From 1 January 2021, the UK extended the rules which applied to non-EU postal items before. Similarly, the EU now treats postal items from the UK as it did non-EU items before. This means how you send and receive items from abroad has changed. The rules are different for Northern Ireland.
Sending items abroad
When sending goods abroad, you need to complete and attach a customs declaration (CN22 or CN23), available from the Post Office® or Royal Mail’s Click&Drop. Letters, postcards and documents are usually exempt. In accordance with the Northern Ireland Protocol, there are no declaration requirements for goods sent from Northern Ireland to the EU.
The recipient may then have to pay customs or VAT charges and a handling fee in the receiving country before they can claim the parcel. These charges will depend on the country you are sending to, the value of the item and whether it is a gift or commercial goods. Items from Northern Ireland to the EU should not be subject to customs processes and should continue to flow smoothly.
The UK government has also issued a notice for international postal users on gov.uk – search for "sending parcels abroad” and “importing a gift”.
When sending items to the EU, see guidance from the European Commission around VAT thresholds. The EU's Import One Stop Shop (IOSS) can also help you start, or continue, trading from Great Britain to the EU. For further details about IOSS and how Royal Mail can help, please visit our main Import One Stop Shop (IOSS) page.
For more information on exporting to other countries, please see our dedicated country guides.
Receiving items from abroad
When receiving goods from abroad, recipients may have to pay VAT and duties. The VAT and duties will be applied depending on the type and value of the goods. For gifts over £39 and goods over £135, Royal Mail may collect the VAT and customs duties on behalf of HM Revenue & Customs (HMRC) from the recipient prior to delivery. Letters, postcards and documents are usually exempt.
You can find out more about customs and receiving items from abroad for businesses and non-businesses here. The UK government has also published guidance on changes to the VAT treatment of overseas goods sold to customers from 1 January 2021 here.
Last updated on 2 December 2022