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Have you been stung by customs and VAT charges?

If you’ve recently ordered from a European retailer, you might have been stung with additional customs and VAT charges. We want to hear your experiences.

Since 1 January, when the Brexit transition period ended, some people have faced additional fees on items coming from the EU, as well as delays on orders due to customs checks.

We want to hear your experiences and make sure you’re not being overcharged.

Have you been hit with a hefty import fee?

Some are reporting being hit with unexpected charges.

Perhaps it wasn’t made clear to you that you’d be charged when you placed your order, or you might not have even realised you were ordering from a European retailer.

You might also be questioning the amount you were asked to pay.

VAT, in most cases, is charged at 20%, and should be applied to gifts worth more than £39. Goods costing more than £135 could be hit with customs duties too, which can range from 0% to 25%.

Delivery ‘handling fees’

On top of VAT charges and custom duties, some delivery firms are also adding handling fees to deliveries from the EU to the UK, and vice versa.

DPD has a EU Clearance Fee of £3.50 (PDF file attached), which it says ‘covers Customs Clearance, handling, and processing costs to export parcels to EU destinations from Great Britain’.

Royal Mail is charging an £8 fee, though some people have claimed to have paid more.


It’s worth checking how much you should be paying on the delivery firm’s website. We want to hear if you’ve been overcharged.

Will the new rules change how you shop?

Some may now think twice before shopping with European stores to avoid the steep fees, and some retailers have stopped selling to the UK due to VAT changes too.

Let us know if any of the retailers you shop with have stopped selling to the UK, or if you notice any additional ‘handling fees’ retailers might be introducing to cover extra customs checks and admin.

Have you experienced delays or import costs?

Tell us who delivered your parcel, how much you were charged, and if you had to wait longer than usual for your delivery.


My experience is that I have been charged VAT twice. I assume that is incorrect. If so do I reclaim from the retailer?

Ordered 26th December. Item more than £390. Have ordered from same company before & service been very good. Distribution hub of company for Europe in Germany. Received online invoice showing VAT charge. Retailer website said no orders processing until 4th January, because of impending changes. While delay disappointing, statement implied company knew of changes & was taking steps to comply in a manner least disruptive to customer. Money taken on 31st December- that was an unusual practice, normally money taken as order dispatched. Delivery estimated as 8th January. Then it all went into limbo. I had to initiate communication on issues & no-one clear on resolution.

Two weeks later – organisation(s) remedied deficient paperwork. Order released. No detail on additional charges. Delivery driver arrived on one month anniversary of order, with invoice for Customs & delivery admin – not welcome but expected from posts here & in media. Invoice also sought import VAT on order value. I appreciate that import VAT is one way new rules operate.

Summary to Hannah’s questions: order delayed by at least three weeks from timescales previously experienced. Charged Custom’s Duties & Brokerage fee. Charged import VAT.

Question to experts: if I’ve paid VAT on initial invoice, does it apply again as import VAT? Should retailer be reimbursing me for VAT it charged?

Margaret says:
29 January 2021

Can anyone tell me, please: if I order a couple of young plants from Italy for sale on eBay are there any restrictions on importing them and will there be customs, import and handling fees?

Margaret – It would be interesting to know why it is necessary to import plants from Italy when such a wide range are available from UK growers and nurseries.

There are various regulations, controls and extensive legislation in place, so before worrying about taxes, customs duties and handling fees I suggest you start by reading this government information –

luke r says:
1 February 2021

I brought 3 lamps from Bulgaria on 22nd Dec. They were wrapped in separate packages but I paid £335.00 and delivery £56.03, so in total £391.03 and now have a import duties/vat/delivery bill of £101. As I brought the items before 31st whilst still in the EU should I pay the invoice given to me by TNT/FedEx

@lke-r I believe it is the shipping date that determines the tax point. If shipped after 31st December, then UK taxation applies.

I am having the most frustrating brexit-related experience with a recent purchase.

I bought a webcam on-line from a major name in the business on 17th Jan. It turns out they ship from somewhere in the EU (I didn’t know that when I ordered).
Tax was charged at the prevailing UK rate of 20%.
Shipping, via a well-known world-wide company, was confirmed on 19th Jan.
Since then all I get from the shipping company is emails advising me:
“Your package is delayed due to a Brexit related disruption. We are adjusting delivery plans as quickly as possible.”

How does this fit with Boris Johnson’s speech 24/12/2020 here ..

in which he says:
“… Because there will be no palisade of tariffs on Jan 1.
And there will be no non-tariff barriers to trade.
And instead there will be a giant free trade zone of which we will at once be a member. …”

I fear that speech was self delusional.

Does the EU seller not take off the VAT as it is being exported out of EU?