If you're abroad and you post back personal belongings that you'd originally owned in the UK, you won't have to pay any tax and/or duty unless they are 'excise' goods. Excise goods include alcohol and tobacco and you must pay Excise Duty on them.
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If you're posting personal goods that you'd taken abroad with you back to the UK:
See below for examples and for how to make sure you don't end up being asked to pay tax or duty when it's not due. Also see the later section on paying Excise Duty.
You can find out about paying tax on your belongings when moving to the UK in the guide 'Tax on personal items when moving to the UK' under 'More useful links'.
You can find out more about Customs Duty, Excise Duty, and Import VAT, and link to rates for different items, in the guide below.
Jane is travelling in Australia for six months and decides to post back home to her mum some of her clothes that she no longer needs. Her Mum won't have to pay any tax or duty on Jane's behalf as the clothes personally belong to Jane.
Simon posts his personal wine collection back to the UK from Spain. He has to pay UK Excise Duty because Excise Duty is always payable on excise goods posted to the UK - even if the goods are personally owned.
Dorothy accidentally leaves her pair of diamond earrings in a hotel in the United States. The hotel posts the earrings back to her in the UK. Because Dorothy owned the earrings in the UK before she went on holiday, she won't have to pay Customs Duty or Import VAT because the earrings already belong to her.
You don't need to complete a Customs Declaration form for personal items sent from the EU because Customs Duty and Import VAT aren't payable on goods posted within the EU. However, UK Excise Duty must have been paid on any alcohol or tobacco sent.
If you're posting your belongings to the UK from outside the EU, you'll need to make sure there is a Customs Declaration fixed to the package, and that it's clearly marked 'personal belongings'. If you don't follow these steps, the customs officer from the UK Border Agency (UKBA) examining the package may assume it's for commercial use or is a gift and you may be charged Customs Duty and/or Import VAT.
If the goods are over a certain value, you may be asked to fill in a form C3 'Bringing personal belongings to the United Kingdom from outside the European Union' to confirm that the goods belong to you. They will send this form out to you and you'll have to send it back before your goods can be delivered.
If you're sending alcohol and/or tobacco from an EU country to the UK, Excise Duty must have been paid before the goods are sent otherwise goods may be seized by customs when arriving in the UK. Payment is made using the 'distance selling' procedures - see Commercial importers and tax representatives: EU trade in duty-paid excise goods in Notice 204B link at the end of the guide.
If you're sending alcohol and/or tobacco from a non-EU country to the UK, Excise Duty must be paid by the recipient once the goods have arrived in the UK but before the goods are delivered.
In addition, cigarettes and hand rolling tobacco must bear UK health warnings and fiscal marks, and containers of spirits that are larger than 35cl must bear a UK duty stamp.
Find out more about how to pay Excise Duty on alcohol and tobacco sent from outside the EU by following the link below.
There are certain goods that you are not allowed to send to the UK under any circumstances - even if they belong to you, and some goods are restricted. This is to protect the UK from crime, pests and diseases.
If you need more information about sending personal goods back to the UK, you can contact the VAT Helpline or the Customs, International Trade & Excise enquiries.