If you’re receiving letters or parcels in France from outside the EU – which, of course, now includes the UK post-Brexit – you might find that you are liable to pay customs duties or VAT. Here’s what you need to know.
When are customs duties and VAT payable on parcels sent to France?
When sending an item to France from outside the EU, the sender will need to fill in a customs form at the time of sending, stating the type of goods that are being sent and the value of the goods. Parcels marked as a “gift” with a value of under €45 (or equivalent in the local currency) should not incur additional VAT or customs duties on arrival in France.
For letters containing correspondence, invoices, or documents, there should be no customs duties or VAT charged. No customs form is required for such letters.
Commercial items, such as purchases made online, or items over the gift threshold, will be subject to customs duties and French VAT.
How much will you have to pay?
If you’ve purchased items from overseas or are receiving a gift valued over €45, you should expect to have to pay additional customs duties and VAT when receiving the item in France. Typically these fees will be charged to the recipient prior to the item being delivered and the item will be held until they have been paid in full.
Note that the previous rule, which allowed a VAT exemption on low-value goods (up to €20) purchased outside the EU, has now been abolished, meaning you will now be liable for French VAT on all commercial items.
Costs vary depending on the item and value, but typically this will be a minimum of 20% in French VAT and potential customs duties of between 0-22%. You can find out more about the costs here.
What happens if I’ve been incorrectly charged VAT/customs duties on a gift?
There have been several reports over the last year of French residents being incorrectly charged VAT and customs fees for items sent as a gift that falls under the tax-free threshold. If this happens to you, the best way to deal with it is to challenge the fee directly before paying it – point out the error and indicate that the parcel has been clearly marked as a gift under the value of €45.
However, in some circumstances, this may not be possible, and you may find yourself forced to pay the VAT/customs charges to avoid the item being returned to the sender. In this case, insist upon receiving a receipt for the charges paid (you can do this by entering the details here or getting the postman/woman to do so) and keep hold of the packaging, including the customs form where it is marked as a gift. To claim back the fees, contact La Poste via their helpline on 3631 or via their website contact page here.
Local Life in France
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