If you haven’t read Part 1 of our International Post Rules series you can find the document here where you will also be able to find a link to the original document.
Royal Mail handling fees
When customs charges are payable, Royal Mail charges a handling fee to cover their costs for conducting the customs procedures i.e. calculating duties or VAT due and then collecting it. They may also have to open the package, check it and re-seal it if the customs declaration is missing. Border Force have no authority to deal with postal or courier fees or how much they charge.
Note: If duty/tax is not payable, you will not have to pay a handling fee.
Customs fees and handling fees are shown separately and Royal Mail will advise you how to pay. After this, you can collect your package or have it delivered. Royal Mail handling fees are totally separate from customs charges so any queries should be addressed to them, not Border Force.
What if I need to query a charge made by customs?
Any queries about customs charges should be made to Border Force. You will find their contact details on the charge label affixed to your package. You can use form BOR286 to do this. Include as much detail as possible, including the customs charge label, declaration and part of the wrapper with your address. If you think that you have been charged too much you need to substantiate your claim with details such as a receipt for the purchase/invoice. You should keep copies of these until you have a final response.
Border Force have to deal with many thousands of packages each day so providing them with ample information will help with your query.
If you need to contact Border Force again you can do this via the same postal depot address.
What if you disagree with the Border Force decision?
In this case, within 30 days of the decision, you need to contact them again with new information or to query their decision or to ask for an independent review of the decision. You can do this by writing to:
The Review Officer
National Post Seizure Unit
Or appeal direct to the Tribunal who are independent of HMRC. You can also telephone them on 0845 900 0404 to obtain the factsheet HMRC1.
Postal packages received from other EU countries
Are customs checks carried out on goods from within the EU?
In this case, Border Force will only carry out random selective checks to look for illegal substances, along with routine controls for revenue purposes. Goods from ‘Special Territories’, (not full members of the EU) will be subject to excise duty and import VAT.
Which countries are full members of the EU?
The current Member States are: Austria, Belgium, Bulgaria, Croatia, Cyprus*, Czech Republic, Denmark, Estonia, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Hungary, Ireland, Italy, Latvia, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Malta, Netherlands, Poland, Portugal, Romania, Slovakia, Slovenia, Spain, Sweden and the United Kingdom.
* Goods from Cyprus are treated as non-EU imports.
What are the ‘Special Territories’?
Goods imported from these countries are free of Customs Duty but subject to excise duty and import VAT. The countries in question are:
The Ǻland Islands (Finland)
The Canary Islands (Spain)
The Channel Islands*
The French Overseas Departments of Guadeloupe, French Guiana, Martinique and Reunion
Mount Athos also known as Agion Poros (Greece)
Note: Commercial consignments sent from the Channel Islands are not free of import VAT.
The EU and Turkey established a Customs Union back in 1996 hence goods from Turkey no longer attract customs duty, but Excise Duty and import VAT still apply.
What about alcohol and tobacco sent by post from the EU?
If you are in receipt of tobacco or alcohol by post commercially this is referred to as ‘distance selling’ so you will pay Excise Duty and import VAT. Your sender should have arranged for these taxes to be taken care of before despatch, otherwise, the goods may be seized. Full details of this are shown on our website and on Notice 203A Registered Consignees.
If the goods are for personal use or a gift or you have posted them to yourself from an EU state, you will pay only Excise Duty and no import VAT. The UK Excise Duty must be attended to via the before the ‘distance selling’ procedure.
Any queries, you can contact the Excise and Customs Helpline by phone on 0300 200 3700.
What if I receive alcohol and tobacco from the Special Territories?
These will be free of Customs Duty but they are liable to Excise Duty and import VAT.