Your view: are importing fees too steep?

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Import duty was the big debate of the week, with your experiences of buying from abroad being shared en masse. Do you think it should be easier, simpler and cheaper to buy from the US?

Jenny paid twice for an iPod:

‘My son, who lives in USA, sent an iPod touch to UK for his daughter’s birthday, but the import duty meant the iPod cost more than the same product in UK. Of course, I had to pay the fee.’

Woodgreener is always ready for import fees:

‘I have always known that if you buy goods from outside the European Union extra costs are incurred such as Duty and VAT. I have bought things from the USA, Canada and Argentina only because I could not find those items in the UK or the European Union … so in my calculations I had factored in my extra duty and VAT charges and expected any delays at customs. These are goods I wanted and could not get anywhere else. So… no shock… no surprises.’

NFH thinks customs limits in the UK are too low:

‘The customs limits are way too low. Compare the UK’s customs limits for unaccompanied goods (e.g. online ordering) to those of Australia, which is well known for strict customs controls. Residents of Australia can receive goods up to AUD 1,000 (GBP 555) without paying anything in import duty or tax. We need a similarly sensible limit in the UK.’

Extra post office handling charges

John bemoans the handling costs added by Royal Mail:

‘When I ordered a couple of art prints from a US company a few years ago I ended up paying a couple of pounds extra for import, which was fair enough. The charges levied by Royal Mail for ‘handling’ however added an extra 10% to the total cost which I thought was well beyond any reasonable charge.’

Graham, who shared his views on our Facebook page, criticised similar charges:

‘The import duty is not the problem as it is a percentage you can calculate. The problem is the ridiculous post office handling fee for which there is apparently no method to avoid. Surely you should be able to pay the duty so you purchase can make it straight to you and avoid a grossly unfair handling charge for them doing nothing.’

Paying for your birthday gift

SuperGran, who gets our Comment of the Week, shares her birthday experience:

‘I think Which? should conduct a campaign against import duty on modest gifts and against the exorbitant handling charge levied by Royal Mail. My daughter, who lives in Australia, sent me a nice but moderately-priced birthday present this year comprising a simple plastic stand for recipe books and a plastic cover for my phone. I had to pay £8.80 import duty and even worse, a handling charge of £10 to Royal Mail. Scandalous.

‘My ‘gift’ cost me £18.80 and I even had to drive seven miles (and back) in order to collect it. The parcel arrived over a week late, even though it had been posted in good time for my birthday. No doubt because it had been held up going through Customs and then Royal Mail processing. In future, I shall drop a hint to my daughter that she buys presents for her parents online from John Lewis. At least that way she will not incur charges for us and will know that presents are being delivered to our door.’

Have you had a similar experience of customs when ordering online goods from the US?

Should the UK Government raise the import duty threshold so Brits can buy more from America?

Yes (72%, 925 Votes)

No (18%, 236 Votes)

Don't know (9%, 120 Votes)

Total Voters: 1,281

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James Bryant says:
6 June 2014

Duty and VAT are reasonable taxes, and HMRC (HM Revenue & Customs) do not charge an additional fee for collecting them – so small items enter without charge because the tax is not worth the effort. But when duty/VAT is charged carriers (the Post Office, Fedex, UPS, etc.) can and do charge a fee which is out of all proportion to the work entailed, simply because they can, and the recipient has no redress.

It would be a sensible campaign for Which to press for for HMRC to pay the carrier a reasonable fee from the tax collected and prohibit any charges by the carrier to the recipient.

Johnno says:
6 March 2017

If HMRC were to pay a fee for tax collected on their behalf, imagine the clamour from the 2.5 MILLION VAT registered business’s who spend hours every month collecting and accounting for it, with only complaint and criticism from clipboard carrying jobsworths as a reward.

Bill B says:
6 June 2014

Retailers are not allowed to make a charge for collecting VAT so why is the Post Office? How would it be if you went and bought a new toaster and the retailer said “And I want £8 more for collecting the VAT from you”.


The cost of tax collection, whether vat, paye, or whatever, is already factored into the overhead costs of any business – so the purchaser pays in the price charged.

Begee3 says:
7 June 2014

Why must we have so many goods imported anyway? A great many innovations and designs started in thsi country but we don’t support our own manufacturers and producers. We prefer to put our own gratification first.
Why not think about supporting British industries, designers, manufacturers and in the process give our young people more work opportunities ????????????

Mike.W says:
2 January 2015

It is because the manufacturers and retailers only sell what they think will make them a good profit and if they don’t have it, we have to look elsewhere. Also the quality of manufacture is not always of a good standard and a lot of manufacturers they call themselves are actual importers using Chinese/Indian etc. cheap labour. The question arises who are we actually supporting when we make a purchase, and why are we paying UK prices for shoddy manufactured goods. Answer: Capital Greed. Something the UK in particular is good at.

James Bryant says:
7 June 2014

I wish I could buy locally. But the specialised electronic parts that I need to make the control system that I design cost more than twelve time as much here as they do in China. If I bought them here my control systems would be unaffordable. They were designed here, but not enough are needed here for it to be economic for local manufacture. One manufacturer makes enough for the whole World.

India tried to prohibit imports of things that could be made locally, but not at an economic price, and set it economy back for decades by doing so.

Begee3 says:
7 June 2014

Thank you very much for your comment. It is certainly food for thought for those of us who don’t work in production. I intend sending these comments to my MP and to the Tory Party.
Thanks and good luck with your work.

Robert says: