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· Registered
5,404 Posts
Matt Tucker has nudged and bullied me into this post (kidding!)and I apologise for the delay, Tuck!
I should have dealt with it immediately.

The subject was originally raised in another thread a little while ago and, for a recap to the background, please go to How it all started!

My commentary applies only to UK and, as you will later discover, only to a particular part of the UK, though it might be adaptable. So it will hopefully be interesting but not guaranteed to be of any great value to very many people!

Normally, a UK resident importing goods from USA is liable to certain import charges when the goods arrive. If you don't or can't pay on delivery, you can pay later, but, until you do pay, no goodies for you old chap - they don't run a slate for private punters!

If HM Customs & Excise bring their full powers to bear, you may be charged 10% import duty on the declared cost of goods from the USA source, PLUS the standard 17.5% VAT which is leviable on ALL of the cost, INCLUDING the 10% just added AND on the shipping AND on any insurance costs too! Not many people know that, but HM Customs do. In addition, the UK Post Office, whatever they call themselves these days, probably Parcel Force in this case, are extremely likely to add a 'Handling Fee' of a flat £5.60 (at last count), regardless of the value of the parcel. Now you know why goods can often cost the same number of £GB as $US, possibly even a little more.
Iniquitous innit?
I will just add here that some USA sources offer great prices, but screw you into the ground on shipping fees and this is something to be acutely aware of before placing an order. I'll come back to this point later.

To be fair, HM Customs rarely bother to charge anything if the goods are not very obviously from a commercial source - lurid shop labels all over the parcel are a dead giveaway. Even from a commercial source, for low value goods, HMC might not bother to charge anything anyway - they CAN be quite decent! If HM Customs don't levy duty, then Parcel Force won't charge that extra handling fee either. The factor I can't figure out is where HM Customs levy a charge that is less than that maximum total and this is, in practice, the most frequent situation. Maybe they don't do their sums properly or are not as greedy as we like to think they are - they have enormous powers of discretion and sometimes they can be quite lenient. However, all this uncertainty makes the final cost of your parcel rather difficult to forecast and can swiftly turn a nice deal into a very poor one indeed, when you wait for bloody ages and still end up with something that might have been as cheap or even cheaper to buy in UK in the first place.

Last time this happened to me in a big way, the Parcel Force delivery man was so amused at my obvious discomfort that he asked me if I would like to know how to avoid all this pain.
After some token resistance, I allowed him to tell me.

This is where it matters where you live.
I happen to currently reside in Northern Ireland and, IRA etc notwithstanding, it is still a part of 'The United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland' and we are naturally subject to British law. However, this little province happens to share the same piece of dry land as the Republic of Ireland, the jolly green island of Ireland, Technically, the ROI is a foreign country to us true Brits, although we are all part of the European Community and are supposed to be buddies, which we mainly are.

The essential 'trick' is to have the parcel addressed to a Northern Ireland residence,
strictly WITHOUT the UK Postcode appended.
"IRELAND" tacked onto the end,
NOT the usual "UK".
eg "Richard Head, 69 Perversity Street, Ballybuggery, County Tyrone, IRELAND"
(real names changed to protect the guilty!)

When the parcel departs USA, it will now NOT be routed via London, England, but via Dublin, Ireland.
For reasons best known to itself, the Irish (Republic) do not appear to bother their little exhaust pipes with the same degree of industriousness as their British counterparts and the net result is that parcels from good old Uncle Sam do not attract their attention. In fact, there may well be a little touch of "Up yours" at the thought of screwing the Brit Government out of a few quid too, and why not, indeed!
Oi'll drink ta dat!
Neither Irish import duty nor Irish VAT is levied and the parcel is cheerfully redirected northwards, where it crosses the virtually non-existent Irish/Ulster border without a care in the world. I'm not sure exactly what it does after that, but it duly arrives on my doorstep at the same price as I paid the USA shop - no little unexpected 'extras' at all.
Bloody marvellous!

