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If you are receiving a shipment you need to know that there could be duties to pay that may be billed after the shipment has been delivered.

The four main extra fees are:

  • Customs Duty
  • Excise Duty
  • Value Added Tax (VAT)
  • Administration Fee
These fees are applicable to:

  • Businesses & Private Individuals
  • Companies & private individuals who regularly ship goods into and out of the country and need to have a clear understanding of the laws relating to importing and exporting.
Internet shopping

Individuals regularly import when goods are bought over the Internet. By purchasing an item from an Internet site based outside of the UK, you then effectively become an importer and become liable for Duty and VAT payments. Private individuals intending to buy goods on the Internet from non-European Union countries should be particularly careful. Often the price advertised on the supplier's website will not include UK Duty and VAT and you will be expected to pay this once the shipment arrives in the UK.


If someone sends you a gift from abroad that is over £36 in value, you will also be obliged to pay the Duty and VAT unless the person who sent it has agreed to pay it themselves. Likewise, if you are the person sending you need to remember that if you don't take the time to include the proper invoices then your shipment could be held in customs or the person you are sending to may be charged too much Duty and VAT. Information relating to exporting can be found on the Export section of this website.

Duty and VAT

Customs Duty

Customs Duty is a tax charged on many goods produced outside the European Union (EU). Customs Duty is usually percentage based, and varies according to the nature of the goods.
HM Revenue & Customs levy Customs Duty to keep competition equal and fair and to bring the cost of imported goods up to the same cost as those produced within the UK. Once Customs Duty is paid, the goods are in 'free circulation' and can move throughout the EU without restriction and hence goods imported from the EU are not subject to Customs Duty.

The value for Customs Duty
All goods are classified using the Customs Tariff in order to arrive at the rate of Customs Duty. The UK sets the Customs Duty rates and uses a ten digit coding; there are approximately 14,000 classifications. Customs assess the amount of Customs Duty to be paid based on the declared value of the goods plus the transport costs to the country of destination.

Excise Duty
Excise Duty is a tax charged on certain goods produced outside of the UK.
Goods such as alcohol, tobacco and perfume are subject to Excise Duty. When you buy excisable goods in the UK the price you pay includes this tax. However, if you import these goods either from the EU or from outside the EU, you will have to pay Excise Duty on them. The Excise Duty is often more than the cost of the goods, and private consumers buying excisable goods over the Internet should be extremely careful as there are different regulations governing the purchase of these goods on the Internet.
Any goods arriving in the UK on which Excise Duty in particular has not been paid will be liable to seizure by Customs.

VAT is a tax charged on many goods produced outside of the EU.
Value Added Tax (VAT) is normally charged on the supply of goods (and services) made by a VAT registered business. In addition goods imported from outside of the EU are subject to VAT.
The value for VAT is the declared value of the goods plus the transport costs to the country of destination plus the Customs Duty.

Importing from European Union (EU) Countries
When importing goods from the EU, goods do not have to be declared (for Customs Duty), but Excise Duty must be paid on excisable goods. OCS Worldwide does not normally carry goods subject to Excise Duty.

Countries in the European Union are:
  • Austria
  • Belgium
  • Bulgaria
  • Cyprus
  • Czech Republic
  • Denmark
  • Estonia
  • Finland
  • France
  • Germany
  • Greece
  • Hungary
  • Ireland
  • Italy
  • Latvia
  • Lithuania
  • Luxembourg
  • Malta
  • Netherlands
  • Poland
  • Portugal
  • Romania
  • Slovakia
  • Romania
  • Spain
  • Sweden
  • United Kingdom

Importing from Non European Union (EU) Countries
All goods imported into the UK from outside the EU must be declared to HM Revenue & Customs and, in most cases, are subject to Customs Duty & VAT, plus Excise Duty if applicable. This includes goods bought over the Internet.

Paying Duty and VAT charges
The person or company receiving the shipment has a legal obligation to pay Duty and VAT except where the person or company sending the shipment has agreed to accept these charges in the contract of sale. If you are intending to buy goods on the Internet, from non-EU countries, the priced advertised will probably not include UK Duties and you will be expected to pay this once the shipment arrives in the UK.

How OCS Worldwide helps
We pay the Duty and VAT charges on your behalf and then deliver your shipment.
Some businesses have their own accounts with HM Customs and Excise and we merely arrange for their account to be directly debited by Customs. Many other importers, particularly private consumers do not have an account with Customs. We therefore pay the charges on your behalf and then deliver your shipment. We then invoice you for the Duty and VAT we have paid over on your behalf. A small administration fee will be added to the Duty and VAT invoice we send you.

Administration fee
The fee for business customers is £15 or 4% of the total Duty and VAT amount, whichever is the greater.Recovery of Duty and VAT charges from Customs
If you are VAT registered you may be able to recover the VAT. Duty and administration costs are not recoverable.

Relief from Duty and VAT

Duty and VAT relief can be claimed on:
  • Goods of £15 or less in value are free from import Duty & VAT (excluding postage, packing and other miscellaneous costs and include excisable goods such as alcohol, tobacco products, perfume or toilet waters).
  • Gifts from one private individual to another providing the value does not exceed £34. (Exception: There is a very restricted gift allowance on excise goods but you are advised to contact Customs for further information.)
  • Personal effects of individuals returning to or transferring their normal home to the EU, or coming to the EU as a temporary visitor.
  • Goods imported into the EU for processing and repair before re-export from the EU. Your local office of HM Customs and Excise can provide you with further details.
  • Goods that are of UK origin and are being returned in an unaltered state.

More Information

You can find out more information on Duty and VAT by visiting the Customs web site at or by contacting your local Customs office.

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