Taxes and Customs on Orders From Abroad - A Simple Guide

We all love placing orders of clothes, shoes and general kawaii goodies from abroad. You can buy things that aren't available in the UK and often save money. Sometimes though, if you don't know the information, you can get hit with unwanted charges.

Tax/VAT (Value added tax): You pay because you are importing items into your country, and in many countries you have to pay tax on none-essential items. In the UK this rate is 20%

Duty/Customs Charges: A charge applied for the handling/sorting/paperwork that has to be done on more expensive orders and items

If your post is coming from within the EU, you will not have to pay any VAT/Tax or Customs charges.

From outside the EU, or from EU special territories you will have to pay 20% VAT/Tax on anything you order that is:

  • A gift worth more than £36 
  • Anything else worth more than £15

This VAT/tax is worked out based on the value of your order as a whole. 

Example: If your items cost you £10, and the shopping costs you £6, then that is a total value of £16 meaning if it's coming from outside the EU, you will have to pay VAT/Tax on that order. So in total it will cost you:

£10 for the items
£6 for your shipping
20% of £16 added on as VAT/tax (£3.20)

Total = £19.20

On anything worth over £135 in total (including items, postage AND insurance), you also have to pay customs duty

Type and value of goodsCustoms Duty
Anything under £135No charge
Gifts worth £135-£6302.5%, but rates are lower for some goods - call the helpline
Gifts above £630 and other goods above £135The rate depends on the type of goods and where they came from - call the helpline

And if you have to pay customs/duty, you will also have to pay a handling fee. 

If you have recently placed an order, and not paid your VAT/Tax or Customs Duty for it, you should get a letter from the postage company explaining how you can pay, and how much you owe so your package can be delivered to you. 

Example: If you ordered a package from Japan on Ebay for £155 (including postage):

£140 for the items
£15 postage
20% of £155 added on as VAT/Tax (£30)
2.5% of £155 added on as Customs/Duty Charge (£3.80)
Handling Fee of the postage service (£8 for Royal Mail)

Total = £196.80

If you don't pay, the package will be sent back to where it came from after 3 weeks in holding (but always check how long you have, by checking the letter sent from the postal company). 

In that letter will be instructions on how you can pay any charges you owe, usually this is easiest to do online, on the postal companies website. 

We hope you found this short, but simple guide useful, if you have any questions or comments please leave them below!

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