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I spent some times in America in November but unfortunately, because of some logistical troubles (involving a forgetful friend), I had to leave without my main luggage. I'm hoping to get reunited with it soon, as my friend is going to ship it over here to the UK. However, it just dawned on me that as a parcel from abroad its contents and value will probably need to be declared to customs. I really don't want to pay duties and taxes on the stuff that is and was mine - and it could potentially add up as the suitcase has some outdoors equipment inside, on top of a assortment of clothes and a couple souvenirs.

Firstly, is declaring a package with an assortment of personal possessions as just "personal possessions" or "luggage return" a thing? Secondly, if not, is this kind of situation something where import duties and tax normally applies? Once again, the stuff in the parcel is all already used by me and originally purchased before my trip (though I no longer have the receipts).

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    I think the procedure i called "Returned Goods Relief" and I think the info in this link supplements the info & link posted by Hilmar. From link, about half way down: "You can claim Returned Goods Relief in the normal way, orally or by conduct (walking through the green channel). If you are sending your items by freight you should claim the relief by using the customs procedure codes in the Tariff." gov.uk/guidance/…
    – canonacer
    Jan 24 at 16:04
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    @canonacer Please make that an answer so others can upvote it and KubaFYI can potentially accept it (I likely would in their place, as that certainly sounds best).
    – KRyan
    Jan 25 at 3:18
  • KRayan - have done as you requested but cannot edit the original comment.
    – canonacer
    Jan 25 at 17:21
  • Your friend should package it so it looks, walks, and quacks like luggage. Ideally, the actually normally packed luggage inside a box, just take it to any PMB shipping shop and they will get a box around it. Jan 25 at 19:38

4 Answers 4

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The rules are complicated: See https://www.gov.uk/bringing-goods-into-uk-personal-use/arriving-in-Great-Britain

If your items were originally purchased in the UK or the EU (and not in the US) and you didn't establish a second residency in the US, then typically there is no customs due. However the rules are complicated and you may have to prove somehow that the goods were originally acquired in the UK.

I recommend compiling a list of the items, guestimate their (second-hand) value and list date and place of purchase (as good as you can) and then send this to the shipping company and ask for advice. Shippers have a lot of experience in filling out customs paperwork.

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    That limit for "other goods" of £390 seems low - some people (not me) could exceed that just by sending a nice coat or dress or something, some personal clothing. (Unless there's a big depreciation for "used".) (Although now I think of it that's fair if you, say, bought it in the US rather than buying it in the UK and bringing it to the US and sending it back...)
    – davidbak
    Jan 25 at 1:14
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    These rules only apply to stuff you're bringing with you. If you ship it, the threshold is much lower (there is no £390 allowance, merely a negligible value threshold).
    – Relaxed
    Jan 25 at 10:06
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    The web page you are linking to describes the rules when you, in person, are travelling to Great Britain and bring stuff with you. Nothing on that page is relevant for parcels send by mail to the UK and is therefore, that also applies to your conclusion, not relevant for what OP is asking about. Jan 25 at 16:46
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Moved here as requested above. I think the procedure i called "Returned Goods Relief" and I think the info in this link supplements the info & link posted by Hilmar. From link, about half way down: "You can claim Returned Goods Relief in the normal way, orally or by conduct (walking through the green channel). If you are sending your items by freight you should claim the relief by using the customs procedure codes in the Tariff." https://www.gov.uk/guidance/pay-less-import-duty-and-vat-when-re-importing-goods-to-the-uk-and-eu

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  • Unfortunately that link does not include the instructions to how exactly that kind of situation is declared. In the "How to" section they claim that I "should claim the relief by using the customs procedure codes in the Tariff" but looking at the list of procedure codes does not actually include a returned goods code.
    – KubaFYI
    Jan 26 at 17:24
  • KubaFYI, I think the OP would likely use a fright agent or 'fast parcel' such as UPS. They would be well able to identify the correct Customs procedure code. I didn't try to find one 'cos I'm no expert on those. Apologies.
    – canonacer
    Jan 26 at 18:52
  • I'm the OP :) Well, I was planning to use a shipping comparison/consolidator third party like parcel2go or parcelmonkey becaus going directly with the couriers cranks the shipping bill to around $1k, which compared with the prices quoted by parcelmonkey ($180) I might just go that way and pay the taxes.
    – KubaFYI
    Jan 27 at 10:05
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When I was traveling with my wife, we needed to mail back some of our luggage both from Japan and from USA to Poland. Our customs are known for applying fees whenever they can, but they just let both cartons thorough, seeing obviously used equipment (incl. rehabilitation equipment they reclassified on their own to "child toy"), souvenirs and clothes. YMMV especially since you no longer are in the EU.

Some advice that should work no matter what country you are in:

  1. Obviously used clothes, if they are not of premium brands and obviously belong to one person or one couple, can be declared as worth $0 and I never heard it causing any problems.

  2. Souvenirs are usually easy to estimate and cheap, and I'm yet to see anyone asking for a receipt, including absurdly meticulous Japanese post office.

  3. Do list everything that's in the package. Making life easier for customs officers can't hurt your case. They are people too, they want to make life harder for smugglers, not forgetful citizens.

  4. Do listen to your shipping company, they know what they are doing much better than you do. If there is a shipping company that specializes in your specific route, use it. For example, we used Polamer Inc. on Poland - America route.

  5. For sporting and outdoor goods, and tourist equipment like selfie sticks, if you bought online you still have email confirmation. If you paid with card or wire transfer, confirmation of money transfer from your bank + your statement that "this paid for item X", and https://archive.org/ website snapshot from around that date showing prices similar to what you paid was enough for everybody so far. Everything we mailed was visibly and obviously used. Import laws pretty much can't require receipts as not every country even uses such a thing, so you are free to prove the value and ownership in other ways.

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I once forgot a pair of jeans by my friend in the US, which I had just bought there. They cost a fortune in customs on entry to Denmark! I guess because they were brand new. Later I sent from the US an Amazon Kindle e-book reader to Denmark. I unwrapped it and did my best to make it seem used. It got through customs for free. -- Bottom line: It's a game.

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  • I've experienced having to pay customs for my own house/car keys sending them from Mexico to Denmark
    – Hylle
    Jan 26 at 3:17
  • House keys?! Now that's absolutely bonkers
    – KubaFYI
    Jan 26 at 17:07

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