Reporting your EU sales using the EC Sales List (ESL)

If you're a VAT-registered business in the UK that supplies goods and certain services to a VAT-registered customer in another European Union (EU) country, you'll have to tell HM Revenue & Customs (HMRC) about the supplies.

You need to complete an EC Sales List (ESL) showing details of each of your customers in the EU and the value (in sterling) of the supplies you've made to them in the period. If you haven't made any supplies (or issued any credit notes) you should not submit an ESL and the ESL Online service (ECSL) will not allow you to submit a nil declaration.

This guide explains who has to fill in an ESL and when it has to be completed. It also tells you about the different ways you can submit it to HMRC.

On this page:

EC Sales Lists - the basics

All VAT-registered businesses in the UK must provide HMRC with details of goods and certain services supplied to a VAT-registered customer in another EU country.

You submit the details on what's known as an ESL.

This contains details of:

  • your customer
  • the relevant country code
  • the value of the goods and/or services

Find out how to complete and submit your EC Sales List

Why HMRC needs EC Sales Lists

The information you give on the ESL is used by the tax authorities in other EU countries. They use it to check that the businesses you've supplied your goods and/or services to are dealing with the VAT correctly.

The details are also used to build up anonymous statistics showing how goods are traded in the EU.

The same thing happens if your business receives goods from a supplier in another EU country. Your supplier also completes a similar sales list showing the value of the goods and/or services they've supplied to you.

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Who should complete an EC Sales List?

You'll need to complete an ESL if you've done any of these:

  • Filled in Box 8 of your VAT Return - HMRC will automatically send you an ESL to complete.
  • Supplied any goods to a VAT-registered business in another EU country. This applies even if you didn't invoice for them - unless they count as samples under the VAT rules.
  • Moved any of your own goods to a VAT-registered branch, office or subsidiary company that you own in another EU country.
  • Given a VAT-registered customer in another EU country a credit note for goods - even if you didn't supply them with any goods in this period.
  • Sold goods to a VAT-registered customer in another EU country (outside the UK) but didn't actually handle the items. You arranged for your supplier, who's located in one EU country, to send the goods directly to your customer. This is known as triangulation (see below for more information).
  • Supplied services to a VAT-registered EU businesses, where the place of supply is the customer's country and the supply is subject to the reverse charge in that country (see below for more information).

Read about what counts as a sample for VAT purposes

Find out how to complete and submit an EC Sales List

Goods and 'triangulation'

'Triangulation' means when goods are supplied along a chain of three businesses within the EU, but instead of the goods physically passing from one to the other, they are delivered directly from the first to the last business in the chain.

Read about goods and 'triangulation' in section 13 of VAT Notice 725

Services subject to the reverse charge

The 'reverse charge' means that it is the customer who must account for the VAT rather than the supplier.

Find out if the services you're supplying are subject to the reverse charge in section 18 of VAT Notice 741A

Read more about how to work out the 'place of supply' for VAT purposes

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Who can complete a simplified ESL?

If your business only makes a low level of supply of goods to VAT-registered customers in another EU country you may not need to fill in the full ESL. You can contact HMRC and ask for permission to submit a simplified annual ESL, if all of these are true:

  • The value of your total taxable turnover in a year isn't more than the VAT registration threshold plus £25,500.
  • Your supplies to customers in other EU countries aren't more than £11,000 a year.
  • Your sales don't include New Means of Transport.

If HMRC agrees that you can use the simplified ESL it means that you:

  • never need to fill in the actual value of your supplies to each customer - instead you enter a nominal value of £1
  • only have to complete the form once a year - you agree with HMRC when you're going to send it in

How to contact HMRC

More about what is a New Means of Transport

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Submitting separate ESLs for different parts of your business

You can choose to submit separate ESLs on paper or online if you have:

  • individual branches of your business
  • individual companies within a group VAT registration
  • self-accounting branches within a group VAT registration

You should contact HMRC to arrange to do this. You will be given a three-digit code for each branch or company in your business. You will need to use this as an identifier when you complete the separate ESLs.

If you wish to submit data online for individual branches you must register each one separately with HMRC's Online Services.

Please note that if the total value of goods supplied from all the branches of your business is more than £35,000 (excluding VAT) - in the current or previous four quarters, each branch will have to submit a monthly ESL.

How to contact HMRC

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How to submit your EC Sales List

There are several different ways that you can complete and submit your ESL.

