Many residents in Germany may have already noticed a difference when they have tried to post a package to the UK recently – or if they’ve received something from Britain.
That’s because the rules changed after the Brexit transition period ended at the start of this year, and the UK left the single market and customs union.
All types of parcels – whether commercial or private – are affected by changes to postal rules that came into force on January 1st 2021.
VAT and duty costs
The new rules could mean that you have to pay extra VAT and duties.
The taxes can be imposed when you order goods from the UK, if you send a package to the UK, or if friends and family in the UK send you a package in Germany. Typically, you have to pay the fees before you’re allowed to pick the item up at the post, delivery office or online.
Ah, just made my first payment of import taxes on a package from the UK – my chest burst with pride as I did so. A small price to pay for that lovely nationalism – nothing like taking back control.
— Musa Okwonga (@Okwonga) February 12, 2021
According to the UK government website: “Most goods arriving in the UK are liable to any or all of the following taxes: Customs Duty, Excise Duty and Import VAT”.
If you are sending a gift from Germany to the UK, import VAT typically only applies to goods where the value is over £39, or the equivalent in Euros. Customs Duty is due only if the value of the goods cost over £135.
My mate’s mum in Germany sent her granddaughter a dress she made and some little presents. The cost for this is now £23.54 on the recipient’s side alone. Just one of those small lovely things which now come wrapped in cost, bureaucracy and hassle. pic.twitter.com/tgaMeTYuDP
— Ian Dunt (@IanDunt) February 22, 2021
Residents in Germany will need to pay customs or VAT charges and a handling fee before they can claim the parcel. These charges will depend on the value of the item and whether it is a gift or not.
Another issue that many UK residents in Germany have already noticed are the higher delivery costs.
Thanks to the UK no longer falling within the EU postal zone, sending a parcel to friends or family back home is a lot more expensive.
In Germany, for example, delivery firm DHL has now moved the UK into a new zone alongside Switzerland, with the price for sending small to medium packages rising from €4 to €10. The cost of posting a larger parcel used to be up to 5kg used to be €15.99 – and now it’s €26.90.
When you’re sending items, you also have to fill out a customs declaration form.
“I sent a parcel to England from Berlin with DHL in January and it was a complete nightmare,” Alice, 30, a reader based in Berlin told The Local.
“I know it was more of a nightmare after the Brexit transition ended because I sent a similar parcel home for Christmas.
“The first frustrating thing is you have to do a customs declaration. It feels like preparing a parcel for Australia or something like that. It seems silly because the UK is right there.”
By way of update: yesterday I collected both packages from the local customs office (Zollamt Reisholz) – had to pay additional 19% tax to get them released. ?
— Ben Bartlett (@ThisIsBartlett) February 13, 2021
The customs declaration form, which you can get at the post office, has to include information about the contents of your package.
“You have to write down the weight of each item and how much it cost,” Alice said. “If it’s more expensive than a certain amount of money, the person at the other end receiving the package needs to pay customs duties on it.
“I found it annoying because if it’s for a present it’s not great that you have to list everything on the outside of the parcel.”
And as we mentioned, the costs to send something home are now much higher.
Some people have raised concerns about mail taking longer to arrive.
This could be connected to the travel bans against Covid-19 variants that were put in place in December.
But delays could also be linked to businesses and individuals adapting to the new rules, plus the extra customs processes.
What else should you know?
Importing products derived from an animal into the EU from a Third Country (which is what the UK now is) is a complicated process and the rules apply to both businesses and individuals.
On the business side, our sister site the Local France saw shortages of fresh food in the Paris branches of Marks & Spencer, which imports its sandwiches and ready meals from the UK, due to the complicated process of obtaining veterinary certificates on all meat, dairy, eggs and other animal-derived products.
The EU’s strict sanitary rules mean that all imports of animal derived products – even just a packet of home-made fudge from your mum – technically come under these rules.
Known as Personal Imports (which also covers items that you bring back in your luggage after a trip to the UK) these have some exemptions including limited amounts of baby milk, food required for medial reasons or limited amounts of honey and certain fish products – find more information here.
Parcels that contain banned animal products can be seized and destroyed at the border.
You can also check out this extensive (and frankly, a little intimidating) information sheet on what people in the UK are allowed to send to Germany.