Help me understand customs & VAT in UK

I am confused and I am hoping some of the seasoned travelers in the THS community can help enlighten me. I am doing a series of sits in England between July and November. For the later part of my trip, I will be hiking in Northumberland, so I needed some hiking boots, rain gear etc. I didn’t want to carry those things around in the warmer months, so I mailed them (with permission) to my pet parent hosts where I am staying later this month. (This is my 3rd time sitting for them, so I felt comfortable asking.) So, many weeks ago, my brother mailed a medium sized box of my clothing to me.

It is now being held in customs who wants over 250 GBP for customs and VAT. Is that a regular thing for used clothing–personal items–being mailed from my home in the US to a home in England? I am having a tough time getitng answers to that on the phone or by email.

If I do have to pay that, I would actually rather just allow the box to be returned to sender (my brother) and buy new boots, rain gear etc. here.

Does anyone have experience with this or any words of advice? Thank you!

Hello @Shella_in_the_Forum (great name, my mum’s too) - normally they hold stuff in UK customs if the insurance form with it had deemed it of value. Do you know if your brother gave it an amount for insurance purposes as that could be the issue? If gifts come in to the UK they have to be worth “zero” for them to have no customs charge. I’ve been collared when Ozzie family send me gifts to the UK and cover them with a few hundred dollars and then I’ve had to pay. I think gifting it may be your only option at this stage or for the recipient to refuse the parcel so they return it to sender. Good luck, it’s such a pain! Switzerland, Turkey & UK are the three culprits for this and we move between those three :flushed::flushed::joy:

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Add on Gibraltar

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It sounds as if they are deeming the goods new or you are importing them. There will be an import duty and tax due if your brother put a value on the parcel.

If the goods are valued at more than £135 then VAT is charged ( doesn’t matter if they are new or pre- owned )

If you think that Customs have over valued the goods ( and can prove it ) you can fill in a form to query it … all information is on this link :

This doesn’t apply if you are moving permanently to the U.K. when you can claim tax relief by completing some comprehensive forms and providing receipts.


Hi @Shella_in_the_Forum
This sounds like there’s a value placed on your boots HMRC are working off. I think unfortunately now you either refuse and they get returned to sender or pay it.
Just make sure if you get sent items into the UK the value is low or nil. I recently left a hoodie in Portugal and had to have the HO send it to my UK home address. The hoodie was a cheap item and marked at £10 so I got it ok without issues.
I lived on Lanzarote for a few years and taxes for importing stuff there could be crazy as the main courier DHL would charge import duty (for the Canarian local government) plus an admin fee and if you didn’t pick the item up within 48 hours a holding fee. So I know how frustrating these fees can be and add up!

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You’ve learnt, as have I, that it’s not worth posting things these days. The same thing happened to me when I sent some clothing I didn’t need back home c/o a friend’s home. I’d put ‘used clothing’ on the voucher & ‘nominal value’. As for hiking boots, I wear mine on planes and when travelling between places.

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Hi Shella, if not marked as a ‘gift’, then anything posted to the UK will be subject to customs charges & VAT unfortunately.

As mentioned by others, even if it’s a gift, anything marked with a value of over £39 will be charged VAT, and anything over £135 is charged customs charges.

I would recommend having it returned to sender (as long as that doesn’t cause another charge or lead to the goods being seized) and then buy over here. Alternatively you could get your brother to send them with a lower marked value as they are used but then that’s a risk if they are lost or if it is questioned.

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Thank you all. I have learned a lesson. Have a great weekend.

Hi @Shella_in_the_Forum we’d also like to extend our thanks to everyone for helping you get the information you were looking for.

Have a great weekend everyone!!