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

31 01 2013

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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.

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