Friday, November 30, 2012

UK Border Agency attempts 'daylight robbery'

(Photo: BN4 taken by Abby van Balen, Salar de uyuni, Bolivia)

Not needing her full-on winter woollies in South America, BN4 left a small bundle for me to post to the UK in time for her Christmas sojourn there.

Duly despatched at the begining of October, I was amazed to see the parcel returned to Scone this week.

Apparently the UK Border Agency have seen fit to apply custom charges to imports into the EU with a value over £15 for VAT and also to apply import duty to all items valued over £135. Moreover imported gifts valued over £40 sent between private individuals are also to attract VAT...WTF

None of BN4's items were 'new' or 'for sale' or actually 'imports' - none of them! - so they certainly did not warrant the impost of £105.01 ($161.45) that was required to be paid by my English family so that the parcel could be claimed. Unsurprisingly the parcel was not collected, and it has now made its way back to Australia.

Putting BN4 and her lack of winter clothes for Chrissy aside for a minute, what about the actual season of giving itself? Will there be customs charges for the cookbooks that I've sent to the UK family this year? Is the UK government that desperate for cash they've directed the UK Border Agency to ensure they squeeze every available last penny from any poor international sucker who still posts gifts to their family? - international gift giving might have to stop!

Who are the UK Border Agency anyway? - and why do they bother themselves with the minutiae of parcel post? Exactly what have family parcels got to do with border security? Surely their state of the art UK Border Agency scanning equipment could have informed them very quickly that they were dealing with a small bundle of used woolly clothes - certainly a pair of spectacles might have assisted and/or taking their gloves off, and judging from the condition of the box when it arrived in back my kitchen, the UK Border Agency have clearly left no mitten unturned in their quest to discover undisclosed international trade.

...and while I'm musing on this matter, who are Parcel Force Worldwide? - whatever happened to the 'Royal Mail' that we knew and loved?

Sigh - bring back Postman Pat


  1. Sadly, Sue, as I have found to my despair, this is a two way street. ANYTHING posted to oz from here insured for more than $100AUD gets import duty and GST (plus a handling charge!) slapped on it. Apparently, sending someone a gift is now classified as "importing". Just awful!

  2. No kidding! - that's totally unbelievable - I'm gobsmacked!

  3. Who valued these clothes at over £135? Surely the answer is to post such things with a clear label stating the contents as being second-hand clothes worth £5?

    I wonder how much it cost the various agencies and carriers in time and effort to return the package to Oz? I'm quite surprised it wasn't just put in a bin quietly!

    We're a bit low on public cash in the UK, thanks to multinational companies like Vodaphone, Google, Starbucks and Amazon managing to pay almost no corporation tax. The Private Finanace Initiative is also proving to be a VERY costly way to run public services with private companies creaming off big profits at almost no risk. Sadly our timid government are too afraid to make these companies pay their fair taxes, so the little people have to cough up instead.

  4. Yes, Fonant, you're right on every count - & I should have put minimal dollars on the parcel and that they were a pile of jumble - utter madness to put what I did - I think I was thinking in terms of replacement but without incurring extra insurance from Australia Post - geez the stupidity of me - I just played into their greedy trap!

    So now thinking about both your comments (Mark & Fonant) it seems to me that the British get slugged twice; (i) when they receive parcels from Oz and (ii) when they send parcels to Oz. As for us Down Under we just pay hefty postage - anyhoo I'm going to head into my local Post Office right now and get the low down on my rights & responsibilities as an importer

    Thanks for your insights!

  5. You do not pay GST/duty if you import goods (except alcohol or tobacco) valued < $1000 through the mail system.
    The following info is from Australian Customs website:
    Goods with a declared or assessed value not exceeding A$1,000
    If your goods arrive in Australia by mail and have a declared or assessed value of A$1,000 or less, the goods may be imported free of duty, taxes and Customs and Border Protection charges, unless they are alcohol products or tobacco products. Apart from alcohol and tobacco products those goods will be cleared by Customs and Border Protection and delivered by Australia Post without you doing anything.

  6. Thanks for that, Peng! the charge whacked on my parcel by the UK Border Agency is an outrageous customs charge that wouldn't apply here in Australia? Given what you have gleaned from the Australian Customs website, is the 'GST' Mark refers to yet another avenue for the UK Border Agency to cream off a few more pennies? - lean times in the UK!

    Seems grossly unfair that so many taxes and charges are laid upon such items and that several governments stand to benefit from a bundle of used winter woollies

  7. I am not familiar with how imports into UK is treated; however the concessional treatment for importation of goods up to the value of $1000 into Australia has been in place since the GST regime was implemented in 2001. A govt commissioned review of the concessional treatment of GST associated with importation through the mail system have recommended that the GST-free threshold be reduced to $500. The govt has yet to respond to the recommendation. The moral of the story is, if you are going to do any internet shopping o/s up to the value of $1000, do it soon before the GST concession is reduced or abolished.

  8. Heh, we can now add a similar story. We sent a box of Christmas presents, consisting of underwear, pyjamas, paper chains and slippers to a family working on a "missionary" basis at a school in India. The value of the items was £160, and ParcelForce charged us £150 for send the box by air to India (ouch!). The family are now being asked to pay £60 import duty and VAT at the Indian end, but they just don't have the money to pay this. So we're going to have to send another £60 to them, as there's no point in having the lot returned back to us, even if we did think the box would make it back in one piece.

    The Duty and VAT being levied on the total cost of goods AND SHIPPING, and not just the value of the goods as you might expect.

    That could be the last time we send a box of stuff to India!

  9. That's outrageous - what can we do about it? - this blatant greed is insupportable

    Whatever happened to Royal Mail? - obliterated?

    Geez enough ought to be enough - time for "Occupy Post Office"