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My girlfriend is an Indian national who has been living in the UK for more than 10 years and now has Indefinite Leave to Remain (ILR) in the UK. Just recently, her mom in India became ill and she travelled to India to be with her. On departure at Heathrow, she left her work laptop behind accidentally in a tray at security. The laptop has been found, and she arranged shipment to herself in India via DHL. The laptop has arrived in Delhi, but DHL now want ₹38,000 INR / £400 GBP for import duty before releasing it. Is this a legitimate charge?

My girlfriend is staying with her mom until she gets better (recovering from a heart attack and having a pacemaker fitted) so we don't know how long that will take, but she will be coming back to the UK at some point to work (she works for a well-known UK University, who the laptop belongs to) and to be at her home and life. The laptop belongs to her work - she needs it to continue her work while she is away, but it will come back to the UK with her.

So, in summary, she has had her work laptop shipped out to herself whilst on a personal errand to India, after losing it at the airport, but will bring it back when she returns to UK, DHL want import duty, and we're not sure it's applicable in this case, as it is not being imported permanently and doesn't actually belong to her.

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    To be clear, it is CBIC that wants the import duty. DHL is only obligated to collect the duty and remit it to CBIC. – Michael Hampton Sep 27 '20 at 0:14
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    Not sure why you are surprised. For them it is nothing more than an imported laptop. They don't know of (or care about) the background story. You will have to look up the (no doubt complicated) local customs regulations for the reimbursement of import duties when being re-exported. Assume that customs will be uncooperative when leaving (reimbursement is for them a very low priority). – Mark Johnson Sep 27 '20 at 4:15
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    @MarkJohnson When you put it like that, perhaps we shouldn't have been surprised, though the shipping via DHL was arranged by Heathrow Lost Property, and it seems that there is such a thing as a CPC (Customs Procedure Code) that explains the purpose of the shipment: parcelbroker.co.uk/help/customs-procedure-codes, e.g. "CPC 23 00 000 (Temporary UK Export) Goods shipped out on long-term loan or hire, to be eventually returned in an unaltered state", which perhaps could or should have been added by Heathrow, knowing that it was personal effects and not a purchase. – drkvogel Sep 27 '20 at 5:34
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    Yes, that would have been better. You should retain whatever you recieved when returning to the UK as proof that the laptop originates from the UK. For India you will have to work something out. Beware that excuse # 1 of Customs, when leaving, is that they don't have enough ready cash to pay you out, afterwhich the whole process disappears into the deap and dark bowls of their bureaucracy (never to be heard of again). – Mark Johnson Sep 27 '20 at 5:50
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    Customs would have to authorize DHL not to impose the duty. When you pick it up, there probably won't be anybody from customs there. So you would probably have to get something in writing from customs beforehand. Since customs work for peaple who likes to spend other peaple's money, this may be problematic. – Mark Johnson Sep 27 '20 at 6:06
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Update: my partner got the laptop back from DHL via Customs in Kolkata, and did not have to pay anything. They were trying to scam us. Bagport UK helped clarify that the laptop was personal effects, even though it was marked as such on the DHL waybill. She also had to get lawyers and local government involved. The whole thing has been immensely stressful and time-consuming, and she has had to use contacts that other people might not have.

It appears that they - and I have to be careful, legally, as to whom I am implicating here, but let's just say that there are some dishonest people working in some areas of the industry - do this from time to time, and the effort and knowledge required to prove that your "imported" personal goods are your own and not liable for customs duty is so much that most people just pay the money and are glad to have their expensive item back. Presumbably they don't bother for items of small value.

My advice is, obviously don't lose your laptop in the airport, but if you do need to ship expensive personal items, make sure the waybill is clearly marked as "Personal effects" and liase with the company that shipped it in order to let the scammers know that you understand the process and will not let them get away with it, get laywers involved if you know anyone that can lend a hand - and be prepared for a hard fight!

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    To be honest, the default position in most countries is that anything that enters a country is subject to taxation, it is then up to you to prove otherwise. Glad to hear that things worked out in the end. – jcaron Oct 14 '20 at 11:49
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    drkvogel, just for your awareness, you are allowed to select your own answer as accepted. – CGCampbell Oct 16 '20 at 14:22

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