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I have purchased many items from USA and have always paid the customs duty. I am not in business. I sew as a hobby and collect dolls. I am in my 70's,a widow: a mother, grandmother and great grandmother, and I feel very vulnerable right now.Each time Parcelforce sends a sealed letter, asking for customs duty I pay it. I do not object to paying the customs duty. I would not buy from outside the EU were that the case.However, the latest demand from Parcelforce is too high and does not appear to relate to any item I have ordered online. They do not say on their sealed letter, which is the type you have to tear around the edges to secure the information, the value of the item, or any details of it. I do not recognise the tracking number in connection with one of two items I am expecting.They have demanded a payment of £49.88, including their fee to collect it of £13.50. I have not refused to pay this either. I wrote to both Parcelforce and Customs telling them that I cannot see that this is 20% of any item I have bought.The problem I have is that the highest value of the items expected is £126. I have asked them for a breakdown of their invoice. It is not a card through the door, it is in the form of an invoice. That was on Friday. Today I receive a reply that had no connection to the question I put to Parcelforce.I ask to know how they arrived at the figure of £36.38 - net and not including their fee - and from their reply they expect me to pay before they tell me. If I were to pay and contest it later, is any part of the fee refundable?It seems to me that they might have calculated the STERLING duty based on US DOLLARS value, and I think, surely, that I should have information before I pay it. I was under the impression that the customs duty is about 20%, and if that was the case, the highest value of the outstanding order I made of £126 is surely about £26 duty if that. The other item I am expecting is much less than that.

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I have purchased many items from USA and have always paid the customs duty. I am not in business. I sew as a hobby and collect dolls.

....

Each time Parcelforce sends a sealed letter, asking for customs duty I pay it. I do not object to paying the customs duty. I would not buy from outside the EU were that the case.

...

However, the latest demand from Parcelforce is too high...They have demanded a payment of £49.88, including their fee to collect it of £13.50.

...

I wrote to both Parcelforce and Customs telling them that I cannot see that this is 20% of any item I have bought. The problem I have is that the highest value of the items expected is £126. I have asked them for a breakdown of their invoice.

.....

I ask to know how they arrived at the figure of £36.38 - net and not including their fee - and from their reply they expect me to pay before they tell me.

 

If I were to pay and contest it later, is any part of the fee refundable?

...

I was under the impression that the customs duty is about 20%, and if that was the case, the highest value of the outstanding order I made of £126 is surely about £26 duty if that.

HMRC maintains a Trade Tariff. This lists the rates of Customs Duty and Import VAT payable for different classifications of goods. [1]

 

"Ornamental dolls" have classification code "9503 00" and attract a levy of 4.70% Customs Duty.

 

Are the dolls perhaps "antique" (of an age exceeding 100 years)? If so, perhaps they should be free of Customs Duty (classification code "9706 00").

 

At worst, there is a paltry 4.70% rate of Customs Duty applicable to the importation of the dolls themselves.

 

If the goods are dutiable and exceed £135 in value then the Customs Duty is only payable if it exceeds £9.00.

 

Here's the rub though.

 

Import VAT must be paid and not only on the value of the doll itself, but also VAT must be paid on the Customs Duty and on the cost of delivering the doll to the United Kingdom. That even includes the seller's charge for packaging and the cost of the courier's shipping insurance.

 

From the HMRC website: [2]

 

Import VAT is imposed on the basic value of goods, plus postage, packing and insurance, plus any import (Customs or Excise) duties charged.

And also from the HMRC website: [3]

 

Customs Duty is payable if the goods are over £135 in value but is waived if the amount calculated is less than £9. Customs duty is usually charged as a percentage of the value of the goods. The percentage varies depending on the type of goods and their country of origin. Duty is charged on the price paid for the goods including any local sales taxes plus postage, packing and insurance costs.

Assuming you paid £126 for the doll. Expedited shipping and insurance to the UK added perhaps a further £40+£26. Total £192.

 

Customs Duty payable @ 4.70% on £192 = £9.00

VAT @20% on (£192+£9 = £201) = £40.20

 

And finally there's that objectionable £13.50 "Clearance Fee" imposed by Parcelforce or £8 for the Customs "Handling Fee" from Royal Mail. [4] [5]

 

Other couriers are entitled to decide their own "duty collection fee". Although I fail to see how a courier can reasonably use a sliding scale based on the Duty collected.

 

£50+ to pay in duties, taxes and fees for importing a £126 doll is daylight robbery, but it could be lawful daylight robbery.

 

No wonder Kipling found something romantic in Smuggling. [6]

 

Although when he penned his poem, A Smuggler's Song, Kipling surely wasn't minded of anything so benign as "brandy for the parson and 'baccy for the clerk"... The poem was an oblique reference to the Opium Trade, of which Kipling was intimately involved..

 

[1] http://tariff.businesslink.gov.uk/tariff-bl/mainMenu

[2] http://customs.hmrc.gov.uk/channelsPortalWebApp/channelsPortalWebApp.portal?_nfpb=true&_pageLabel=pageTravel_ShowContent&id=HMCE_CL_000014&propertyType=document#P143_10270

[3] http://customs.hmrc.gov.uk/channelsPortalWebApp/downloadFile?contentID=HMCE_CL_000014

[4] http://www.royalmail.com/delivery/mail-advice/customs-information

[5] http://www.parcelforce.com/receiving-parcel/importing-uk/parcelforce-worldwide-clearance

[6] http://en.wikisource.org/wiki/A_Smuggler%27s_Song

Edited by edwincluck
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