

A number of commercial software suppliers have tested their products with HMRC and, when they have tested successfully, HMRC lists them for your information on its website. If you would like to see the latest list of these products, please follow the link below.

EMCS commercial software

If you would like further information about developing your own in-house system please contact the Software Developer Support Team (SDST). Details of how to contact SDST can be found by using the following link.

Software Developers Support Team

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How to register and enrol for EMCS

Before you can use EMCS you will first have to register and enrol for HMRC Online Services. You will also need a System for the Exchange of Excise Data (SEED) registration which provides you with an Excise ID number (also referred to as the 'Excise Registration Number'). Your Excise ID number can be found on the letter/certificate that approves you to dispatch and/or receive excise goods under suspension arrangements. You will then be able to add EMCS to the list of HMRC Online Services you can access.

Please note: most UK businesses trading in duty suspended excise goods after 1 January 2011 must have a valid Excise ID Number and must be registered and enrolled for EMCS. However, EMCS does not need to be used for intra-UK movements of energy products or intra-UK movements meeting the criteria for simplified procedures.

If you don't dispatch or receive excise goods under duty suspension, or EMCS does not need to be used for the type of movements you make, you do not need to register and enrol for EMCS.

To find out more information about SEED, and the Excise ID number, please select the link below.

System for the Exchange of Excise Data (SEED)

If EMCS is required for the duty suspended movements you make, once you have your Excise ID number, the action you will need to take to register and enrol for EMCS will depend on whether you are a new or existing user of HMRC Online Services.

If you are new to HMRC Online Services:

You must register for HMRC Online Services through the HMRC website which you can access at the link below.

HMRC Online Services

Then follow the instructions below:

  • Select 'Register' in the 'New User' section.
  • Select the type of account you need - 'Organisation'.
  • Select ' EMCS' by placing a tick in the respective box and move to the following screen by selecting 'Next'.
  • 'Step one' - follow the on screen instructions - read and confirm that you accept the Terms and Conditions before progressing to the next step.
  • 'Step two' - (About you) type in your full name and email address and confirm your email address.
  • 'Step three' - (Create Password) follow the notes about the format and make sure you confirm your chosen password (if you insert it incorrectly the system will advise you to re-enter your password).
  • 'Step four' - you have now been set up with an HMRC Online Services account and your unique User ID for that account is shown on screen. You must make a note of your User ID and keep it safe, as you will need it every time you log in to use HMRC online services. It will not be displayed again.
  • 'Step five' - you then need to enrol for EMCS by typing in Known Facts - Excise Registration Number/ Excise ID (GB**********) and Postcode). Note: you must use your warehousekeeper excise ID beginning with 'GBWK' (not your premises approval excise ID) if you are approved as an authorised warehousekeeper or have an approval for a brewery, cider premises, wine premises, tobacco store, mineral oil producer premises, or tied oils warehouse.
  • A list of services you have enrolled for will be displayed on screen. Wait for your Activation Code to be sent to you - this should arrive within seven days. This is a unique Activation Code (sometimes referred to as PIN) which helps to ensure your security.
  • You should activate your services using the Activation Code. Once you've used the Activation Code it can be securely destroyed.
  • Your Activation Code is only valid for 28 days. If you don't activate the service within that period, you'll have to re-enrol for the service and wait for the new Activation Code to arrive by post.
  • If you lose your Activation Code before the 28 days have expired, then a new one can be requested online. Just log on to your account and follow the instructions.

If you are an existing HMRC Online Services user but not yet enrolled for EMCS:

Log on to HMRC Online Services using the following link and then follow the actions set out below:

HMRC Online Services

  • Type in your User ID and Password, taking care to enter it in exactly the same format as advised.
  • Select 'Enrol for EMCS' from your HMRC 'My Services' page.
  • Type in Known Facts (Excise Registration Number/Excise ID (GB**********) and Postcode). Note: you must use your warehousekeeper excise ID beginning with 'GBWK' (not your premises approval excise ID) if you are approved as an authorised warehousekeeper or have an approval for a brewery, cider premises, wine premises, tobacco store, mineral oil producer premises, or tied oils warehouse.
  • A list of services you've enrolled for will be displayed on screen. Wait for your Activation Code to be sent to you - this should arrive within seven days. This is a unique Activation Code (sometimes referred to as PIN) which helps to ensure your security.
  • You should activate EMCS using the Activation Code. Once you've used the Activation Code it can be securely destroyed.
  • Your Activation Code is only valid for 28 days. If you don't activate the service within that period, you'll have to re-enrol for the service and wait for the new Activation Code to arrive by post.
  • If you lose your Activation Code before the 28 days have expired, then a new one can be requested online. Just log into your account and follow the instructions.

