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Custom Charges - can anyone please explain?

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  • Custom Charges - can anyone please explain?

    I ordered some ribbon and charms from a company in the States last year and ended up paying nearly £30 for delivery after custom charges and it was only sent in an envelope smaller than A4 size!! All the details were correct on the declaration form so just couldnt understand the reason for this.

    Im now waiting for a piece of veil netting to arrive from the States. I ordered this on 20th July and was given a tracking no. Ive followed this until 1st August and it reads "attempted delivery abroad into Great Britain"

    Ive asked the company who I purchased the netting from to help me out on at least 6 occasions as I had a feeling this wasnt right and they have been extremely reluctant to! In all their replies they have told me to speak to them direct or go and collect this!

    I told them I wasnt prepared to speak to USPS who they use for delivery as I wasnt going to run up a hefty telephone bill in doing so and also for USPS to assist you, they require your Zip code and it will not take our postcodes.

    They have now got back to me and told me to speak to Parcel Force direct or go and collect it myself!!

    Ive just found out that Parcel force are awaiting payment for custom charges! Had I kept quiet would this parcel then be returned to the company for them to deal with and for them to resend onto me? Ive had no notification that I need to pay this and Ive only found out that the parcel is awaiting payment simply through my persistance with the company.

    I just dont understand why I can receive so many different shapes, sizes and weights through the post having been delivered from many countries abroad and as far as New Zealand and Australia and yet a tiddly piece of lightweight netting Im going to end up paying custom charges for!!

    Surely its up to the company sending this to make sure its all in order afterall its only a piece of netting and it cant be that difficult to send can it?!!

    I would love to hear your comments or advise as Im really not too familiar with these custom charges and why and when they are applied.


  • #2
    Hmmm I thought anything from the States with a value under about £18 was duty excempt...maybe they've changed the rules

    Unfortunately however it's not the responsibility of the company you're buying from as I'm sure it would be impossible for them to know all the custom regulations for every country they send to - most have a little disclaimer somewhere saying that any customs charges are the buyers responsibility.

    I've had a parcel from Thailand held up at customs before - I noticed from the tracking details (no one contacted me) and I had to phone UPS who then if I recall correctly passed me onto some agency who took the payment for these charges and customs released the parcel. I've only ever had problems with parcels delivered by UPS all other carriers have got through customs fine.

    I can't imagine a small piece of netting would have a very high import duty attached - you can contact Customs & Excise to find out the code for that item and the % of duty payable. I can remember with one parcel I thought the duty seemed really high and I knew some of the items in the parcel had 0% duty so I queried it with the agency I'd just paid and they did refund some of my money.

    Remember though that it's not just the import duty you'll pay, it's the VAT and any handling charges too.
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    • #3
      Parcel Force are particularly meticulous about not releasing parcels until the customs duty is paid and their letters look like junkmail so you might of binned it not realising what it was.

      It's not the size and weight that you're charged for - it's the cost/value of the item so look out for anything of a high value (over £20) from the USA.

      A lot of companies will under-declare the worth so that you don't have to pay the import (I bought some ball-jointed dolls from Korea for over £1000 and the company declared the value as less - but if it's lost in the post it's not insured for the full value) but if you bought as a business from a business you are importing so will most likely have to pay import duty...

      Providing the company have paid all the relevant taxes for their own country I'm afraid it is you who is responsible for the duties due in your own country


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      • #4
        Thank you both for your advise and suggestions. I guess I will have to be a little more dubious when ordering from the States again!

        I make wedding veils and find its cheaper to order my veiling net from the States. Another company I have been using for many years, I will often order 7-10 bolts at a time (and thers up to 40 yards on each bolt) and Ive never had any problems whatsoever with this but a tiddly piece of netting is causing me so many problems!!

        Ive just received a nice email from Parcel force explaining that I should receive a letter confirming this within the next few day and I need to pay £18 for custom charges! This one piece of veil netting is now costing me $45 for delivery including custom charges which is over £26!!

        I dont suppose you can recall the Agency can you Nattynetty? Dont worry if not I'll try searching on the internet and see what I can come up with.

        Thanks also Bath-Bomb.Com as I will certainly bear that £20 mark in mind from now on. The veiling net itself was well under £20!

