Brexit: Taxes and Charges for Parcel Delivery to France
Saturday 15 January 2022
Post-Brexit rules have made receiving parcels from the UK more expensive, in the process causing widespread confusion and anger.
Many deliveries to France – including gifts and products ordered online – are now subject to customs clearance (and sometimes duties) and VAT.
Under normal circumstances, these new charges should be paid at the time of purchase or postage from the UK.
However, many of our readers in France have found this is not the case and have been asked to make extra payments before a parcel is delivered, even to sometimes having to hand over a cheque to a driver from private delivery companies.
There are also many reports of late delivery of parcels, generally caused by the additional administrative tasks that suppliers and couriers now need to undertake.
The rules for when charges should be applied and how much they should cost for households are as follows:
For deliveries to France, under European regulations customs duties are applied to goods coming from outside the EU that cost €150 and over. However, under the terms of the EU-UK Trade and Cooperation Agreement only goods produced outside of the UK or EU are liable to customs duty. Nevertheless, there remains a requirement for customs clearance and the declaration will need to state the country of origin.
As a rule, duties payable should be automatically added to online orders at the time of payment and to parcels at the time of postage, but this does not always occur. Suppliers may simply not have the resources to know the duties that must be paid, which may be left to the courier or recipient to deal with.
For deliveries to the UK, customs duties must also be paid by people in France sending goods to the UK, if they have a value of £135 and over.
Customs duties are payable when posting the goods. You will also have to complete a customs declarations form to be attached to the outside of the package detailing the approximate value and the type of goods.
The form for use from France can be found at Douane Déclaration CN23 . It is not easy to understand so you might wish to complete at the post office with the assistance of the counter clerk.
The form for use from the UK can be found at Customs Declaration.
Customs officials in the UK and France may carry out spot checks on parcels to check that the outside labels match up with the products inside.
Since July 2021, VAT charges of 20% have been applied to online orders from outside the EU delivered to addresses in France, in line with new European laws introduced to combat fraud and establish a uniform set of rules across Europe.
Previously this tax was only applied to goods worth over €22, but the EU rules have lowered the threshold for products delivered from all over the world – including the UK. The change is only indirectly the result of Brexit.
VAT charges are normally be paid at the time of purchase when buying goods online, along with customs duties. However, a seller from the UK may sell goods ex VAT, when it is then left to a delivery company to collect the French VAT who will then also impose an administrative charge for doing so. You need to check at the time of the order.
The charges can also be applied to parcels from the UK containing gifts with a value of €45 and over. Below this amount gifts between individuals are exempt from VAT. Unfortunately, the threshold includes the cost of the gift, postage, insurance and any customs duties that might be payable!
The rule is covered by Articles 25 to 27 European Regulation 1186/2009 of 16th Nov 2009. Thus, Article 26 states:' La franchise visée à l’article 25, paragraphe 1, est appliquée sur une valeur de 45 EUR par envoi, y compris la valeur des mar chandises visées à l’article 27.'
Several small gifts in the same parcel are also covered by the clause, which states: 'Lorsque la valeur globale de plusieurs marchandises dépasse,par envoi, le montant indiqué au paragraphe 1, la franchise est accordée jusqu’à concurrence de ce montant pour celles de ces marchandises qui, importées séparément, auraient pu bénéficier de ladite franchise, étant entendu que la valeur d’une marchandise ne peut être fractionnée.'
What if Charges are not Paid in Advance?
Goods delivered from the UK may not always have customs duties and VAT included and paid with the order. This is simply due to a lack of customs resources to check and verify all parcels.
If so, they will need to be paid when the parcel arrives in France in order for it to be delivered, although once again, this is more usual with delivery companies than with goods sent through the post.
Normally, private delivery companies will directly contact buyers who need to do this.
In some cases recipients can also pay custom’s duties online via French national postal service La Poste’s website or in person at a post office in order to receive the delivery. Delivery companies also have their own on-line arrangements.
The amount of customs duty depends on the type and value of goods being sent and the country they are being sent from.
As a result of the new rules, some couriers have also increased delivery costs for parcels travelling between France and the UK, sometimes referred to as a 'Brexit Surcharge'.
As the UK is now outside of the EU, the charge imposed by La Poste for deliveries to the UK has also increased. You can see the tariffs at Guide to French Postal Services.
The increases by delivery companies have been described as a 'handling charge' or 'processing fees' to cover the administrative costs of extra paperwork, but there is no common basis to how the charges are calculated.
If VAT and custom duty have not been paid before a parcel arrives in France, some companies will also hold the parcel in warehouse and charge 'collection fees' and 'late fees' when recipients go to collect them
Some readers have reported receiving bills after weeks after parcels containing gifts have been delivered, with the cost being the same or greater than the value of the gift.
As various new fees are introduced, multiple scams have also been reported.
La Poste has warned customers against phishing scams in which people waiting for parcels are sent fraudulent emails, seemingly from French customs officials, asking for VAT payments to be made via purchasing a PIN number online.
Customers should not click on the link in the message or add their bank details. Customs officials will never contact you by SMS or email to ask you to pay taxes for a parcel.
Online commentators have also reported similar scam messages asking for extra payments seemingly sent from delivery services such as DHL.
Where you consider the message is scam you should contact the delivery provider directly to verify the information.