Exporting Glossary

Having a good understanding of exporting terminology is essential for any business that sends a lot of its goods and products abroad.

Here at TNT we know all about exporting goods from the UK and realise how important it is that your parcels arrive at the right location on time and in good condition. This exporting glossary outlines most of the key exporting words and phrases you need to navigate the process.

Commercial Invoice

A commercial invoice is used as a customs declaration during trade. It is an itemised list of the goods being shipped that is included among an exporter’s collection papers. The parties involved, goods being transported, country of manufacture and codes for the goods must all be included on the commercial invoice along with a signature.


Commodity Codes

Commodity codes are vital for ensuring the correct amount of tax and duty is paid on all exports. The online Trade Tariff can be used to find the right commodity codes for exporting goods and used to work out the duty, VAT to be paid and any other special licences or procedures required.



Consignment is the shipping terminology used to describe the delivery of goods from an exporter to the consignee, under the premise that the consignee will sell the goods on behalf of the exporter. The exporter retains title to the goods until they are sold, with the consignee selling on commission and any net proceeds going to the exporter.



The country and type of goods being exported will affect the amount of duty charged when exporting abroad. The UK Trade Tariff holds information about duty charges when exporting to third countries, and in some cases they can be claimed back when sending goods outside of the EU through duty relief.


EORI Number

You will need to register for an Economic Operator Registration Identification (EORI) number to export goods to a third country. It is used when submitting an electronic export declaration, along with registering with and submitting through the CHIEF system, that is necessary unless using a freight forwarder or agent to take care of it.

Export Licence

This is a government document that allows the licensee to export the designated goods and products to specified destinations. General and individually validated export licences are both available, though whether you need one will depend on the country you are exporting from.


Freight Forwarder

Rather than arranging all the export details yourself, a freight forwarder is an independent business that takes care of everything for a fee. They are the best source of information and expertise, with an in-depth knowledge of exporting a to z that will ensure successful deliveries.



The National Export Service (NES) is part of the CHIEF system, where all electronic export declarations are submitted through.



The Overseas Business Networks initiative (OBNi) is a source of support for British companies attempting to do business in 41 hard to access markets through exporting. They offer services such as information, intelligence, office space in some cases and more, to help get this up and running.

Packing List

This is simply a list showing the number and type of goods being shipped. It is important for the exporter to prove that they actually sent the products to the receiving party, as well as providing other important information.



The UK Trade & Investment (UKTI) services are great for new and experienced exporters to help speed up growth and guarantee a smooth exporting process. Training and support is provided for exporters to cover every area of exporting business.



Value Added Tax (VAT) and customs duty has to be paid when exporting to certain destinations. It is best to check the HMRC website to help work out how much VAT you will owe when exporting to EU countries and non-EU nations.


Knowing and understanding all the exporting language presented here in our exporting glossary should mean you will be more confident when sending goods and products abroad.