HMRC reminds Xmas shoppers about possibility of post-Brexit paperwork and charges for EU goods

Mon 29 Nov 2021
Posted by: William Barns-Graham
Trade News

goods from EU

HMRC is reminding Christmas shoppers that they could face unexpected charges when buying goods from the EU.

Rule changes introduced on 1 January 2021 – when the UK completed its departure from the EU single market and customs union – mean that goods bought from the EU may incur costs in the same way that consumers have previously had to pay for items bought from non-EU sellers.


HMRC recommends people look at seven key areas to determine whether there will be charges on their goods.

Shoppers are being warned that they may also need to pay a ‘handling fee’ to a courier company.

Ignorance of changes

Brits are largely unaware of the changes that could affect both their shopping and the gifts they send to the continent.

A survey in September by consumer watchdog Which?, reported in the Independent, found that only one out of 1,058 people polled said they felt confident in their knowledge of the rule changes.

Half of those planning to send a gift to someone in the EU said they didn’t know anything about the new rules, and almost as many only knew a little.

“The changes brought about by Brexit have created a greater burden of customs paperwork for consumers and couriers alike,” Adam French, a Which? consumer rights expert, told the Guardian. “You now have to attach customs declaration forms to anything you send, very clearly describing what it is and where it has originated from.”

VAT and customs forms

Since 1 January 2021, the EU treats postal items from the UK as it does non-EU items. 

Further changes relating to VAT took effect on 1 July this year meaning customs forms are now mandatory for all gifts and goods sent to a country outside the UK, except when sending items from Northern Ireland to the EU.

In some cases, the recipient may have to pay customs or VAT charges and a handling fee before they can claim the parcel.

Parcels with a value of £39 or less should not come with charges, but those costing more than that amount will come with 20% import VAT and courier handling fees.

Parcels with a value of more than £135 come with import VAT, courier handling fees, and, in rare cases, customs duties.

Brexit affect

The effects of Brexit continue to be felt by businesses and civilians alike.

City AM reports that around half of UK SMEs believe Brexit has had a negative impact on UK society and 64% believe that it has negatively influenced the UK economy.

Moreover, one in four said Brexit has affected their business directly, according to a survey by cloud accounting provider FreeAgent.


Businesses could face further disruption for goods moving across the Channel after French fishermen decided to take action on Friday to block certain Channel ports, Sky News reports.

The Jersey-based vessel Normandy Trader was prevented from docking at the port of St Malo in Brittany while ferries were later stopped from leaving Calais for the UK.

Just symbolic?

According to the Guardian the protests were ‘symbolic’ and intended as a warning shot in the post-Brexit fishing licences row

However, Olivier Lepretre, the president of the regional fishing committee in Calais said that if the dispute continues, they will escalate their actions and “show more teeth”.