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Frequently Asked Questions

Find out the most commonly asked European Trade Queries received by the EEN North West team.

Can I get an EU grant towards the cost of some new machines?

Unfortunately, there are no grants that you can apply for directly from Europe to fund the purchase of new machinery.  The EU does offer grant funding for a wide range of activities, including research & development (R&D) and training.  It also makes available funding to support job creation and economic development at regional level.  This money generally goes to projects which support a number of firms at a time, for example by providing business advice or by building the infrastructure for an industrial park.

It might be worth contacting the economic development department of your local council, to see if they have any grant schemes running at the moment.  Alternatively, there are some loan schemes that are available.



I understand public contract opportunities have to be advertised throughout the EU:  how can I find out about any that are relevant to my firm?

There is indeed a requirement under EU law for any public sector contracts over certain values to be advertised Europe-wide.  They appear in something called the Official Journal of the EU (OJEU), which is available online as our Tenders Electronic Daily (TED)

This website is updated 5 times a week, with opportunities to tender published by a wide range of public sector organisations both here in the UK and in the rest of the EU.   There are hundreds of new notices published every day, covering everything from building new schools and hospitals to providing sausages for a school canteen!



I’m hoping to start selling my products overseas, but I’m not clear about what the difference is between a distributor and an agent:  can you help?

This can be quite confusing to new exporters, but essentially the difference is this:  a distributor – who can be appointed on an exclusive or a non-exclusive basis – purchases the products from the manufacturer and then sells them in his / her own market.  Through a distribution agreement, you can set out some conditions on how the distributor markets your products and on any after-sales service that might be required.  An agent, on the other hand, sells the goods on the manufacturer’s behalf and receives a percentage of the value of the sales as a commission.  Unlike the distributor, he or she does not take legal possession of the goods.  European legislation sets out the rights of commission agents, including for example their rights should you decide to terminate the agreement.

Finding the right distributor or agent can be quite a challenge and there are a number of ways you can try to find the right partner.  



I’ve had an order from a customer in Germany, how do I handle VAT when invoicing?

Generally, if your customer is registered for VAT, you can zero-rate the supply, provided you quote the VAT number of your customer on the invoice as well as your own VAT number. You can check the validity of your customer’s VAT number on the VIES database.  You must also hold evidence that the goods have been sent or transported out from the UK eg Couriers receipt, certificate of posting or CMR note signed by your customer.   If your customer is not registered for VAT, you must account for the VAT in the UK (i.e. the invoice will include VAT at the UK rate). This also applies to distance sales, for example sales via the internet.  However, if your annual distance sales to that particular EU country exceed a certain threshold (and that threshold varies between EU Member States), you will be liable to register and account for VAT there. VAT rules can be quite complete and there are exceptions to the general rule.  The best thing would be to get advice either by downloading HMRC Notice 725 or calling their VAT helpline:  0845 010 9000



To find out exactly how EEN North West can support your business through the obstacles and pitfalls of European Trade, please contact the Enterprise Europe Network North West team on 0844 259 8571 or email