Importing and exporting by post

Calculating Customs charges when importing by post


Most goods arriving in the UK from outside the European Union (EU) are liable to import VAT and Customs duty if certain limits are exceeded. Some goods are also liable for excise duty. Any charges due must be paid whether the goods:

  • were purchased or received as a gift
  • are new or used
  • are for private use or sale

Customs charges

Charges are raised by Customs staff at the postal depots where the packages are received.

Import charges will depend on the type of goods imported and their value, which is stated on the Customs declaration form.

Download customs declaration form CN22 (PDF, 142KB).

Download customs declaration form CN23 (PDF, 64KB).

Goods are not chargeable if the total value of goods in the consignment does not exceed £15*. Goods over £15 are liable for VAT.

*Please note that all mail order goods/merchandise sent to the UK from the Channel Islands is liable to VAT at import.

There is a different rate for imported personal gifts, which is £39. Gifts above £39 will attract VAT, and if the value is above £135, according to their type, Customs duty and/or excise duty may be due.

For goods to qualify as a gift they must be sent between two private individuals, for example as a birthday present. An item bought online to give to someone else as a present is not considered to be a gift for Customs purposes.

Goods sent to the UK from the Channel Islands

All mail order goods/merchandise sent to the UK from the Channel Islands are subject to VAT at import.

However, this change does not affect any other Customs thresholds or reliefs.

Customs duty

You'll be charged Customs Duty on gifts and other goods sent from outside the EU if they're above a certain value.

The value includes:

  • the price paid for the goods
  • postage, packaging and insurance.
Type and value of goods Customs Duty
Anything under £135 No charge
Gifts worth £135 - £630 2.5%, but rates are lower for some goods - call the helpline
Gifts above £630 and other goods above £135 The rate depends on the type of goods and where they came from - call the helpline

Excise duty

This is charged on alcohol and tobacco products and is additional to Customs duty and VAT. The excise duty rate on wines and spirits depends on the alcohol content and whether wine is sparkling or still. Duty on cigarettes is based on a percentage of the recommended retail selling price as well as a quantity charge. On other tobacco products, such as cigars or hand rolling tobacco, it is charged on the net weight.


Import VAT is charged at the same rate that applies to similar goods sold in the UK and applies to all goods over £15, and all goods sent to the UK from the Channel Islands. If the goods are gifts however, the limit is raised to £39.

The calculation for import VAT is based on the price paid for the goods, including any local sales taxes, plus postage, packing and insurance costs, plus any import duties charged.