La Poste claims an improvement in the problem of customs fees for foreign parcels
La Poste said improvements have been made to its IT systems for processing gifts sent from outside the EU. It comes after many people said they were charged when they shouldn’t have been for receiving low value gifts in the run up to Christmas.
Some readers continue to report being incorrectly charged for taxes and fees in recent weeks, likely due to human error, sometimes on the part of the sender.
The work required of La Poste workers handling parcels from outside the EU has increased dramatically following the introduction of new EU VAT rules last summer which removed an exemption for low value items (but not low value gifts) after Brexit has been fully enforced since last year.
Why do errors occur?
Parcels containing gifts, shipped from outside the EU and costing less than €45 should not incur French import VAT or customs duties. This means that when filling out the customs forms for this type of package, the sender must clearly indicate that it is a gift, the nature of the shipment and that it is worth less than the tax threshold.
If an item is worth more than €45, an additional 20% VAT will likely apply [to the whole amount], plus duty of approximately 0-22% depending on the category of item, if it cannot be shown that it has been wholly or mainly manufactured in the UK or EU.
Additionally, when La Poste, or another delivery service, incurs a charge to advance VAT/duties at the border, they often charge the recipient an administrative fee as well as a refund of the taxes they have paid.
A French customs spokesperson has already said The connection that taxes and charges may be mistakenly applied to parcels due to new EU rules that came into force on July 1, 2021, which removed a VAT exemption on all commercial items from outside the EU EU with a value of less than €20. This does not apply to low value gifts.
This means that most parcels now come with additional charges and this therefore becomes the default procedure. Charges will be inadvertently applied to some gifts if the Postal Service does not properly declare its nature to Customs, the Customs Service said.
Read more: ‘Customs’ charges on gifts due to postal errors, according to French Douanes
Parcel recipients have often been asked for payment without having received an invoice detailing the various cost elements, which only adds to the confusion.
One Report reader said: “I received a package from the UK in December from my daughter as a Christmas present. I found I had to pay €37 for the gift, which was worth £20. The package had the CN22 [customs form] Completely completed tag indicating it was a gift. I tried to explain to the postwoman that I didn’t have to pay but she refused to give it to me unless I paid.
What can you do if you are incorrectly billed?
La Poste had previously told us that: “the procedures are mainly done by computer, for obvious reasons of efficiency and fluidity, errors are still possible”.
A spokeswoman added that “we are sending regular reminders to all our delivery teams and post offices on procedures” regarding low value gifts and that customers can report any issues through the 3631 helpline.
However, our reader said that this service could not help her because her gift was not a Colissimo package, so it may not always work.
It is also possible to contact Douanes Info Service on 0800 94 40 40, but La Poste should be your first port of call.
If you are asked to pay charges on a package delivered from overseas, you can also request a receipt for the charges by entering your details on this page, or perhaps by asking your postman to do this for you. .
Obtaining this invoice should help you recover any erroneous taxes or processing fees. It may also be useful to keep the packaging in which the gift was sent.
Read more: How I recovered the tax wrongly charged on a gift sent to France from the UK
What is La Poste doing to improve the situation?
Last week, a spokesperson said The connection that: “Digital improvements were made in early and late December to better identify this type of package.”
This week, she added that: “Customs clearance and zero-rating operations are mainly done on the computer.
“The digital updates required are complex and require continuous improvement efforts as and when required.
“La Poste has registered complaints on 0.4% of parcels arriving in France in recent weeks.
“The learning curve is therefore well underway, even if it is still possible that minor malfunctions occur.”
Otherwise, why would you pay tax on gifts?
Gift recipients may also be charged taxes and fees on package postage if:
The sender did not complete the customs documents correctly
La Poste added an administration fee if it incurred additional costs during postage. The amount you are charged for these expenses may be reduced if you pay in advance online. La Poste says they will alert you if the sender includes your details such as email on the form, however we note that there is no space for this in the CN22 simplified customs form.
The value of the gift is more than €45
One Report reader told us this month that they were charged 38% of the value of the package, even though it was only €2 over the €45 limit.
“On top of that, my dad had overstated the value of just one of the items by about NZ$6 (about €3.60)
“For two years I have not been able to visit my family in New Zealand because the borders are closed to citizens unless they win a place in a quarantine lottery and pay for that quarantine, so the introducing these fees for gifts at such a sad time for so many Kiwis is very unwelcome.
Another reader said their daughter paid £25 to send Christmas presents to France because she was unable to visit over the festive period.
Her parents were then charged €32 by La Poste as the total value of the gifts was £100.
“If she had known this was coming, she could have sent us three separate parcels, all worth less than £45.
“After Brexit no one knows the extra costs until we land with them, it looks like we are being ripped off right and left,” our reader said.
“I ordered a used book online from the UK and paid £2.35 for it,” said one reader.
“I had to pay the €9 postman!
How to avoid taxes and fees on gifts sent from the UK to France
Summary of post-Brexit tax rules: how to send gifts between the UK and France
The price of online goods outside the EU will increase in France Repression of VAT