How To Avoid Customs Charges From USA To UK

How To Avoid Customs Charges From USA To UK

Whether you’re importing a small personal package from the USA to the UK, any kind of commercial goods, or even all your worldly belongings as you move country, you can usually expect to pay customs charges before they arrive. But this isn’t always the case and there are certain circumstances where custom import charges aren’t required. This article will explain what customs charges are, when they’re due, and how to avoid customs charges from the USA to the UK.

What is customs tax?

In simple terms, customs tax (otherwise known as customs duty, import tax, or import duty) is a charge that’s applied to goods when they’re sent from the USA to the UK. These charges can apply to both individuals who import personal goods for private use as well as any businesses that purchase and import goods for commercial use.

Although it might seem harsh to charge for goods coming into the UK that has already been paid for, the money raised from these customs charges goes towards increasing government revenue. This will then be put towards safeguarding UK industries as well as helping to regulate and check goods that are coming into the UK which might be suspect, banned, or illegal.

When domestic, personal, or commercial items are sent from the USA to the UK, forms and paperwork need to be completed by the sender. Once completed, this gives the local customs office the information needed to understand what the goods are and whether they can legally be sent, plus work out how much customs tax should be applied for the recipient to pay.

How much is customs tax from the USA to the UK?

Every country will have their own rules and regulations for the number of duties and customs taxes that are payable and that includes the USA and the UK. But much also depends on the item’s commodity code – a specific code based on the global Harmonised System (HS) code – used to calculate the customs tax and the overall value and shipping value of the goods or shipment.

The good news is that for any non-excise goods shipped from the USA to the UK, customs taxes only apply if they have a value of over £135. Gifts with a value of over £135 and up to £630 will usually be charged 2.5% (possibly less depending on the goods. For gifts with a value of over £630 and any goods above £135, the exact percentage of tax depends on the commodity code and what the item is.

If customs taxes are due, your courier will contact you with information and costs, but you may also be charged VAT and/or excise duty as well. VAT is charged on most goods at the standard rate of 20%, but some goods may be eligible for a reduced rate at 5% or even zero-rated at 0%. If you’ve sent any alcohol or tobacco (including cigars, cigarettes, or hand-rolling tobacco) different rates apply.

And an age-old question regarding custom taxes is – who has to pay? Any customs taxes (or additional VAT or excise duty if applicable) will need to be paid by the recipient after the goods have been inspected and before they’re delivered. But can you avoid customs charges from USA to UK and if so, how?

How can you avoid customs duty in the UK?

Unfortunately, there’s no real way to avoid customs taxes on goods coming into the UK from the USA if they’re due. What you have to pay – and how much – depends on the goods, whether their value comes under or above the threshold, and what you intend to do with them. 

However, you might be able to pay a reduced customs tax or even pay none at all if you import goods temporarily including:

  • Samples
  • Professional equipment
  • Exhibition or demo goods

Or you might even be able to claim relief from customs taxes on certain goods including:

  • Educational and cultural goods 
  • printed or promotional goods
  • Goods put to a specific use

The full list of no or reduced custom tax goods, together with goods that you can claim relief on are listed on the website.

What are the risks of avoiding customs charges?

As with everything in life, when it comes to customs and taxes, honesty is always the best policy. The best way to achieve this is by filling out any customs forms and paperwork correctly and checking the customs and borders information for the destination country. 

Your customs documents tick several boxes for goods, especially for security and health and safety purposes. If any information is questionable, incorrect, or arouses enough suspicion to warrant an inspection, you could face big fines, delays to your shipment, and your items being sent back to you or even destroyed.

Customs charge avoidance tactics can include incorrect item values, using incorrect commodity codes, not declaring hazardous materials, or assuming your goods come under the reduced or no charge list. So ensuring you have the right customs documentation for our various destinations and filling them in correctly is the number one way to avoid any risk. 

What are the requirements for importing from the USA to the UK?

The main requirements for importing from the USA to the UK are largely down to having the correct documentation, so having the following forms and details will help you:

Customs declaration

A document that details all the goods you’re importing which can be completed either by you or your courier or shipping provider.

Commodity code

A ten-digit number based on the global HS system that categorises your goods to determine the rate of customs taxes or excise duty/VAT payable.

EORI number

A registration and identification number for businesses importing goods into the UK and used by customs officials to track shipments.

Import licence

While not necessary for most shipments, an import license is required if you import dangerous or hazardous goods or live plants or animals.

Transfer of Residence (ToR)

This is a requirement if you intend to move from the USA to the UK to live. It allows you to claim relief on customs taxes that are due on personal belongings when moving from the USA to the UK. Find out more about Transfer of Residence and how UPakWeShip can help you.

Avoid unnecessary customs charges with UPakWeShip UK

However large your shipment – from one of our small pallets or a door-to-door U-Crate up to a 40ft shipping container – UPakWeShip specialises in international shipping and removals from the US to the UK or back again. 

If you’re looking to relocate, our knowledge and experience in moving overseas will make it easy while saving you time and money with affordable, guaranteed prices – we can even help you with international shipping insurance and all the important paperwork on how to avoid customs charges from the USA to the UK.

Contact us today on 020 3004 9700 or email – and don’t forget to get your free quote.

  • Avatar
    Gary Peters
    Posted at 11:23h, 07 May Reply

    Hi I’m a professional drummer looking to bring over a drum kit (in a box 22x22x20 inches) from the US to the UK. Would there be a UK customs charge? Thanks

    • The Moving Doctor
      The Moving Doctor
      Posted at 19:50h, 09 May Reply

      If you are moving from the USA to the UK and you have lived in the US for the last 12 months and have applied for a TOR (transfer of residence) from the British Government, and it was approved, then no you would pay no taxes but if you are just importing a set of drums then yes you would have to pay taxes whether you shipped them with a courier company or brought them in yourself and declared them to customs by going through the red lane.
      I hope that helps, feel free to ask more about this subject if you want or email me, cheers
      The International Moving Doctor

  • Avatar
    Vincent Rigby
    Posted at 11:15h, 07 October Reply

    I have just purchased a knee brace from the USA for £28.00 why have I been charged another £19..08

    • The Moving Doctor
      The Moving Doctor
      Posted at 16:16h, 10 October Reply

      Sorry Vincent, not UPakWeShip, we ship peoples household goods when they move overseas, our smallest service is a pallet load. We do not ship small courier items like this. Please check with the shop you ordered from.
      Cheers The International Moving Doctor

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