What to Know About UK Customs Charges

Go back 20 Jan 2022
alcohol fulfilment operations at a beer bottling facility

UK customs charges are the amount you will have to pay in duty and VAT when importing goods. Customs duty on imports is nothing new, but why would you have to pay it for your eCommerce or SME business? After all, if you are shipping within the UK they do not apply and when shipping internationally countries use their own customs charges.

There are many reasons businesses might be faced with issues from customs charges when importing from outside the UK, including the following:

  • Wholesale goods: Whether you want to offer customers Israeli makeup products or French haberdashery, you will probably have to source them from overseas – even if they are not coming directly from their country of origin. As such, UK duty, VAT and other customs charges may be due upon receipt of the goods to the UK.
  • Excise goods: Excise goods such as beer, wine, spirits, tobacco, certain fuels and heating oils are subject to special duty rates by UK customs. When importing such items you will have to pay excise duty. Import duties vary depending on the items, but you will have to make a customs declaration for them based on their HS codes.
  • Handling fees: Even if you do not legally have to pay VAT, such as for low-value items or gifts, you may be subject to handling fees from couriers. This is a big issue for importing from countries within the EU, which has recently been subject to different regulations as a result of the UK’s departure from the trading bloc.

We help many businesses with a fast, cost-effective national and international delivery service for companies throughout the UK, so we know a thing or two about UK customs charges. You will find more information on our post, parcel and pallet delivery services when you get in touch with us.

What are the UK Customs Charges Rules?

a selection of cosmetic beauty products packaged for order fulfilment

The UK customs charges apply to the home nations (England, Scotland and Wales) as well as Northern Ireland. As a result, shipping from any jurisdiction outside of these areas will often mean you need to pay charges upon receipt.

Although customs duty can be confusing, annoying and even intimidating the government is fairly clear with the rules. This is an effort to make international trade, both imports and exports, more efficient and to stimulate the economy.

You will have to pay VAT on everything except for gifts worth £39 or less. The main rules for UK businesses include the following:

  • Goods: Normal (non-excise) goods worth £135 or lower come with VAT included in the total that you pay upon buying. Goods worth over £135 have additional customs duty charges that are payable directly to your delivery provider when you receive them.
  • Gifts: There is no duty charge for gifts worth £135 or less. Gifts valued between £135 and £630 have duty charges of 2.5%, but there are lower rates for certain gifts. Gifts above £630 have variable rates of duty to pay. You will have to pay VAT for all gifts unless they are worth under £39.
  • Excise goods: Excise goods are subject to both VAT and customs duty. The rates change quite frequently, so be sure to check out the latest excise duty rates on the government website for more information. Depending on the excise good, rates can range from 1-16% – and may include further charges.

The good news is that you will receive confirmation of the charges from your courier, be that Royal Mail or another handler. Many providers bundle duty, vat and delivery costs into a single payment for what is typically called ‘handling fees’.

We understand that delays can be a hassle when dealing with incoming or outgoing mail. As a result, we advise you to pay all charges swiftly – as your items will be held until you do so. If you fail to pay UK customs charges all goods will be returned to the sender.

As UK customs charges have been affected by Brexit, we recommend perusing our Brexit help resource page for more information on how customs charges might affect you.

Find More Information on UK Customs Charges and Our Mail Handling Service

To help figure out what UK customs charges you will have to pay you can use a duty calculator, such as the one provided by SimplyDuty.com – a service that offers a daily limit of free calculations for your goods, as well as unlimited paid options after registration.

We offer excellent mail handling services to ensure that all of your national and international deliveries come at the most cost-effective prices and with fast delivery times. Get in touch with us today to learn how we can help enhance your business.