Paid UK Customs Duty & VAT and returned the goods? Here’s what to do.

Did you receive a gift or item from outside the European Union (EU) this Christmas in the UK? Did you buy something from someone or a retailer in the USA, Australia, New Zealand or another non EU country with international delivery to the UK, and when it arrived you received a card (P4605) from the Royal Mail telling you you have a fee, or customs charge, to pay?

This is probably because the value of your item exceeded the VAT and/or Customs Duty thresholds and therefor there is some tax to pay to HMRC. Well, what if it is wrong, or you return the item, what can you do to claim back the charge, challenge it or not pay it in the first place?

The informatuion in the guide is likely to change on 1st January 2021 when the UK leaves the EU. We will update as and when we have the correct information.

 What are Customs Duty and VAT Threshold in the UK for goods imported from non EU countries?

If you have bought something from overseas there is a chance that you may have to pay VAT or import duty on it when it arrives in the UK. The thresholds and charges are are:

VAT Value  
Gifts worth Over £39
Other items Over £15
Alcohol, tobacco, fragrances (perfume etc) All
Import duty (customs) Duty payable
All items up to £135 No charge
Gifts worth £135-£630 2.5% (some items are lower)
Gifts above £630 and all items above £135 The rate varies according to item

Customs duty will only be charged if the duty payable is over £9. This includes the cost of the items and the cost of packaging and postage.

So if you bought or were sent some clothes that had a value of £50, you will have to pay some VAT, at the rate charged for your type of good, normally 20%, on the whole value of your goods including postage and packaging.

If you buy a gift for some one with a value of £200 you will have to pay VAT and some customs duty, unless the duty comes to less than £9.

I think that the VAT or Customs Duty amount is Wrong!

If you think that customs or HMRC has overcharged you VAT or customs duty, there is something you can do. First of all you need to check what the amount of customs duty and VAT is applicable to the type of items you are having imported. This will tell you what you should pay. This is called the trade tariff, and you can find it here.

Then you need to print out and complete form BOR 286 – this is the form for packets and parcels that were received through the Royal Mail. Fill in your details and your explanation of why you believe you have been wrongly charged VAT or import duty. For Customs Duty/import VAT was wrongly calculated on an item you imported by post (Royal Mail or Parcelforce).

Send the form BOR286 to this address:

Border Force
Coventry International Hub
Siskin Parkway West

If you items were delivered by another delivery or courier firm you will need to fill out form C285 or C285PI. For repayment or remission of import duties.

Send form C285 to this address:

The National Duty Repayment Centre
Priory Court
St. Johns Road
CT17 9SH

You will also need to enclose any relevant documentation including things like the customs labels, invoice or receipt. The information is on the form which you can read after downloading.

I have returned the shopping, can I claim back my Customs Duty & VAT?

Yes if you return the items, you can reclaim any fees or taxes you have paid on your imported shopping or gifts. You use the same forms as above BOR 286 or C285, depending upon who delivered the goods. Remember to keep every piece of documentation!

Can I just not pay the charge?

Yes, you are not obliged to pay the fee. But you can’t get your item until you do. If you don’t pay the item will be held for 3 weeks and after that, if you still haven’t paid, it will be returned to the sender, and they will have to pay the postage. So if you bought it from a retailer they will probably charge you for that return cost.

If you want your item you will have to pay the taxes and customs charges.

Has this happened to you. Did you reclaim the VAT or Customs Duty? If so please tell us how you got on in the forum.

Not in the UK? – we’ll write up guides as to how to claim back import charges from other countries soon!

Changes to VAT collection 2021.

The UK government has proposed changes to take place on 1st January 2021 to the collection of VAT on international shopping.

Further reading

This article was edited on 17/11/2020 to reflect the change in the UK threshold and to include details of the upcoming changes in collection of UK VAT on overseas purchases by sellers outside of the UK.

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