5 Ways to Avoid Customs Charges from the EU to the UK (Legally)

how to avoid customs charges from eu to uk

As a result of Brexit, shipping goods from the EU to the UK has become more complicated and has resulted in changes in how goods are imported into the country.

One of the biggest hurdles of the process is navigating customs charges.

Customs charges are taxes levied on goods entering the UK, and they can be quite steep, often reaching up to 20% of the value of the goods.

Managing these charges can be a challenge, but there are strategies you can use to avoid the fees and minimise your costs.


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Table of Contents

Understanding Customs Charges

Before we get into the specifics of how to avoid customs charges, let’s first take a look at what they are and how they work.

import duty from eu to uk

Customs charges are taxes imposed on goods imported into a country.

They’re designed to raise revenue for the government and to protect domestic industries from foreign competition.

The different types of customs charges are…

  • Import duty: a tax on the value of the goods being imported
  • VAT: a value-added tax charged on the value of the goods plus the import duty
  • Excise duty: a tax on certain types of goods, such as alcohol, tobacco, and fuel

Customs charges are calculated based on the value of the goods being imported, plus any additional charges such as shipping fees.

The amount of the charges can vary depending on the type of goods, as well as their country of origin and destination.

Changes in Customs Charges Post-Brexit

Since the UK has left the EU, the rules around customs charges have changed significantly.

Before Brexit, there were no customs charges on goods being shipped between EU member states.

However, now that the UK is no longer part of the EU, goods being shipped from the EU to the UK are subject to customs charges.

The new rules state that all goods imported into the UK from the EU are subject to VAT and import duty.

However, there are some exceptions to this rule, such as goods that are imported for personal use or as gifts, and some goods that are imported from certain countries.

How to Avoid Customs Charges from the EU to the UK

1. Keep the value of the goods below the threshold

One of the easiest ways to avoid customs fees is to ensure that the value of the package remains below the threshold.

The threshold is the amount below which goods are exempt from VAT and import duty.

Currently, the threshold for goods being imported into the UK from the EU is £135.

This means that if the value of your goods is below this threshold, you won’t have to pay VAT or import duty on them.

So, if you’re shipping goods from the EU to the UK, make sure that the value of the goods is below £135.

This can be a bit challenging if you’re shipping high-value items.

In this case, it may be worth considering alternative shipping options or ways to reduce the value of the goods.

For example, you could ship the goods in separate packages, each valued below the threshold.

You can also consider reducing the value of the goods by negotiating with your supplier or by reducing your profit margin.

2. Ship items as gifts

buying goods from eu to uk

This strategy works particularly well if you’re sending items to friends or family members in the UK.

To use this strategy, make sure that the items you’re sending are worth £39 or less.


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This is the threshold below which gifts are exempt from VAT and import duty. You can then declare the items as gifts on the customs declaration form.

It’s worth noting, however, that this strategy may not be appropriate for all types of shipments.

If you’re sending commercial goods, for example, it may be difficult to justify declaring them as gifts.

Customs officials may be suspicious if they suspect that items declared as gifts are commercial goods.

Therefore, you must use this strategy judiciously and only for shipments that genuinely qualify as gifts.

3. Use a customs agent or broker

This can be a useful strategy if you’re shipping goods from the EU to the UK regularly or in large quantities.

Customs agents and brokers have expertise in navigating complex customs regulations and procedures and can help you minimise your customs charges.

By using any of these professionals, you can ensure that your goods are classified correctly, and all the necessary documentation is prepared accurately.

They can also negotiate with customs officials on your behalf to reduce your charges.

While using a customs agent or broker does come with a fee, it could be a worthwhile investment if you’re shipping high-value goods regularly.

4. Take advantage of exemptions for certain types of goods

If you’re shipping goods that fall into categories that are exempt from VAT and import duty, you can take advantage of these exemptions to avoid paying customs charges.

import duty exemption uk

Some goods, such as those imported for educational or scientific purposes, as well as certain medical products, are exempt from customs charges even if their value exceeds the threshold.

To take advantage of these exemptions, you’ll need to declare the goods as such on the customs declaration form and provide any necessary documentation to prove that they qualify for the exemption.

This may include proof of the intended use of the goods or a letter from a qualified medical professional certifying that the goods are necessary for medical treatment.

Keep in mind that not all goods will qualify for exemptions, so research and understand the rules and regulations surrounding the items you’re shipping.

You can consult with a customs broker or shipping company that specialises in international shipping for more information.

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5. Consider temporarily importing goods

Temporary importation is a useful strategy for avoiding customs charges when shipping goods to the UK for a limited period.

This method is commonly used for events, exhibitions, or other temporary purposes.

Taking advantage of temporary importation rules allows you to bring goods into the UK without paying import duty or VAT.

To use temporary importation, you’ll need to provide documentation that shows the goods will be leaving the UK within a specific timeframe, usually a few months.

You may also be required to provide a security deposit that’ll be refunded once the goods leave the UK.

Carefully review the rules and regulations for temporary importation to ensure that you qualify for this exemption.

Some businesses and organisations can benefit greatly from using temporary importation, especially if they frequently ship goods for temporary purposes.

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5 Ways to Avoid Customs Charges from the EU to the UK (Legally)

Remz is a professional who has been writing content for almost 10 years. He's a shipping and logistics enthusiast and the head of the Trust Heritage Logistics content team. He bagged an MSc degree shortly after graduating from the university with flying colours. When it comes to creating content, Remz loves to do in-depth research and provide amazing pieces of information that every reader will find helpful.

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