What Are the Customs Procedures That Take Place When Items Are Sent To The UK?

31 01 2013


Image from Flickr creative commons via KateMonkey

When you’re using a courier service to send a parcel somewhere in the UK, the process is as simple as popping it in an envelope, writing the address on the front and sealing it up. But if you’re sending anything overseas you’ll know there are a few more checks the items need to go through.

If you’re travelling abroad you need to go through airport security checks – and the same principle applies when it comes to sending items overseas. The UK has its own set of rules and regulations when it comes to receiving post, which means that if you have relocated to a different country or are sending a loved one a gift from a long holiday, you’ll need to ensure your package complies with UK customs regulations.

So, what exactly happens when packages are received by officials in the UK?

The first thing you need to ensure is that the item you are sending is not banned or restricted in the UK. While some of these items are obvious, such as illegal drugs and illegal weapons such as knives, some are things you might not think about, like goods made of certain animal skin and fur. A full list of banned items can be found on the HM Revenue and Customs (HMRC) website.

There are also certain items that are restricted, as HMRC states: “There are restrictions on what food and plant products you can bring in or send to the UK depending or whether they’re from the European Union (EU) or outside the EU.”

When your parcel arrives in the UK from overseas, it will be checked over by customs officials at the UK Border Agency. The checks on parcels from within the European Union simply involve ensuring the package does not contain prohibited or restricted goods.

However, if the parcel comes from outside the EU, the checks will be more stringent and as well as including a check on banned or restricted object, the officials will also confirm that the description and value stated on the Customs Declaration is correct. This also involves checking whether Customs Duty, Excise Duty and/or Import VAT is chargeable, as per the statement on the Customs Declaration.

It is essential that when you are sending goods to the UK that you complete the correct Customs Declaration form as this will make life much easier for officials and show you are not trying to illegally smuggle anything into the country. The forms should include a description of the goods, their value and whether they are gifts, personal items or commercial. The different forms are:

  • a CN22 – for goods and gifts up to £270
  • a CN23 – for goods and gifts over £270
  • a Parcelforce Worldwide Despatch pack (incorporating a CN23)

If you do not take the time to properly complete these forms, chances are the officials in the UK will need to investigate the package further and open it up to examine the contents. Not only does this mean that the package will already have been opened, but the cost of the checks will be passed on in the form of a handling fee, which will need to be paid by the recipient when that parcel is delivered. No doubt your friend or family member will resent having to pay this kind of fee for their gift, so it is in everyone’s interests to fill in the declaration forms correctly from the start.

This may seem like a lot to remember, but if you use your common sense and fill in all the correct documents when sending items to the UK, you shouldn’t have a problem.


Make Sure You’re Driving Safely This Winter

7 01 2013

As winter approaches, it’s time to start preparing for a dramatic drop in temperature. Ice, snow and sleet can cause hazardous driving conditions. Take the time to ensure you have taken all necessary precautions to help you complete your journeys safely during the long winter months. You can find below our handy guide for top tips on safe driving in winter.

Before you commence your journey, make sure you check the traffic and weather reports. If the forecast is for inclement weather, ask yourself, is it really necessary to make this journey? It’s much safer to stay at home in the warmth, than to risk driving in such awful conditions. You could also check out the local public transport; it would be far easier, not to mention less dangerous, to take a train, rather than drive. However, if driving is your only option, it’s important to ensure you’re fully prepared.

Ensure you’re fit to drive by getting a good night’s sleep beforehand. Avoid driving if you’re taking any medication that causes drowsiness. Always make sure you have regular stops to give yourself a break from concentrating so hard.

Check the following on your vehicle to ensure it’s in the correct condition for winter weather:

  • Petrol (or diesel). Ensure you have enough to complete your journey and make yourself aware of where the petrol stations are on your route
  • Oil – check the oil level once a month
  • Water – regularly check the radiator and screen-wash levels
  • Damage – look for signs of damage to wipers and lights and clear any snow from windscreens, windows and lights to ensure clear visibility
  • Electrics – check lights, indicators and dashboard controls are fully functioning
  • Rubber Tyres – need to be well inflated with good tread and free from damage

You may also want to invest in some snow socks or snow chains for your tyres. Snow socks are a relatively new concept; they pull over your tyres in much the same way as normal socks. They have a strong textile surface giving increased grip on the roads. Unlike snow chains, they don’t have any metal parts, and are much easier to pull on and off.