Electronic submission of your EC Sales List

You can choose any of the following methods:

  • ESL Online service (ECSL) - this is an on-screen form, similar to the paper ESL.
  • ECSL 'bulk upload' feature. You'll need to submit your data using either a CSV (Comma Separated Variable) or XML (Extensible Markup Language) file. The bulk upload feature is particularly useful for businesses that have lots of EU customers.
  • ECSL via an XML Channel, tailored to larger businesses and agent organisations willing to invest in messaging software.
  • UN-EDIFACT format submissions.

If you are already a registered user of HMRC Online Services, you can log in to enrol for ESL online.

Login for the ESL Online service

Read how to prepare the data for your ESL and submit it

Paper submission of your EC Sales List

You can choose any of the following methods:

  • paper ESL, form issued automatically by HMRC each month/quarter
  • downloadable form VAT 101 EC Sales List and form VAT 101(A) EC Sales List Continuation Sheet available from the HMRC website
  • paper form VAT 101 EC Sales List - available from the VAT Helpline

Please note:

If you're completing a form VAT 101(A) it must always be accompanied by a signed form VAT 101.

If you're using the downloadable forms, you must complete them onscreen before printing (single sided) and posting to HMRC. You must not download the forms and complete them by hand. If you want to complete the form by hand, you must use one of the paper forms that HMRC send you in the post.

Get downloadable forms VAT 101 and VAT 101A

Get notes to help you complete form VAT 101 EC Sales List and form VAT 101(A) EC Sales List Continuation Sheet

Get a paper VAT101 from the VAT Helpline

Using an accountant to submit your EC Sales List

If you prefer, your accountant or tax adviser can act on your behalf to submit the ESL but you remain legally responsible for its accuracy and making sure it's sent to HMRC on time.

Find out more about using your accountant or tax adviser to complete your ESL

The benefits of submitting your ESL online

There are several benefits if you decide to submit your ESL online, such as:

  • It can save you time and trouble because your data is checked automatically and certain errors are highlighted for you.
  • You can look at previous ESLs that you've submitted online before.
  • It's faster and more secure than sending your ESL in the post.
  • You get a dated acknowledgement of the data you've submitted.
  • You might be able to create the file directly from your accounting software package. This cuts down on the time needed to enter the information - and can also reduce errors when the data is being keyed in.
  • You will have an extra seven days to submit your ESL compared with paper forms.

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Using the ESL Online service (ECSL)

You'll need to enrol for the ESL Online service (ECSL) if you want to submit your ESL using any of these methods:

  • the online form
  • the bulk upload feature for CSV or XML files
  • the XML Channel (tailored to larger traders and agent organisations willing to invest in messaging software)
  • UN-EDIFACT

You'll need to enrol for ESL Online Service (ECSL) even if you're already registered to use VAT Online services.

Find out how to enrol for the ESL Online service (ECSL)

How to complete your ESL using the online form

Log in to submit your ESL online now

If you are already a registered user of HMRC Online Services or the Government Gateway, you can log in to enrol for the ESL Online service (ECSL) and submit your EC Sales List (ESL) now.

Log in for the ESL Online service (ECSL)

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When to submit your EC Sales List

How often do you need to submit your ESL?

Your business is supplying:

Your customer is:

The value of your supplies to those customers:

You need to submit EC Sales Lists every:

Goods

a VAT-registered business in another EU country

is over the threshold of £35,000 in the current or four previous quarters.

month

Goods

a VAT-registered business in another EU country

is under the threshold of £35,000 in the current or four previous quarters.

quarter

Services that are subject to the reverse charge in the customer's country

a VAT-registered business in another EU country

N/A

quarter (but you can choose to submit them every month)

Goods and services where you are required to submit monthly lists for your goods

a VAT-registered business in another EU country

N/A

  • month (for all supplies), or
  • month (for goods) and quarter (for services)

Annual ESLs

If you make annual VAT Returns you can contact HMRC to apply for approval to submit your ESL once a year provided you meet all of the following conditions:

  • your total annual taxable turnover does not exceed £145,000
  • the annual value of your supplies to other EU countries is not more than £11,000
  • your sales don't include New Means of Transport

How to contact HMRC

More about what is a New Means of Transport

Deadlines for submitting your ESL

From 1 January 2010 you must submit your ESLs to HMRC:

  • for online submissions - within 21 days from the end of the reporting period
  • for paper ESLs - within 14 days from the end of the reporting period

If you send the ESL in late, you may have to pay a penalty.

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More useful links

More about EC Sales Lists in VAT Notice 725

Check a customer's VAT registration number on the European Commission web site (Opens new window)

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