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Understanding Parcelforce Customs Charges: A Guide for International Shipping

Sending packages internationally can be a great way to connect with friends and family, expand your business, or purchase unique goods. But before you start packing, it’s important to understand the potential costs involved, especially when it comes to customs charges. Parcelforce, the UK’s leading provider of international shipping services, is a reliable choice for sending your goods abroad. However, like most international shipping companies, you’ll need to navigate the intricacies of customs regulations and associated fees.

This guide aims to provide you with a comprehensive understanding of Parcelforce customs charges, empowering you to make informed decisions about your international shipping needs. We’ll cover the basics of customs charges, Parcelforce’s role in the process, tips for minimizing expenses, and common questions to help you avoid any surprises along the way.

Table of Contents

Understanding Customs Charges

Customs charges are fees that apply to goods imported into a country. These charges are designed to regulate international trade, protect domestic industries, and generate revenue for the government.

Let’s break down the different types of customs charges:

  • Import Duties: These are taxes levied on the value of imported goods. The rate of import duty varies depending on the type of goods, the country of origin, and the destination country. For example, a luxury watch may have a higher import duty than a basic household item.

  • Taxes: Several taxes can be applied to imported goods, such as Value-Added Tax (VAT) and sales tax. These taxes are usually calculated based on the value of the goods and the destination country’s tax rate.

  • Clearance Fees: These fees cover the costs associated with processing and clearing your shipment through customs. They can include handling fees, inspection fees, and document preparation fees.

Several factors influence the overall cost of customs charges:

  • Destination Country: Every country has its own customs regulations and tax rates. For example, the European Union has a uniform VAT system, while other countries might have more complex tax structures.

  • Nature of Goods: The type of goods being imported significantly impacts customs charges. Some goods, like agricultural products or certain electronics, may be subject to specific regulations or higher duties.

  • Value of Goods: The higher the value of the goods, the higher the customs charges will be. Import duty and taxes are typically calculated as a percentage of the declared value.

  • Type of Shipment: The type of shipment you choose can also influence customs charges. For example, a courier shipment might have different clearance fees compared to a sea freight shipment.

Parcelforce’s Role in Customs

Parcelforce plays a crucial role in facilitating international shipping by handling customs clearance on your behalf.

  • Collecting Customs Charges: Parcelforce collects customs charges from the sender before the shipment leaves the UK. This ensures that the goods can be cleared through customs promptly upon arrival in the destination country.

  • Customs Procedures: Parcelforce assists with the necessary documentation and procedures for customs clearance. They work with customs authorities to ensure that your shipment complies with all applicable regulations.

  • Information and Support: Parcelforce provides information and support throughout the customs process. You can contact their customer service team for assistance with customs declarations, charges, or any questions you may have.

Calculating and Estimating Customs Charges

Estimating customs charges can be a tricky business, as the costs can vary significantly depending on a number of factors. Here are some steps you can follow to calculate the potential charges:

  1. Identify the Destination Country: The first step is to identify the country where your shipment is headed. This will help you determine the specific customs regulations, import duties, and taxes that apply.

  2. Determine the Nature of Goods: You’ll need to classify your goods according to the Harmonized System (HS) code. The HS code is an internationally recognized system that categorizes different types of goods for customs purposes. You can find the HS code for your goods by consulting online resources or contacting Parcelforce for assistance.

  3. Declare the Value of Goods: You must accurately declare the value of your goods to customs. The declared value is used to calculate import duties and taxes. Be honest and accurate, as undervaluing goods can lead to penalties.

  4. Use Online Tools: Parcelforce and other shipping companies often provide online tools to help estimate customs charges. These tools allow you to input information about your shipment, such as the destination country, HS code, and declared value, and they will provide an estimated cost.

  5. Expect Unexpected Charges: It’s important to be aware that unexpected charges can arise. For example, you may encounter additional fees for specific types of goods, such as agricultural products or hazardous materials.

  6. Minimize Surprises: You can take steps to minimize surprises by researching customs regulations for your destination country and by contacting Parcelforce with any questions. Be sure to clearly label your shipment with the correct address and HS code.

Tips for Minimizing Customs Charges

While you can’t always avoid customs charges entirely, there are strategies you can employ to reduce your expenses:

  • Choose the Right HS Code: Accurate classification using the HS code is crucial. If your goods are incorrectly classified, you may face higher duties or delays.

  • Exploit Free Trade Agreements: Many countries have free trade agreements in place that can reduce or eliminate import duties. If your goods originate from a country with a free trade agreement with your destination country, you can take advantage of these benefits.

  • Properly Declare the Value of Goods: While it’s essential to be honest, you can minimize customs charges by accurately but realistically declaring the value of your goods. Consider using a lower declared value for items with lower market values.

  • Optimize Packaging and Weight: Keeping the weight and volume of your shipment to a minimum can reduce shipping costs and potentially lead to lower customs charges.

  • Accurate Documentation: Ensure all required documentation, such as invoices, packing lists, and certificates of origin, is complete and accurate. This can help prevent delays and unnecessary charges.

  • Timely Submission: Submit all necessary customs documents on time. Late submissions can result in penalties or delays in customs clearance.

Avoiding Customs Delays

Delays in customs clearance can be frustrating, but you can take steps to prevent them:

  • Documentation Compliance: Make sure you have all the required documents, such as customs declarations, invoices, and certificates of origin. These documents should be accurate and complete.

  • Preparing Goods for Inspection: Some shipments may be subject to physical inspection by customs authorities. Ensure your goods are properly labeled and packaged to facilitate inspection.

  • Choosing the Right Shipping Method: Certain shipping methods, such as express courier services, may be more prone to delays due to increased scrutiny. Choosing a more efficient method can help reduce the risk of delays.

  • Communication is Key: Stay in regular communication with Parcelforce and the customs authorities. If you encounter any delays, contact them immediately to get updates and address any issues.


  • What happens if I don’t pay customs charges? If you don’t pay the required customs charges, your shipment may be detained or returned to sender. You may also face fines or penalties.

  • Can I refuse a shipment if I can’t afford the charges? You may be able to refuse a shipment if you cannot afford the customs charges. However, you may be responsible for return shipping costs and any other associated fees.

  • How can I track the progress of my shipment through customs? You can track the progress of your shipment through Parcelforce’s website or mobile app.

  • What should I do if I experience a customs delay? Contact Parcelforce’s customer service team to inquire about the delay. They may be able to provide updates or help resolve the issue.

  • Can I appeal a customs charge? You may be able to appeal a customs charge if you believe it was incorrectly applied. You can contact Parcelforce for assistance with the appeals process.


Understanding customs charges is essential for anyone sending goods internationally. By following the steps outlined in this guide, you can avoid surprises and minimize the cost of your international shipments.

Remember that customs regulations are subject to change, so it’s always a good idea to consult Parcelforce or the relevant customs authority for the most up-to-date information. Contact Parcelforce directly for any further questions or assistance with your international shipping needs.