From Christmas and birthday presents to items sold on online marketplaces like Ebay and Gumtree, most of us need to send packages abroad from time to time.
However, since we officially left the European Union on the 1st of January, sending packages to EU countries is slightly different.
So, what do you need to know before sending items abroad?
You must declare it!
Put simply, sending packages to EU countries will now be treated the same was as sending to any other international region.
Anyone sending parcels to EU territories from England, Scotland or Wales will now need to complete a customs declaration form.
These forms are simple to complete, requiring the sender’s personal information and details about the parcel’s contents – including what the items are, their weight and their value.
Including the contents’ commodity code – which can be found online – and country of origin also helps avoid delays or the risk of the product being returned to you, which can be costly.
When working with a door-to-door shipping service, producing a commercial or pro forma invoice online also reduces the chances of delays in shipment. This is because they’re scanned directly into the carrier’s system, without running the risk of paperwork getting lost.
Now we’ve left the EU, our parcels may be subject to customs fees in some countries, which will be charged to the recipient. So, if you’re sending a gift, it may be best to make the receiver aware they may have to pay – especially if you intend to reimburse them.
The amount charged will depend on the value of the parcel’s contents. Items valued under €22 won’t be subject to VAT or duties until 1 July 2021 as part of an agreed scheme with the EU – with this date set to be extended.
Items worth over €22 but below €150 may be taxed at the border and possibly incur a customs handling fee in the receiving country. Those over €150 may attract VAT and customs duties, plus the handling fee. However, these charges will vary from country to country.
However, if you’re selling something online, it’s not all bad news for the buyer. Not only will VAT now be waved on shipping costs but they’ll also now pay VAT in the receiving country, rather than the UK – which represents an additional saving in some EU countries.
Will there be delays?
The question on everyone’s lips is ‘will there be additional delays when sending a parcel to the EU now?’.
There may be slight delays due to the additional customs forms and declarations now required. This adds a bit of admin for those working on the borders, who now need to inspect the documentation as well as the parcel itself – so, it may take slightly longer for your parcel to arrive.
Plus, the ongoing coronavirus pandemic is causing additional delays, with ports currently understaffed.
However, this shouldn’t add too much time. But it pays to be prepared – especially if it’s a time-sensitive parcel, like a present which needs to arrive in time for a birthday. So, it’s worth sending your packages off a few days before you usually would, for peace of mind.
If you need to send something urgently, consider moving your parcel to an air shipping service, rather than road, as these are less likely to be impacted by any capacity delays.
What’s not changing?
One thing that hasn’t changed is sending ‘personal correspondence’. Letters, postcards and similar are usually exempt from customs documentation requirements or charges, so you can keep in touch with EU pen pals without fuss.
Nothing changes when it comes to best practice for shipping parcels, either. It’s still recommended to leave plenty of time when sending parcels that need to arrive before a deadline.
It’s also advisable to choose tracked and signed delivery and purchase additional insurance cover when sending especially valuable items.
If you’re worried about any of these changes – or just need peace of mind that your parcel meets the new requirements and will arrive on time and in one piece – it’s worth working with a packaging and shipping specialist.