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Claiming A Refund For A Customs Fee Paid On A Returned Item

Up until a couple of weeks ago this was a new one on me....yes having to pay a Customs fee on a returned item, in other words having to pay import VAT on my own item to get it back!

I'm totally aware of the Customs charge that has to be paid on items imported into the UK from outside the EU that have a value of more than £15 but when a customer from the US asked if she could return a silver bangle recently as it was too large and she wanted a smaller size of course I said yes that's fine, just send it back and I'll get a smaller size made. She was happy to pay another shipping charge for the replacement so all I had to do was wait for it to arrive...

It wasn't until the postman left a card informing me there was a customs charge to pay on something - I wasn't sure what it was at that point and thought maybe I'd forgotten I'd bought something lovely.....then it suddenly dawned on me what it was for. The returned bangle! So after feeling quite annoyed and thinking the profit on this bangle is slowly disappearing, I then thought that surely you shouldn't have to pay a Customs charge on a returned item. I decided to investigate....

After a quick bit of Googling I found a form to download on the GOV.UK website. The form is BOR286 and can be used if you believe that "Customs Duty or import VAT has been incorrectly calculated on your imported item" or if like me you've paid a charge on a returned item.

It's just a one page form and you need to send all the labels attached to the package by Customs {I just sent the whole packaging!}, plus proof of the sale and that the item is a return.
I sent the form and all the proof they asked for to the Border Force address and had a reply about a week later to tell me they would refund the Customs charge - great! The don't refund the Royal Mail £8.00 handling charge however which is understandable as that isn't anything to do with them and was actually more than the Customs fee I paid {how annoying!} Still at least I'll get something back.

So what could I have done to avoid this? Asking my customer to mark the customs form she attached to the package as "returned goods" which obviously never occurred to me. But now I know and if it ever happens again I'll make sure I do just that.

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  1. Returned goods for repair - Manufactured in the UK would probably be better - I do a lot of import/export all over the world for my reg job - and when you send back to her so she does not have to pay any further duty/taxes - returned item repaired - not for resale - value for customs is only the value of the repair - so if you had to do a larger bracelet you could put a 10.00 value etc.. (although its a completely diff bracelte) I export to Ireland and the UK and have so much fun with VAT

  2. Customs rules are often very strange, A lot of times my parcels from US which I had initially sent for publication get stuck in customs for weeks and when I investigate they ask me to pay an import fee - for my own item!! and they require so much documentation to prove that they are returned goods. After going through this process a few times, I have now stopped trying to get my work published

    1. Divya, that's another instance where I would have completely forgotton about the import charge when the items were returned!

  3. Lesson learned! That must be so frustrating. I never realized how high and strict import tarrifs were until I started my business. They are low in the U.S. but I am aware that when I ship to other countries, my customers have to deal with that extra headache.

    1. Yes the UK is low at £15 compared to $200 {I think?} in the US for value of imported goods.

  4. Always a learning curve but glad you figured it all out! :)

  5. I'd have a word with RM about that as well. They shouldn't be charging a handling fee for something that didn't need handling!

    1. I agree but I doubt I'd get very far with that argument!

  6. I only post to UK and EU because when I tried worldwide and went to the Post Office to send a parcel to Australia it wouldn't be accepted because of it being Jewellery, I also stated Jewellery on the customs declaration.
    What do any of you put on your customs declaration to be able to send Jewellery outside UK and EU?
    Do you risk sending your items without the postal insurance?

    1. Thanks for your comment Crystal. I do post jewellery to Australia but mark the customs form as a generic "bracelets (metal)" for example rather than give too much detail. The PO advised me to do it that way.

      My jewellery isn't high end gold and diamond stuff so it goes normal International Standard unless the buyer upgrades their postage to Tracked & Signed. As far as I can remember I've only had one international package go astray since I started selling in 2004.

    2. That's great information, I shall give worldwide shipping a try then. Many Thanks!

  7. Hi please can you help me. When you send your parcels do you tick "Gift"? And when the buyer returns do they also tick gift and do Customs let you write "returned" on an item that is sent as a gift?

    I always send mine as gifts and don't allow returns at present but I'd like to be able to. Not if I'd have to mark them as commercial items though!

    I'd love your input! And have you had any problems since you wrote this post?

    1. Hi Jenny, thanks for your comment.
      If you are in the UK/EU you have to allow returns. The buyer has 14 days from receipt of their purchase to let you know they want to return it for any reason. You then have to refund what they initially paid (item price and postage cost). If you don't have a returns policy set out on your website the buyer will have a year from purchase to return something and you would also have to pay for the return postage.

      Marking items you've sold as a "gift" on a customs form is illegal too! You could be fined if customs catch you out. The buyer is responsible for any customs fees. My international sales are mostly to the US which has a high import fee threshold so my buyers don't need to worry about any import fees anyway.
      If you do get a return from outside the EU (we are still in the EU as I write this!) your buyer would need to mark the customs form as a returned item but not as a gift.
      I would look up distance selling regulations to find out all the rules you need to follow!

      I had a couple of returns from outside the EU since I wrote this post and they were marked as returns and got through customs without any charge.


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