Now, back to the USA shipping charges and, if you can arrange it, this is worth doing no matter where the parcel is going to or by what route.
Several USA sources will deliver carriage free within the USA, though usually must total more than $50, which is next to nothing and unlikely to be a problem.
You need an obliging USA contact - not difficult in the Internet age.
Get it delivered to that USA address.
Then get your accomplice to post it on to you for about half the price the shop would have charged you. Better still, if they RE-wrap it in plain brown paper AND put a low value customs sticker on it, you are much less likely to be charged anything on arrival in UK, even if you can't pull the Irish stunt!

So there you have it, for what it's worth.
All legal and above board.
You just need a willing accomplice.
A good HIT!
Happy International Trading!

· Matt Tucker
3,716 Posts
thank you tropi - I prompted him with a good kick up the proverbial as my last two imports have both the caught - paid £13 on a £55 package from the US and £19 on a £90 package from Oz. Have to build up my contacts me thinks.

If anyone in Oz or USA would benefit from a reciprocal arrangement from the UK I would be happy to partake.


· DT
8,026 Posts
Tropi, I assume your Grandfather used to run Whiskey during prohibition.

This is all fine and well, but you're the only one in N. Ireland.

Perhaps you could set up an import/export business for us Europeans

Thanks anyway, sounds like a good scheme. I always ask for delivery using FedEx if possible as I then don't pay anything extra. If it's posted UPS from the States, UPS bills me all the taxes.

· Registered
5,404 Posts
Discussion Starter · #5 ·
QUOTE I assume your Grandfather used to run Whiskey during prohibition.
Nah - I did it myself - I was an early starter!

Please bear in mind that all of this is 100% legal and that the USA shipping procedure can be done by anyone, anywhere.

It also occurred to me that there are a few 'odd' little pockets in continental Europe that might have similar weaknesses, possibly Andorra, Lichtenstein, Monaco, San Marino . . . The Vatican!
There ought to be some way of utilising the Channel Islands too.

· Registered
677 Posts
It seems that the UK customs knows all the tricks, even labeling a product a gift and a value under $50 dosn't work...but Switzerland's even worse,

A reciprocal has to be arranged in the states on something other than beating duty both ways....Label something a toy or model over here and it's duty free....afterall American kids have to get their toys cheap.


· Registered
778 Posts
don't tell me these things about Switzerland - I'm waiting for shipments from Victor and Philippe from US and Alex from Austia - and hope to get them easier than before when I lived in Germany - and now you're telling me this...

· Registered
721 Posts
I am many years out of date on the procedures and laws, but there certainly was a time when mail/postage to the military forces of certain nations whose families were stationed abroad, was carried out directly by the transport of that nation's own military forces. It was often faster and always cheaper than civilian equivalents. I have no recollection of import duties being levied either.

Separately, but connected, it was a definite fact that both British and American forces stationed in Germany were exempt from ANY customs duty on otherwise high taxed goods such as tobacco and alcohol when purchased in Germany at NAAFI or PX stores. Twenty years ago, even road fuel could be bought at civilian German gas stations by the families of military personnel stationed in Germany, completely free of ANY tax whatsoever. The monthly quantities of these goods was rationed and controlled by the use of signed certificates, but the monthly limit was certainly high enough for normal consumption levels and surpluses were often transferred to non-military personnel. Technically, the latter was illegal but the incidence was very small and no one much cared.

It's possible that these concessionary arrangements no longer exist but it might be worth making friends with British and American military personnel to find out.

· Registered
449 Posts
A few weeks ago, I brought myself a Scaley Sport GT40 #5 from ebay.

It only cost £28 (ish) inc. shipping, so I was chuffed...

Arived in my doorstep today, a MASSIVE charge of almost £9 for such a small little item. I was shocked!

I just hope they wont get me for my #2 GT40 which cost me over £50

I just think it takes the mick


· Alan Tadd
4,042 Posts
I've just had parcels delivered from the US and Australia and no extra customs or Parcel force duties were payable. The US parcel was labelled Slot Car Parts as well.

Maybe I was just lucky.



· Registered
5,404 Posts
Discussion Starter · #13 ·
I'm not surprised, MK2, but sorry it happened to you - really is a smack in the chops!!
But as described above, from the USA, you could have paid even more - or on a good day, nothing at all. It's in the lap of the Gods or, more appositely, HM Nazi Customs!
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