Additional information about registering and enrolling for HMRC Online Services is available at the following link:

Registration & Enrolment FAQ's

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Using the correct Excise Registration Number (ERN) to register and enrol

The process for enrolling for EMCS is different to that for Alcohol and Tobacco Warehousing Declarations (ATWD).

In the UK there are a range of approvals for persons that can hold, dispatch and receive duty suspended goods such as authorised warehousekeepers, Registered Consignors, Registered Consignees and Temporary Registered Consignees. The correct ERN to use for each role is shown below.

Authorised warehousekeepers and persons with approvals for a brewery, cider premises, wine premises, tobacco store or mineral oil premises

To register and enrol for EMCS, warehousekeepers must use the warehousekeeper excise ID. This is the 13 alpha-numeric character reference that normally starts with 'GBWK' and can be found on your 'approval' letter. You should not use the warehouse excise ID for enrolment for EMCS as this relates to a 'physical premises' not the 'authorised person'.

The warehousekeeper excise ID should be used in EMCS for the consignor/consignee reference.

The warehouse excise ID should be used in EMCS for the place of dispatch/place of delivery.

Registered Consignors, Registered Consignees and Temporary Registered Consignees

Registered Consignors, Registered Consignees and Temporary Registered Consignees have a single 13 alpha numeric Excise Registration Identification which they must use to register and enrol for EMCS.

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What to do if you have used the wrong number to enrol for EMCS

If you have registered using your warehouse excise ID instead of warehousekeeper excise ID you will need to de-enrol for the service.

To de-enrol for EMCS log on to HMRC Online Services using the link below and then complete the following steps:

HMRC Online Services

  • Log on to the 'Welcome to HMRC Online services' page and select 'Your Account' from the main menu on the left.
  • Select 'Remove Services'.
  • Select 'Excise Movement and Control System'.
  • Select 'Next'.
  • Confirm the removal.

You can now re-enrol with the warehousekeeper excise ID on the 'Your HMRC Services' page.

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Managing your EMCS account online

When you have registered, enrolled and activated EMCS you will be able to:

  • change your details
  • change your password
  • view secure messages sent to you by HMRC and the Government Gateway

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Setting up different users in an organisation to use EMCS

The first person from an organisation to register with HMRC Online Services is an Administrator with full access rights to manage their Online Service Organisation account. This person can add other members of their organisation onto the service either as a fellow Administrator (peer) with the same rights to access and manage online services, or as an Assistant with a restricted subset of access rights.

You can only add 'Administrators and Assistants' by visiting the Government Gateway website and you will need your HMRC Online Services user ID and password. When you have accessed the Government Gateway you have the option to:

  • add 'Administrators' by following the 'Add an administrator' link and completing the on screen instructions
  • add 'Assistants' by following the 'Add an Assistant' link and completing the on screen instructions

You can access the Government Gateway using the link below.

Government Gateway (Opens new window)

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Registered Consignors and EMCS

When non-EU excise goods are imported into the EU via a UK port or airport, they can only move under excise duty suspension arrangements to an allowable destination following their release to free circulation (after the import declaration has been made and accepted and the goods have been released from Customs control).

Only someone who is approved as a Registered Consignor can start a duty suspended movement on release of excise goods to free circulation. Registered Consignors must also register and enrol for EMCS in order to dispatch excise goods in duty suspension from the place of release to free circulation.

HMRC will only consider applications for Registered Consignor approval from import agents and authorised warehousekeepers who receive non-EU excise goods following their release to free circulation. Further information on how to apply to become a Registered Consignor can be found in Notice 196.

To apply for Registered Consignor approval, you will need to complete application form EX72 which can be found on the HMRC 'find a form' page using the link below, under the 'Excise forms' section.

HMRC 'find a form'

Please note: If neither the import agent who declares the goods to free circulation nor the receiving excise warehousekeeper are approved as a Registered Consignor, the correct procedures have not been followed, which means the goods have not been correctly placed under an excise duty suspension arrangement. The goods are therefore deemed to have been released for consumption in the UK, and as such, the import agent may be liable for the excise duty due.

