Do I have to pay extra charges on parcels received from abroad?

Parcelforce says it’s holding my parcel until I pay Import VAT of £9.95. Do I have to pay?

A woman signs for a delivery at home.

Alan is annoyed. “My sister in New Zealand posted my children a parcel for Christmas.

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Parcelforce says it’s holding it until I pay Import VAT of £9.95.

To top it all, Parcelforce is charging a clearance fee of £12, bringing the total to £21.95!

This is very unfair for a parcel containing sparkly nail varnish and make-up. Do I have to pay?”

Paul Lewis replies: I understand your frustration, Alan, but VAT is charged on goods sent person to person worth more than a certain amount if they come from outside the EU.

Eventually it may apply to goods from the EU, depending on what the UK negotiates as we leave.

On top of the VAT, Parcelforce, Royal Mail or private courier firms add their own handling fee.

The charge can be avoided by splitting the items into parcels worth below the value limit, normally £15.

However it rises to £39 for items declared as gifts for a birthday or other occasion. Some goods such as books are exempt from VAT. If the charge is not paid the goods are returned.

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For more information visit: gov.uk/goods-sent-from-abroad.