What are customs charges?
Customs authorities operate in every country in the world and are in place to control what can be shipped in and outside of the country's boundaries. This ensures that no prohibited or illegal goods reach their intended destination and that the government receives the right amount of duty and tax owed on the goods being sent.
Whenever an international parcel delivery is processed, the sender will be required to complete what is known as a "pro forma invoice" or "customs invoice". This form is designed to help the recipient's local customs office to determine whether the goods are authorised to be legally imported and to calculate how much import duty and tax is due on the parcel. They will then arrange for the relevant payment to be made.
Deliberately avoiding customs charges is comitting fraud and by doing so knowingly and without a reasonable excuse, could lead to delays, fines or a destroyed package.
What methods are used to avoid customs fees?
Customs duty and tax is based upon the total value of the goods. Declaring a value lower than the true cost of goods value could therefore reduce the customs fees.
Some customs authorities have duty and tax reliefs for items sent as gifts. Sending commercial goods that have been sold into the destination country as a gift could qualify for these reliefs.
Certain types of goods attract higher customs duty and tax fees, therefore declaring the contents as a completely different item with a lower duty rate could reduce the costs.
- Sending "new" items as "used" personal goods
Used personal goods may have duty and tax releif applied, therefore sending new items as personal goods could reduce the customs fees applied.
The risks of avoiding customs fees
Whether sending many parcels overseas or just one, it can be tempting to provide false information on the pro forma invoice. However, in doing so you could arouse suspicion about the contents and value of your parcel. Stringent checks are carried out at every cross-border customs facility. If your information is flagged as being inaccurate or anything about your parcel warrants a further investigation, you could experience delays, a penalty fine of at least £250 and/or your parcel being returned to you. In more serious cases, your parcel could be completely destroyed. The recipient could also face further customs charges if the item is delivered, and this is something that could put you out of favour with your customers if they have to pay an additional and unexpected customs fee.
It is important when packaging goods that you are both honest when completing customs documentation and that you check the customs information for each individual country as jurisdiction can differ quite significantly from country to country.