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International shipping parcels outside the EU: Customs Charges, Import Duties & Taxes

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There is lots to consider when sending a parcel outside the European Union. For example, you will need to produce paperwork for customs clearance, declare the value of each item and explain why you're sending it. Customs will then review your declaration and may apply customs import duty and tax charges. These charges are usually paid by the receiver.

If you're shipping gifts or sending personal effects then they may be exempt from customs import charges. This will depend on the value of the items, and the regulations for that particular country.

The following information will explain everything you need to know about customs and what to consider when sending a worldwide parcel delivery.

Quick links:

About customs

Import duty, tax and other charges

Creating your customs paperwork

Paying customs duty and taxes in advance

Tracking your shipment

FAQs



Fastlane® helps you produce all the customs forms you will need when shipping outside the EU, and unlike a freight forwarder, all our courier services include customs clearance.

Customs will decide if any duties and tax charges should be applied, and if so the customs fees will need to be paid by the receiver, along with any admin charges applied by the courier before delivery can be made. Obtaining payment can sometimes delay the delivery process.

Here's a quick summary of what happens when you ship outside the EU:

  1. As part of your booking process, we will ask you to declare what you are shipping and why.
  2. Fastlane® will then provide the required customs paperwork for you to print out.
  3. When your shipment arrives at the destination country, the carrier will arrange the customs clearance, and customs will assess your declaration to determine the amount of import duty that should be applied to your shipment. These charges will as a norm, be billed to the receiver.
  4. The receiver will be contacted and asked to pay any charges. They will also be provided with a copy of your customs declaration as reference.
  5. If you would prefer to pay these customs charges yourself, we can arrange this. This is a popular option when sending gifts. There is an additional charge for this and a deposit is required.
  6. Once any charges have been paid, your parcel will exit customs and be delivered.

About Customs

Customs regulations cannot be avoided and all international courier services have to comply. Customs work for the government of the country you're shipping to, they have two main purposes:

  1. To prevent any items that are classed as illegal or prohibited from entering the country.
  2. Determining if goods being imported into the country are liable for import tax and duty, and if so deciding what level of customs charges are to be applied.

Each country has different import restrictions and charges, and it's your responsibility as the shipper to research this prior to sending your parcel. For example some South American countries do not allow second hand clothes to be imported, even if they are personal effects. If you want to check that your goods are ok to send, you can either contact customs in the country you are shipping to, or get in touch with our customer service team, who will be happy to advise you.

Import Duty, Tax And Other Charges

Customs will determine the import charges to be applied to your international parcel based on the information provided on your customs paperwork - the declared value, the reason for export and the goods description.

Whilst each country has its own regulations, most countries will have a set duty threshold for low value items. Often low value items such as gifts, samples and personal effects will attract a lower amount of duty or may be exempt from any charges. If you want to know the threshold for gifts, samples or personal effects, or you require any further help, please contact us.

Often people declare a lower value on the customs invoice to reduce the customs tax and duty. This is only recommended if you can genuinely justify the lower value if it is questioned by customs.

For example, you may want to send a laptop that originally cost you £1000 but now has a value, to you, of only £200. You can declare it as having a value of £200, and incur a lower customs clearance charge. However, if customs suspect you have undervalued it, you will be asked to justify the stated value. Your shipment will not be delivered until customs are fully satisfied that the declaration you have made is genuine. Declaring a lower value may also affect your claim value in the event of a loss or damage in transit.

Fastlane® has no control over any of the charges applied to your goods by customs, and once your parcel has arrived at the customs facility in the destination country, the only way to have the parcel delivered is to pay any clearance charges.

If your goods are dutiable (for example if you're selling them) then Customs will decide which charges to apply based on the products you're sending and the value you have declared.

Every product has a commodity code (also known as a Customs Tariff code or harmonization code). Each commodity code has a set level of duty and tax that varies from country to country, and if you don't state the correct code then the custom clearing agent in the receiver country will need to literally guess it based upon the description you have provided. If you're sending a low value item, it's not so much of a concern, but if your shipment has a high value then it could result in your receiver incurring significantly higher import duty rates. To check the correct commodity code for the goods your shipping, click here.

Once you know the commodity codes for your products, you can then contact the customs authority in the destination country to establish how much customs duty and tax will be applied to your shipment.

Creating Customs Clearance Paperwork

When sending a parcel outside the EU, the only time you don't need to make a customs declaration, is when sending documents. It's important that you understand that the information you provide on the customs invoice is legally binding.

Here's what happens:

  1. When you book a delivery that going to outside the EU, Fastlane® will prompt you for the following information:

    • A list of the items inside your shipment
    • The value of each item
    • The reason for export – in other words ‘why you're sending the shipment'. For example, it could be a gift, personal effects or a business sample.
  2. Fastlane® will then create your customs invoice when you complete your online booking and print your shipping labels.

We recommend you print out five copies of the customs invoice – two copies need to be attached to your parcel, the remaining three should be given to the courier collecting your shipment. Don't worry, you will be prompted with the exact instructions at the time of booking.

Paying Customs Duty & Taxes In Advance

Fastlane® understands you may not want your recipient to pay the customs charges. For example, you may be sending a gift. Fastlane® offers an option for you to pay these charges in advance.

If you would like to pay the customs charges in advance, please contact our customer service team as soon as you have completed your booking as it must be arranged before your parcel is collected.

There are additional charges for this service:

  • A deposit of 25% of the value of the goods you are shipping. If the customs charges are less, the balance will be refunded.
  • A £25 administration charge

Once this is done, we will issue a new shipping label and customs invoice. When your parcel arrives at customs, Fastlane® will pay any duty and tax on your behalf and refund the difference on your deposit.

Tracking Your Shipment Through Customs

You can track your parcel's progress on our website all the way from collection to delivery with real time updates on its location and status.

If your shipment is delayed in customs, the tracking status will automatically change to ‘Exception' and you will be able to see that your shipment is awaiting customs clearance, as well as the reason for the clearance delay.

You can contact us to for more information about the clearance delay. However most clearance delays usually occur when the receiver is delaying their payment of the customs charges. The best way to speed things up is to contact them and ask them to pay the charges as soon as possible. Once payment has been received by customs, the shipment can be released for delivery.



FAQ's

Can I avoid paying import duty and taxes?

Most (but not all) countries have exemptions for gifts, personal effects and business samples, up to a certain value. Contact us to confirm the exemption level for the country you're shipping to.

How can I minimize customs charges?

The lower the value of your shipment, the lower the customs charges. However if you provide an inaccurate valuation on your customs invoice, your shipment may be questioned by customs. This would delay your delivery and may result in increased charges.

Can I dispute the customs charges?

If customs have charged the incorrect amount of duty and tax, it's normally because the sender did not declare a tariff code on the customs invoice, so customs had to decide themselves what category your goods fall under. You or the receiver can dispute the charges applied by customs prior to delivery. To do this you will need to research the customs tariff codes for each product you're shipping, then demonstrate to customs that the goods have been cleared under the incorrect tariff code.

What happens if the receiver refuses to pay the customs charges?

We cannot deliver goods until customs charges are paid. Fastlane® can bill the charges back to you, or we can request that your parcel is returned. If customs agree to release the goods back to you, you will need to pay the return shipping cost.

I have paid for guaranteed delivery, but my parcel was delayed in customs. Can I get a refund for the shipping costs?

Our money back guarantee scheme does not cover delays outside of our control. As customs clearance is a government controlled activity, we are unable to control any related delivery delays.

What types of customs delays are most common?

These are the main reasons for a customs delay:

  1. Customs confirm the duty and tax on your shipment, and notify the carrier who then contact the receiver to arrange payment. There may be delays in this process. For example, the receiver is unavailable and cannot be contacted. The receiver should contact the carrier as soon as possible to arrange clearance.
  2. Customs query the declaration on the customs invoice. Clarification of the customs declaration form is then required. This can cause delays while the clarification is sorted out. The receiver should contact the carrier as soon as possible to arrange clearance.
  3. Customs inspect the parcel and find under-valued or even undeclared items. This will delay the process significantly as customs may ask for proof of value, or seek further clarification on your items. It is important your declaration is accurate.
  4. Customs hold a shipment as it contains prohibited or restricted items. You will normally be given the option for the prohibited items to be removed and destroyed, or for the shipment to be returned to the UK. You will then need to pay the return shipping charges.