        Many thanks


        • #5
          Originally posted by chickab View Post

          I dont suppose you can recall the Agency can you Nattynetty? Dont worry if not I'll try searching on the internet and see what I can come up with.
          Just did a little search back on my emails and I was obviously bad mouthing UPS with no good reason - it was Fedex I had the problems with. It was 2 years ago so memory may be a little hazy but from the email it appears when I initially phoned Fedex about my delayed parcel I got passed on to another Fedex department who told me how much I owed and took my card details and released the parcel.

          The next parcel I received wasn't held up at customs but later I received a bill from Fedex for the duty - which I figured was too high so I emailed them the following

          Re: Invoice number 538588532

          I have received the above invoice for £37.62 which amounts to approx 34% of the declared value of US $222.96 (approx GBP £112). Could you please explain how this amount was arrived upon as I was led to believe that the import duty on the particular goods I was importing had a very low duty amount of approx 3-5%.

          I look forward to your reply.

          Kind Regards

          After a month of them investigating they agreed to amend the invoice and I ended up paying about £25 in total.

          If you think UPS/ParcelForce haven't accurately calculated your import duty (or you want to check for next time) call Customs & Excise and they should be able to tell you what the duty is on fabric imported from the USA.

          I've found sometimes your parcel gets stopped sometimes it doesn't - best to cost it including any import duties etc and if it doesn't get stopped you've got a little brucie bonus
          Last edited by nattynetty; 07-08-2009, 01:58 PM. Reason: added more info
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          • #6
            I've been caught out on customs charges from the US to, but if you look carefully at the invoice when you receive it, they aren't customs charges, they are 'handling' charges applied by the carrier in the UK.

            I ordered a race suit from the states last year, paid approx $200 inc postage (which was c.£110 at the time), then when it came into the UK it was delivered via Parcelforce (I believe the default courier if the parcel is send USPS at their end) - I paid around £12 actual customs charges, then another £35 in 'handling' fees from Parcelfarce, so effectively I paid twice for it to be delivered.

            Even if a package is under the value required to attract customs charges, carriers can still apply their own handling charges.

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            • #7
              Any item over the value of £18 is subject to customs charges, if the parcel gets stopped and customs charges are due then the carrier (royal mail, parcel force etc) will charge you a handling fee aswell.

              There is a countrywide clamp down recently on customs cgharges as in the past lots of parcels have been getting through without having the charges applied.

              If your item cost you less than £18 and the declaration form on on the front of the parcel clearly states that, then you may be able to claim the customs and the handling charges back, if the sender incorrectly completed the customs label on the parcel then you will need to speak to them about it.

              This website is very useful for info re customs charges on imported items:

              jan x



              • #8
                I agree with Netty - you should factor in all the 'hidden' costs when shopping on USA sites - there are a few things there that cost pennies to purchase, but, when you add in the cost of pastage and any duties they aren't any cheaper than here - except my hubby is american so I could always get family to send it cheaper

                I used to get moulds from the US as they were soooooo much cheaper but the price has come down a bit here and gone up a bit there so, with the shipping and custom charges it's just not worth it anymore...

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                • #9
                  I got caught with customs charges a few years ago when a lampworker valued the beads I bought at $75 on the envelope rather than the $35 that I actually paid for them. ( I didn't pick up on what she meant by her comment - 'I value my beads higher' before it was sent )This meant that they passed the £18 threshold and I had to pay another £12 to get the parcel. The handling charge from the post office is now an £8 plus the Vat and custom charges.

                  Do you have any relatives/friends in the US that could receive and send the net on to you by ordinary post?



                  • #10
                    If you are buying from abroad regulary its well worth getting a TURN number.
                    How to do it is either on Business Link or Direct Gov but google 'importing'.

                    If what you are buying is worth over £18 you need to pay UK VAT on it.
                    Every country has different rules so that's why the suppliers pass the buck onto the customer.
                    It's a right palaver but once you've got your number (for the little people it's a pseudo TURN) you ask your supplier to put it on the parcel and fingers crossed your parcels come straight to you.
                    Without a number Royal Mail have to pay the VAT so charge you (it used to be £14) for the paperwork. I did ask what happens to an unnumbered parcel and was told it goes into a black hole at Heathrow and is sometimes never seen again (this was the time of terminal 5).

                    Something they don't make clear is they go on about classifying the goods with gobbledegook letters and numbers. You don't have to worry about that if the (foreign) postoffice, Fedex etc are filling in the lable. They are supposed to do it on behalf of your suppliers.

                    Anyway I have my number and, fingers crossed, my parcels are arriving no probs.......