UK Customs Charges | Can You Avoid Customs Charges from The USA to The UK?

UK Customs Charges

If you are planning to send or receive a parcel internationally there may be a chance that you could be charged customs charges. Receiving any goods to the UK means you will need to provide the customs charges. 

So, if you are importing a small package of any goods item from the USA to the UK, you need to expect to pay UK customs charges before the arrival of the parcel.

Custom duty is assessed according to the fair market value of the imported item when it landed in the UK. But, there are some circumstances where you don’t need to pay the UK customs charges or you may experience reduced applied import charges.

Here, in this article we are going to explain what customs charges are when they are due, and how could you avoid the customs charges from the USA to the UK.

What are customs charges?

In simple words, customs charges (or import duty or customs duty or import tax or custom tax) are the charges that are applied on goods when they are sent from the USA to the UK.  These custom charges apply both to individuals and any business.

If any individual is importing a good for personal use from the USA to the UK then he/she will be charged UK customs. Besides, if any business establishment imports goods for commercial use then also the business will be charged UK customs.

Sometimes, it seems slightly difficult to pay the customs as you have already paid for that article. This customs revenue goes towards increasing government revenue.

This revenue helps in the development of the UK industries; also helps to check and regulate the items that are coming from the USA.  If the UK import duty finds something suspicious instantly the goods will be banned.

If any individual book domestic, personal, or commercial goods from the USA to the UK, the sender need to complete some paperwork. Once, they have completed this give the information to the local customs office.

The local customs office requires information on what the goods are, and whether they can be legally sent or not. Also, find out the amount of custom tax that the recipient needs to pay.

How do I know if I have to pay customs charges?

If you are importing a small parcel from the USA to the UK, any kind of personal goods or commercial goods, or your belongings as you move country, you need to expect to pay customs charges before the arrival of your item.

You will be contacted by Royal Mail, Parcelforce, or by the Courier Company if you are charged any VAT, delivery charges, duty charges, or customs tax. They will send you a bill including the exact fees that you need to pay for receiving your goods.

They generally hold your item for 3 weeks. If you are unable to pay the charges then the parcel will get returned to the sender.

How does the UK charge import duty on USA items?

You will be charged import duty on all goods imported from outside of the UK. If they are either:

  • Worth more than £135
  • Excise goods

If you need to pay the customs charge, you will need to pay for both:

  • The price paid for the imports
  • Packaging, postage, and insurance
Types and values goodsCustoms Duty
Non-excise goods value £135 or lessNo charges
Gifts worth above £135 up to £630Generally 2.5%, but in some goods, the rate can be lower
Other goods above £135 and gifts above £630Rates depend on the goods and where they have come from
Table of custom duties

What Duties/Taxes will I Have to Pay?

The duties/taxes that you have to pay are:

  • Vat: Vat will be applicable on all goods only except for gifts worth £39 or less. You need to pay the charges to the delivery company before you receive the thing.
  • Customs Duty: You will be charged for any things that you have imported from the USA to the UK. If they are either:
  1. Excise goods
  2. Worth more than £135
  • Excise duty: if you are importing tobacco or alcohol from the USA or the UK, then you will be charged excise duty at the present rate. It doesn’t matter whether you have purchased the item or you have sent it as a gift.

If you are receiving a large amount of alcohol or tobacco for your business purpose then also you need to pay the excise duty on current rates.

UK Customs Charges
UK Customs Charges

Avoiding customs charges

However, there is no such genuine way to avoid customs charges on goods coming from the USA to the UK if they are due. It depends on various factors:

  • Whether the value of the item comes between or above  the threshold
  • Type of the goods
  • What you mean to do with the goods

Tips to avoid or minimize customs fees?

You might be able to pay a reduced customs tax or may pay none if you import goods including:

  • Professional equipment
  • Samples
  • Exhibition or demo goods
  • Demonstration goods

You might get relief from paying the customs fees on the goods including:

  • Educational and cultural goods
  • Goods put to a specific use
  • Printed or promotional goods
  • Medical or scientific items
  • Goods for industrial or commercial research
  • Sea products
  • Goods for charity or supporting disabled people
  • Goods for personal use

Risks of avoiding customs charges

When it comes to customs charges, honesty is the best policy. To achieve this customs forms and paperwork should be done accurately. Whether sending many items or one it is more frustrating providing false information on the pro forma invoice.

Moreover, in doing so you could provoke suspicion about the type and value of your parcel. Strong checks are carried out at every border customs facility. If the provided information is found inaccurate, you may experience delays or even a penalty fine. Sometimes, the goods can be destroyed by customs officers.

So, it is important when packaging the goods the sender and you both must be honest in providing the information when completing customs documentation.


How do I know if I have to pay customs tax?

Ans: If you need to pay customs charges then you will be contacted by Royal Mail, parcel force. Else, the courier company may contact you. They will also send a bill including the exact fees that you need to pay for getting your goods.

What is the rate of customs charge in the UK?

Ans: the import duty only will be applicable on goods worth over £135.  Gifts worth over £135 and up to £630 will generally be charged 2.5%.  For gifts worth over £630 and any goods over £135 will be charged depending on the type of the goods.

What items are exempt from import duty?

Ans: the items that are free from import duty in the UK are: educational and cultural goods, samples, and demonstration goods, printed or promotional goods, items for auction, medical or scientific goods, etc.

Who is responsible for customs charges?

Ans: If the customs declaration is made concerning any chargeable items, then the individual in whose name the declaration is made will be responsible for the customs charges. That means the receiver will be charged for the customs charges.

Do I have to pay import duty on gifts sent from the USA to the UK?

Ans: as your goods will be from outside of the UK, you may be charged VAT or Excise duty upon it. You may also be charged customs duty on your gift if the gift item is worth more than a certain value.


Receiving any item from outside of the UK means there could have a chance that you need to pay a customs charge for receiving the item. But, the amount of the charge also depends on several factors. Further, the charges applied to the goods also differ from one another.

So, you need to go through all the import duty regulations in the UK before making any purchase from outside of the country. The buyer is responsible for the accuracy of the customs documentation and paying the customs charges.

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