It’s a good idea to stock up your vehicle with an emergency kit; this will help to get you out of any scrapes you may encounter along the way.

– First Aid Kit, stocked with plasters, antiseptic wipes, antiseptic cream, any medication you need, safety pins, dressing, bandages
– Mobile Phone Charger – avoid the inevitable loss of battery
– Torch and spare batteries
– Boots, gloves, warm clothes (because it can turn cold very suddenly)
– Water, snacks and thermos (in case you’re stranded for a while)
– Music and games (to keep you and passengers occupied on long journeys)
– Jump leads – you never know when you’re going to need them
– Ice scraper and de-icing spray

If you’re travelling with young children and babies, it’s essential that you have a child car seat; the Law states that until a child reaches 135cm in height, or the age of 12, they must use a car seat. There are different types of child car seats available depending on the weight of your child. It’s important to choose the correct type of seat in order to prevent injury to your child.

– Babies up to 13kg = rear-facing baby seats
– Children from 9-18kg = forward or rear-facing baby seats
– Children from 15-25kg = forward-facing child car seats (also known as booster seats)
– Children over 22kg = booster cushions

It is safe to put the car seat in the front passenger seat of all vehicles, providing it fits correctly.

Ice and snow cause roads to become slippery; as such, it is important that all drivers reduce their speed in such conditions and avoid breaking harshly, as this could cause the vehicle to skid and spin. Remember also to increase the gap between you and the vehicle in front of you. Winter weather can cause stopping distance to increase 10 fold, no matter how fast your reactions are. Main roads are likely to have been gritted, so wherever possible use these and avoid some of the more treacherous narrow lanes.

It’s important to always take your time, not to rush anything and to be well prepared. Driving faster won’t get you to your destination any quicker; you’re more likely to crash. Think of the story of the tortoise and the hare – slow and steady wins the race.

How to take care of your winter woollens

2 01 2013


Image via Mary Hutchinson at Flickr creative commons

We all love a warm and snug winter woolly jumper, possibly more than any other item in our wardrobe. It’s like an old and reliable friend – offering plenty of warmth, and adapting itself perfectly to fit our bodies and keep us snug, as well as looking just right.

But because wool is not just renowned for its insulating properties, but is also a material whose longevity can depend on the level of care it is given, it’s vital to know how to wash, dry and look after them generally in order to ensure the maximum length of serviceable life.

Wool is naturally light in weight, but is knitted into a variety of thicknesses and gauges to ensure that garments can be produced for all weathers and all occasions. The best quality wool garments need little cleaning if it is taken off immediately after being worn, then neatly folded, or hung on a sturdy hanger.

Prince Charles is a noted lover of woollen wear, and his valet has the job of cleaning his extensive collection. He recommends immediately cleaning any small stain spots, and only undertaking a full clean whenever it is absolutely necessary.

A reputable dry cleaner is essential to help ensure that items of womens knitwear keep their look and shape over a long period. Doing this job properly depends on the cleaning fluid being changed regularly, and the woolly garments concerned being heated to the right temperature which stops just short of overheating them.

Regular changing of the dry cleaning fluid is essential if the natural smell of the wool is to be retained, so you shouldn’t hesitate to ask how often your dry cleaner does this.

Woollen garments marked as washable must be treated with a mild detergent, of which there are plenty available today. Any old washing powder or liquid just won’t do – it has to be one which states on the packaging that it is suitable for cleaning woollen items. Proprietary wool treatment products are also available, so look out for these, as these can be added to the drawer of your washing machine to help safeguard it against mis-shaping and shrinkage.

After washing, drying also needs some care. Hanging woollen clothing on a hanger with sharp ends will result in this leaving marks on the item concerned, so if you do this, you should use hangers covered with a soft material to help absorb these pressure points.

Alternatively, the garment can be laid flat, ideally on a surface which allows air to circulate all around it. A maiden, or clothes horse, is a good means of hanging a woolly to dry evenly, provided there is good air circulation all around it.

If you venture out in your woollens and they return home wet, you should resist the urge to hang them immediately over a radiator or in front of a fire, as this can cause shrinkage.

Should you need to iron your woollen clothes after washing them, use a steam setting, and carefully pass the iron just above the garment taking care to avoid touching it. Before doing this, though, turn the garment inside-out so that only the underside is ironed.

Items of womens knitwear become increasingly popular by the year, and so there is an increasing need for suitable advice on how to treat them. The guidelines in this article should provide some useful starting points.