Advice on avoiding customs charges when shipping personal property to myself (US->UK)?
October 22, 2008 12:13 PM   Subscribe

I'd like to have my brother ship an item I bought in the US to me (I'm in the UK.) I'd also like not to have to hand over my first born child to UK Customs. Any suggestions?

Basically, the situation is this:

I'm in the UK for the next couple months. I've got an item of mine in the US, that I purchased in the US. I'd like to have it shipped to me in the UK. I'm worried that customs will open the package, make up a value, and charge me some outrageous fee. This has happened to me in the past -- including being assessed VAT on things that were purchased in the US while I was a resident there.

I was considering simply getting my brother to send it to me from my return address (i.e. source and destination names are the same), as I seem to recall this method working for me a couple years back.

I was wondering if anyone had any first-hand experience with avoiding customs charges when shipping your personal property to yourself.
posted by -1 to Law & Government (6 answers total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
My experience has always been as the sender, not the recipient, but friends and family in the UK have always been sure to tell me to mark anything I'm sending over to them as a gift. I've always assumed this was the key to avoiding VAT on their end.
posted by Kadin2048 at 12:35 PM on October 22, 2008

The 'gift' thing doesn't exempt you unless the gift is priced under £18.

If you can prove to Customs and Excise that the item is for personal use during your visit and that you're leaving the UK with said item at a set date, you might be granted a waiver.
posted by holgate at 12:55 PM on October 22, 2008

Ok, importing pretty much anything into the UK may result in tax IF the value is above £36.

I'm not totally sure but I don't believe taxes are assed on books received from non EU countries. I used to receive large boxes from publishers in New York, sometimes as many as a dozen titles (once or twice a year I'm asked to review galley proofs and pre-publication copies of finance books).

These boxes are always marked "gifts" and "printed material / books", and I've never once been charged tax by HMRC.

If your item isn't a book I certainly wouldn't advocate trying to dodge the tax. Maybe someone could come visit and bring the item with them?
posted by Mutant at 1:10 PM on October 22, 2008

I think books are a bit different for the same reasons that we don't charge VAT on books over here.

I feel your pain, btw - I once got charged £8 for a pair of £20 knickers I bought online. £7 of this was the Post Office fee.
posted by mippy at 1:17 PM on October 22, 2008

My family always send my things as "Return of personal effects", with a note saying essentially "you left this behind when you stayed here".
posted by djgh at 1:59 PM on October 22, 2008

Best answer: Take a look at this on the UK Customs site. Your brother may need to include a C3 form (pdf). Make sure to note "personal goods" as part of the description.
posted by Carbolic at 2:02 PM on October 22, 2008

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