United Kingdom

Post-Brexit rules could see Christmas gifts held at customs due to paperwork ‘burden’

Almost everyone planning to send gifts abroad this Christmas is in the dark about the new rules for sending parcels from the UK to the European Union, a new survey suggests.

Since the UK left the EU in January this year, new customs rules have been imposed on goods and gifts as the EU now treats post from the UK like that from any other non-EU country.

Parcels with a value of more than £39 would be liable for fees. Gifts under that amount remain free of any charges.

This rule does not apply to the sending of goods and gifts from Northern Ireland to the EU.

Customs declaration forms have to be clearly filled in and attached so that charges can be correctly levied or waived.

Consumer organisation Which? is warning that failure to know and stick to the rules carries the risk of parcels being delayed, the recipient being hit with having to pay fees, or even the gifts going missing.

Only one person out of 1,058 that were polled in September said they felt confident in their knowledge of the rule changes.

Half of those planning to send a gift to someone in the EU said they didn’t know anything about the new rules, and almost as many said they felt they only knew a little.

About 17 per cent of people are planning on sending Christmas gifts abroad this year, Which? said.

And a huge 83 per cent of them said they were planning to send gifts abroad with just over a month or less to go until the Christmas bank holidays.

Which? is warning that sending parcels to the EU can be troublesome and confusing, especially in the run-up to Christmas, citing its own survey findings.

It said that, post-Brexit, almost 10 per cent of its members had sent a gift to an address in an EU country.

Of these people, more than a third experienced delays, 30 per cent of them were hit by unexpected charges, and almost 10 per cent of them said the gift went missing.

Which? consumer rights expert Adam French toldThe Observer: “The changes brought about by Brexit have created a greater burden of customs paperwork for consumers and couriers alike.”

While parcels with a value of £39 or less would not come with charges, those costing more than that amount would come with 20 per cent import VAT and courier handling fees.

Parcels with a value of more than £135 come with import VAT, courier handling fees, and possibly customs duty. Customs duty can be waived if there are documents proving that the goods were sent from the UK.

Typically, the recipient of the gift will have to pay the costs of customs processing or any handling fees and they must also pay any customs duties or taxes incurred in accordance with their region’s customs rules.

In addition to the charges and exemptions, senders also need to be aware that the customs form that would need to be completed depends on the value of what is being posted.

Royal Mail requires people to fill in and attach a CN22 form if the parcel has a value of £270 or less. A CN23 form is needed if a parcel has a value of more than £270.

Royal Mail has listed its last postal dates for shipping post and parcels internationally to reach their destination in time for Christmas.

They are, starting from next week:

Wednesday 1 December


Monday 6 December

Australia, Greece, Italy, New Zealand and Portugal

Wednesday 8 December

Africa, Central and South America, Asia, Far and Middle East

Friday 10 December

Cyprus, Malta and Sweden

Saturday 11 December

Eastern Europe (except Czechia, Poland and Slovakia), Turkey

Monday 13 December

Canada, Czech Republic, Finland, Poland and USA

Thursday 16 December

Austria, Belgium, Denmark, France, Germany, Iceland, Ireland, Luxembourg, Netherlands, Norway, Slovakia, Spain, Switzerland

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