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Paying outstanding charges on goods imported by post and Royal Mail handling fees

If you have been sent an item from overseas and Customs charges are due, Royal Mail will hold the item and send you a 'fee to pay' card, letting you know how much you owe. In the case of Parcelforce, a letter will be sent explaining the amount to be paid. Where Customs charges are payable, Royal Mail levy a handling fee to cover the costs of operating the postal Customs depot, carrying out Customs formalities, paying the import charges on the importer's behalf and collecting it from them. Royal Mail may also handle the package for Customs examination and, if required, open, repack and reseal the package if information is missing from the declaration.

Items that have outstanding Customs charges are kept at the local delivery office for three weeks. If they are not paid for and collected, or if no enquiries are made, they are returned to the sender.

Royal Mail fees are itemised separately on the charge label and collected at the same time as Customs charges.

You can find more information about Parcelforce Worldwide handling fees on the Parcelforce Worldwide website - Opens in a new window.

How can you get your items

There are several options available. You can:

  • Put postage to the correct value on the other side of the 'fee to pay' card and send it back to the Royal Mail.
  • Bring the card to the delivery office (as stated on the 'fee to pay' card), pay the charge and collect the item. Please remember you will need to bring proof of identity.
  • Pay online on the Royal Mail website - Opens in a new window.

Once you have paid the fee, the item will be delivered along with your post, or you can arrange a delivery online on a convenient date. Alternatively, you may pick it up from the postal depot.

If you are sent a Customs declaration form (C88 or C160), you must complete and return it to the address in the top right hand corner of form C87 'Notice of Arrival' which accompanies the Customs declaration form. Only then will your package can be delivered. You should not send payment with this form unless you are asked to.

Pre-payment of import VAT on goods purchased online

For goods purchased online, HM Revenue & Customs (HMRC) allow some overseas traders to charge, collect and pay import VAT on your behalf under a Memorandum of Understanding with that country.

Read more about shopping on the internet on the HMRC website - Opens in a new window.

If you are a VAT-registered business and purchase goods for use in your business, you should keep the outer wrapper and invoice from the supplier to support your claim to input tax.

Querying Customs charges

If you believe you have been charged too much because your goods have been valued too highly, you can contact HMRC at the postal depot shown on the charge label on your goods. You will be asked to supply evidence of the value, eg an invoice or receipt of purchase.

If you do not agree with any decision issued to you, there are three options available. Within 30 days of the date of the decision you can:

  • Send new information or arguments to the decision maker.   
  • Request a review of the decision by someone not involved in making the disputed decision. Your request must be in writing and should set out the reasons why you do not agree with the decision. Please write to:

Customs and International
Review and Appeals Team
7th Floor South West
Alexander House
21 Victoria Avenue
Essex
SS99 1AA

  • Appeal direct to the tribunal who are independent of HMRC.

If you opt to have your case reviewed, you will still be able to appeal to the tribunal if you disagree with the outcome.

Further information relating to reviews and appeals is contained in leaflet HMRC1. You can download HMRC1 from the HMRC website (PDF, 65K) - Opens in a new window or phone the HMRC Self Assessment Orderline on Tel 0845 900 0404.

For further information, you can read about how to deal with Customs Appeals on the HMRC website - Opens in a new window.

Repayment of duty and VAT

If you decide to return imported goods to the sender after paying duty and import VAT, you can ask for a refund of the charges.

You will have to make your claim in writing to HMRC at the address shown on the charge label, enclosing:

  • the original charge label
  • the sender's declaration (CN22 or CN23) and outer wrapper showing your address
  • a certificate of posting stamped by Royal Mail confirming the goods have been returned to sender

If you aren't able to provide this information, your claim may be rejected.

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