Goods posted from outside the EU: tax payments, queries or refunds

If you're sending or receiving goods by post for your personal use from outside the European Union (EU), you'll have to pay any tax and/or duty once the goods arrive in the UK. Normally Royal Mail/Parcelforce will pay what's due on your behalf and may charge a handling fee which you must pay before your parcel can be delivered.

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Paying tax and/or duty when goods have arrived in the UK

For any type of purchased goods posted to the UK from outside the EU, import taxes and/or duty are payable by the receiver before delivery once the goods have arrived in the UK. The amount due is worked out based on the information shown on the Customs Declaration fixed to the package. Or if the value of the goods is over £2,000, the recipient will be sent a form C88 'Single Administrative Document' to complete and return to the postal depot before the package can be delivered.

Customs procedures for goods posted to the UK

Read about which countries are in the EU in Notice 143 - A guide for international post users

Royal Mail/Parcelforce handling fees

If duty and/or tax is payable, Royal Mail/Parcelforce will pay this to HM Revenue & Customs (HMRC) on your behalf, and charge a handling fee to cover:

  • operating the postal customs depot
  • handling the package for customs examination
  • opening, repacking and resealing the package if required
  • paying the charges to HMRC on your behalf

Note that if there is no duty and/or tax to pay, you won't be charged a handling fee.

They'll write to you letting you know how much you need to pay, and the available payment methods. The customs charges and handling fee are itemised separately on the charge label.

If you have any queries about the handling fee you should raise these directly with Royal Mail/Parcelforce - these charges are entirely separate from any tax and/or duty charges, and the UK Border Agency (UKBA) and HMRC have no control on the charges it makes.

If you have any queries about the customs charges you should contact the UKBA - see the section below ‘Questions about the tax and/or duty you’ve been charged?’

Once payment has been received, you'll be able to request delivery of your package, or pick it up from your local delivery office.

Read about your everyday mailing needs on the Royal Mail website (Opens new window)

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Questions about the tax and/or duty you've been charged?

If you've got any questions about the tax and/or duty you've been charged, you can contact the UKBA office at the postal depot that dealt with it. You'll find their contact details on the charge label attached to your package. If writing you should include as much detail as you can and should send:

  • the charge label
  • the Customs Declaration
  • the part of the wrapper with your address on it

If your claim is about an overcharge of tax because the declared value of the goods was incorrect, you will need to supply evidence - for example an invoice or receipt - to support your claim. UKBA will then make a decision about the charge.

If you don't agree with the decision

You can ask the UKBA office at the postal depot that dealt with your package to review their decision. To request a review or appeal against the decision, see Notice 143 - A guide for international post users.

Read 'A guide for international post users' in Notice 143

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Claiming a refund of Customs Duty or Import VAT

Use form C285 - Application for repayment or remission to apply for a refund of import duties.

You will need to provide the following details:

  • the Customs Entry number and the date the goods entered the country - the agent who handled your shipment into the UK should be able to provide this information
  • your reason for making the claim
  • a copy of the invoice for the purchase of the goods
  • how much money was paid at the time of import
  • how much you want to reclaim

HMRC does not refund agents fees.

If you need help to complete the form, contact the agent who handled your shipment in the UK for assistance. Make sure you complete the forms in full and sign them. Failure to do so may delay your repayment claim.

Please post the form, and any relevant documents to:

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

Find form C 285 - Application for repayment/remission

What to do if you return the goods after you've paid tax and/or duty

If you return goods to the sender after you've paid duty and/or tax you can ask the UKBA for a refund. You'll need to claim in writing within three months. Write to the address on your charge label and enclose:

  • the original charge label
  • the Customs Declaration and the part of the packaging showing your address
  • a certificate of posting to prove you've sent the goods back

If you can't provide all these, UKBA may reject your claim.

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Getting more help and advice

If you need more information about paying tax or duty on goods sent from abroad, you can contact the Customs, International Trade & Excise enquiries.

Contact details for Customs, International Trade & Excise enquiries

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More useful links

Customs Duty, Excise Duty and Import VAT: introduction

Tax on goods ordered from or bought abroad

Buying from abroad on the Internet - what to look out for

Sending personal goods back to the UK from abroad

Tax on personal items when moving to the UK

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