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Registered Consignees, Temporary Registered Consignees and EMCS

Both Registered Consignees and Temporary Registered Consignees need prior approval from HMRC. Once approved, they can receive goods dispatched from another Member State under duty suspension arrangements but can not hold or dispatch duty suspended goods.

Registered Consignees and Temporary Registered Consignees must also be able to receive notification of goods intended for them and discharge those movements online using EMCS. These traders must therefore register and enrol for EMCS.

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Exports to non-EU countries

All the legal requirements of EMCS apply to both direct and indirect exports of duty suspended excise goods. The customs export declaration is a separate procedure and does not replace EMCS requirements.

Further details regarding direct and indirect exports can be found in Notice 197.

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Completing the eAD for direct and indirect exports

Before you remove excise goods from the excise warehouse, you must ensure that you have completed an eAD and received the Administrative Reference Code (ARC). Completing the eAD for export movements is the same as for all other excise duty suspended movements. However, certain information fields need to be completed as follows:

  • in the 'message type' field enter '1' - this is the default code if you are using the HMRC EMCS service
  • in the 'destination type' field 1a enter '6' - the code for export
  • in field 8a 'Customs Office reference code' you must show the reference code for the office of export where the export declaration is lodged. You will find this 8 digit code in the Customs Office List (COL) (follow the link below and select the country, region and city from the drop down lists. In most cases this will be an office in the United Kingdom)
  • If you are authorised for Local Clearance Procedures (LCP), the office of export will be the Customs National Clearance Hub - the code is GB 000383

List of EU customs offices (Opens new window)

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Export declaration requirements

You can make the export declaration before, or at the time the goods arrive at the place of exit from the UK. Alternatively this may be done using LCP if you are authorised to do so.

You must make sure that the eAD and the export declaration are cross referenced. Excise Information Sheet 10/12 outlines the requirement to show the full ARC (or Local Reference Number (LRN) if the movement is started under fallback procedures) in box 40 of the export declaration. You need to complete the three fields in Box 40 as follows:

  • Field 1 - enter 'Z'
  • Field 2 - enter 'AAD' when goods are moving under an eAD (App C12 of Vol 3 of the Tariff refers)
  • Field 3 - enter the full ARC (for example 13GB12345678912345671)

You can amend the export declaration at any time prior to the departure message being received.

Note: for exports started under fallback procedures you need to complete the three fields in Box 40 as follows:

  • Field 1 - enter 'Z'
  • Field 2 - enter 'FAD'
  • Field 3 must contain the LRN instead of the ARC.
  • The LRN must be 20 characters or less.
  • If the LRN is greater than 20 characters it must be truncated to 20, omitting the least significant characters
  • If EMCS becomes available before the departure message has been sent to the Customs Handling of Import and Export Freight system (CHIEF), box 40 of the export declaration must be amended to show the full ARC.

In addition and for indirect exports only, box 29 of the export declaration must be completed. Volume 3 Part 1 of the Integrated Tariff gives details of how to complete this box.

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Reports of export

Only when the dispatching warehousekeeper receives a report of export from HMRC is the movement considered to have ended and the guarantor's potential liability discharged. The only exception to this is for direct exports under Local Clearance Procedures (LCP).

Further information about obtaining a report of export can be found in Notice 197. Additionally, Excise Information Sheet 05/13 sets out the procedures that must be followed in order for the dispatching warehousekeeper to correctly close the excise duty suspended movement on EMCS when exporting excise goods to a non-EU country.

Direct exports and the simplification for certain Local Clearance Procedure (LCP) authorised operators

There are some circumstances when a direct export from the UK - which is one where goods leave the territory of the EU directly from the UK - may be moved to the place of exit in the UK without completing an eAD. You do not need to complete an eAD if all the following conditions are met:

  • The occupier of the excise or distillers warehouse is authorised to operate Local Clearance Procedures under Articles 263 to 267 of Commission Regulation 2454/93.
  • A full customs export declarations is made.
  • The export declaration must include details of the movement guarantee provided to cover the movement from the warehouse to the UK port or airport. This is done by using an Additional Information (AI) statement with 'GRNTR' at the header level of the declaration (Box 44). Full details of the person providing the guarantee - 'Consignor', 'Transporter' or 'Owner' - must also be provided in the AI statement text field (see Customs Tariff Volume 3, Appendix C9 for further details).

Warehousekeepers of dispatch should obtain and keep commercial evidence that the goods have left the territory of the UK/EU. This should be the notification of departure and, at the very least, this evidence should detail the export declaration Movement Reference Number (MRN).

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