All postal items that enter the UK may be examined by Customs. If you are importing goods into the UK by post - from non-European Union (EU) countries - the sender must complete a Customs declaration form CN22 for goods and gifts worth up to £270 or CN23 for goods and gifts worth over £270. This should be attached to the package.
The declaration should include:
- a description of the goods
- their value
- whether they are gifts or commercial items
If you are importing goods by post, it is important to make sure that the sender makes a complete and accurate declaration. As the importer of the goods, by law, you are legally responsible for the information on the Customs declaration and for any charges due. Charges may include VAT, customs duty and/or excise duty.
If you buy goods and the declaration is found to be incorrect, you may be liable to financial penalties or prosecution. It is therefore in your interests to ensure the sender completes the Customs declaration accurately.
If no declaration is made - or the information is incorrect - the package may be delayed while further enquiries are made. In some cases, the package and its contents may be seized.
Some imports require a full declaration.
Declaring the goods yourself
As the importer you can carry out your own Customs procedures. If you want to do this, you will need to ensure the sender clearly marks the Customs declaration form (CN22 or CN23) 'goods to be Customs cleared by the importer'. Do not write on the wrapping. If the Customs declaration form (CN22 or CN23) is not marked in this way by the sender, the goods will be cleared by customs in the normal way; once goods have been Customs cleared you cannot then retrospectively apply to self clear them.
For items that have been marked for clearance by the importer, a full declaration will be sent to you to complete and return to the appropriate customs postal office.
They will calculate any import charges and write and advise you of your tax liability.
When you have paid this and the funds have been cleared, your goods will be released for delivery.
However, as a manual procedure there could be a considerable delay in the receipt of your goods.
You can obtain copies of the import declaration form and further information on the HMRC VAT Helpline on Tel 0300 200 3700.