What are Duties and Taxes?

When transporting goods across international borders, shipments are subject to duties and taxes as determined by customs in the destination country.

Shipper’s Guide to Duties and Taxes

When shipping internationally it’s important to understand duties and taxes.
Whether a shipment is a gift or not, it must still go through an import procedure as determined by custom’s law in the destination country. The shipment is cleared through customs based on the origin country, the value and quantity, but not its purpose or intended use. Dutiable shipments are subject to a customs duty, which is a tariff or tax imposed on goods when transported across international borders.
The calculation of duties depends on the assessable value of a dutiable shipment. For the purpose of this calculation, dutiable goods are given a classification code that is known as the Harmonized System code.
This system has been assigned by the World Customs Organization and continues to evolve.
The payment of duties and taxes is typically the responsibility of the receiver, although DHL Express does offer the opportunity for DHL account holders to pay for them on behalf of the receiver
In that case, after shipment delivery, DHL invoices customers for the duties and taxes we paid on their behalf at destination, plus a small administration fee. This optional service is called Duties and Taxes Paid (DTP).
Taxes are imposed on goods when they are moved across a political boundary, although some free trade zones exist around the world (for example, the European Union). Taxes are usually associated with protectionism, the economic policy of restraining trade between nations.
Taxes are usually imposed on imported goods, although at times may also be imposed on exported goods.

Receiver’s Guide to Duties and Taxes

Did you receive a package and need to understand your obligations to pay duties and taxes?
All goods imported into the UK must be declared to the UK customs authority, HM Revenue & Customs (HMRC), and in most cases are subject to Customs Duty and VAT. This includes goods purchased online. Certain goods are also subject to Excise Duty.

The person receiving the shipment is legally obliged to pay Duty and VAT unless the sender has agreed to accept these charges in the contract of sale.

Learn your responsibilities! HMRC advice for goods sent from abroad

Please refer to hmrc.gov.co.uk for information and up-to-date guidance.

You may be charged customs duties and taxes for something purchased online because:
  • Duties and taxes are most typically not included in the price of the goods you purchase online, and might not be included in the overall shipping costs you pay to the online retailer.
  • When purchasing goods online, any goods which do not originate in the UK are subject to a customs duty,which is a tariff or tax imposed on goods when transported across international borders.
  • When goods are not shipped within the UK, you are liable to pay any inbound duties and taxes which HMRC deems appropriate unless the sender has agreed to accept these charges.
  • To ensure the DHL courier can deliver your goods in shortest possible time after entering the UK, DHL pays the any duties and taxes that are due on the goods to HMRC on your behalf.  DHL will apply an Advance Payment or Disbursement charge for this service.
  • Once the duties and taxes are fully repaid to DHL the goods will be delivered to you
  • What is payable, if anything, depends on where the goods are sent from, the type of goods, their value and the weight of the package

When buying goods online, you should always check whether they are either being sent to you from the UK or another country.

Note: Different rules apply when buying goods for commercial use.

A gift is defined as something sent directly by one private individual to another and such goods do not attract import tax if the value is below stated local thresholds. The threshold in the UK is £39. Customs Duty also becomes payable if the value of the goods is over £135.

Ordering and paying for goods that originate outside the UK for shipping to a person other than the purchaser, does not satisfy the customs definition of being a gift.

You can also refer to Notice 143 Paragraph 2.4 on the HMRC website for further clarification on the criteria.

These charges are not included in our tariff because the Customs authorities in the destination country determine whether any duties and taxes are applicable when the shipment arrives.

When DHL pays Duty and VAT on your behalf, an Advance Payment or Disbursement charge will be added to your Duty and VAT statement/invoice for clearing the shipment through customs.

The charge is currently £11.00 or 2.5% of the total Duty and/or VAT incurred, whichever is the greater.

If the total Duty and/or VAT incurred is less than £440 then a flat amount of £11.00 will be incurred as this is less than 2.5%

For example, if the total Duty and/or VAT amount equals £125.80, then £11.00 will apply.

The 2.5% will be incurred if the total Duty and/or VAT is greater than £440.00. For example, if the total Duty and/or VAT amount equals £490.00 then an amount of 2.5% will apply i.e. £12.25.

If you are a regular importer, you can apply to HMRC for a duty deferment account for the payment of most customs charges, such as import VAT, customs duty and excise duty. A duty deferment account lets you make one monthly payment via Direct Debit instead of paying for individual shipments.

Yes, they include:
Gifts from one private individual to another providing the value does not exceed £39. Exception: There is a very restricted gift allowance on excise goods, but we advise you to contact HMRC for further information.
Excise goods include products such as: alcohol, tobacco products, perfume, eau de toilette or cologne.
Personal effects of people returning to the UK after residing abroad.
Goods found to be defective or damaged or not otherwise as ordered. Customs must be notified before qualifying goods can be returned overseas, otherwise duty relief may be lost.
Goods imported into the UK for processing and repair before re-export from the UK. Your local Customs office can provide you with further details.
Note: Any goods arriving in the UK on which Excise Duty in particular has not been paid will be liable to seizure by Customs.

Customs assess the amount of Duty to be paid based on the information provided on the DHL Waybill and customs paperwork, in particular where the goods where sent from, the type of contents, their value and the weight of the package.

The value for VAT is the declared value of the goods plus the transport costs to the country of destination plus the Customs Duty.

Example of Duty calculation
Value of goods £80 + transport to the UK £35 = £115
Total value for Duty £115 x 3.5% Duty = Total Duty payable £4.02

Example of VAT calculation
Value of goods £80 + transport to the UK £35 + Duty charges £4.02 = £119.02
Total value for VAT £119.02 x 20% = Total VAT payable £23.80

Total import Duty and VAT charges payable on import of these goods = £27.82

For more information and advice about Duty and VAT, contact your local Customs office, visit hmrc.gov.uk or call HMRC directly on 0300 200 3700.

Back to Top