For those of you that are unaware, should you purchase anything from outside the EU it may be liable to either Import Duty, Excise Duty and or VAT, unfortunately these are charges are unavoidable if the value of the item/s is over £18. More interesting is the highly contentious administration fees that courier firms will charge, supposedly for clearing your items through customs, just another way for these large companies to add to their bottom line, as far as I am concerned.
Last year I had an item delivered via one of these global courier firms, a few days later I found out I'd actually had an account with them (not), yes this was the dreaded invoice for Import/Excise Duty and VAT and all the documentation to go with it, including a £4 administration fee. Deciding I'd already paid enough I put it to one side, then came the reminder and then a letter from a collection agency. I did eventually pay this invoice, but minus the administration fee, heard nothing since.
Most recently I received a letter from Parcelforce informing me that they were holding a parcel for me awaiting payment of charges raised by HM Revenue & Customs broken down as follows: a £13.59 VAT and a £8.00 Parcelforce Clearance Fee, totalling £21.59, the difference here being Parcelforce require payment before despatching or allowing you to collect your goods.
The very fact that this letter was claiming that these were charges were HM Revenue & Customs raised, prompted me to the call the HMRC to query them. It transpired that the HMRC were not responsible for this questionable fee and does not issue administration fees or clearance charges, but were aware of the practice.
So what are they going to do about it? Absolutely nothing it would appear. Obviously, in the case with Parcelforce you will need to pay this fee in order to receive your goods, though you may be able to claim this back, though first you will need to receive your import documentation or raise a complaint with HMRC, but wouldn’t bother trying to call their Coventry office on 02476 212860, as it appears insufficiently manned, probably due to the rising number of complaints of this nature. Instead I would go to the HMRC website and find the number of your local complaints office, they will be able take down the nature of your complaint and forward it to the relevant department.
Alternatively, if you have your documentation contact the Parcelforce complaints department, I’ve been told that this is a pretty straight-forward procedure and they will issue you with a cheque for the spurious £8 or £13.50 clearance fee, makes you wonder why they would levy this fee in the first place and question its legality.