Goods posted to the UK from abroad for personal use are checked by customs officials for any banned or restricted goods. In addition, the Customs Declaration on goods arriving from outside the European Union (EU) is checked to work out how much tax and/or duty is payable.
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When parcels arrive in the UK from abroad, they are checked by customs officials.
The UK Border Agency (UKBA) carries out selective checks on parcels from the EU to check that no prohibited goods such as illegal drugs, indecent or obscene material, offensive weapons etc are received in the UK. Find out what goods are banned or restricted by following the link at the end of the next section.
Customs officers examine packages arriving in the UK from outside the EU in order to:
Customs officers sometimes need to examine the contents of a package - particularly when the sender has not completed the declaration fully. In such cases the opening, repacking and resealing of the package is carried out, under UKBA instruction, by Royal Mail staff.
The cost of these checks is often passed on in the form of a handling fee, payable on delivery of the parcel along with any tax and/or duty. See the section 'Delivery of goods'.
All goods arriving in the UK from outside the EU by post must have a Customs Declaration fixed to the package. The declaration, completed by the sender, should be one of the following:
You can get the above from any Post Office in the UK or abroad.
The declaration should include:
If you are ordering or sending any goods from abroad, you - as the importer of goods - are legally responsible for the information on the Customs Declaration and for any charges due.
If you're ordering goods remotely, for example over the Internet or by mail order, it is in your own interest to make sure that the sender abroad makes a complete and accurate declaration.
If you're sending goods from abroad to the UK, then the recipient is legally responsible for the information on the Customs Declaration.
If no declaration is made, or the information is inaccurate, the package may be delayed whilst the UKBA makes further enquiries, and in some cases, the package and its contents may be seized.
Customs officers work out the amount of any tax and/or duty payable by the information shown on the CN22 or CN23. The parcel is then passed to Royal Mail/Parcelforce who pay any tax and/or duty on behalf of the recipient.
As the recipient, you'll be sent a customs form C88 'Single Administrative Document' to complete and return to the postal depot before your package can be delivered. Once this is received, the amount of tax/duty to pay is worked out and then the package is passed to Royal Mail/Parcelforce who pay any tax and/or duty on your behalf.
For information on how to complete form C88, see link below.
If you're receiving personal items belonging to you, you'll be asked on delivery to complete form C3 'Bringing your personal belongings to the United Kingdom from outside the European Union' - to confirm that you are the owner of the goods.
Once your parcel has been cleared through customs, Royal Mail/Parcelforce will let you know in writing that you have a parcel for delivery, how much you'll need to pay and the methods of payment.
You can find out more about how you pay tax and/or duty, any handling fee and how to query a customs charge in the guide below.
If you need more information about customs procedures for goods posted to the UK, you can contact the Customs, International Trade & Excise enquiries.