When purchasing items from abroad, as well as the cost of the item and postage, it’s important to remember that customs charges may also be applicable. Here in the UK, it’s the HMRC that control what can and can’t be imported in to the country, and how much it will cost you to have that item imported. Costs do vary, depending on the purchase price and weight of the item, so no set costs can be given.
When an item is to be delivered internationally, customs declaration paperwork stipulating the nature of the package, contents and value is required, in order for the destination country’s customs department to correctly determine the excise duty and import VAT that may be applicable. Gifts, from a foreign private resident to a private UK resident, are exempt from custom charges provided the value of the gift is under £40.
If items are being delivered within the EU, for example from France to the UK or vice versa, then no customs fees should be expected, although there are some exceptions so it’s always worth checking. Items delivered or received from outside the EU will incur charges that are payable by the recipient, so if you buy something from the States, expect to receive a bill for excise duty and import VAT.
Payment of any customs fees will need to be made before delivery will be authorised. Businesses have various options available to them regarding VAT payments, and if their customer is EU VAT registered they can apply a zero VAT rate to the sale. If goods arrive at customs with no declaration form or with inaccurate information, delays may be experienced while further information is sought. In some instances, the items can be seized and you, as the person importing the package, will be liable for any charges.
If in any doubt over any aspect of importing items, check with your transport provider for further information. As professionals, they’ll have experience and knowledge that could prove invaluable to you and, while sites such as Delivery Quote Compare can get you fantastic deals on delivery based on the contents being sent, customs charges are unique to each package and can only be estimated. Further information on customs charges can be found on the HMRC’s website.