Failed Parcel Delivery from UK to Germany

Just looking for some thoughts or observations from any readers who post letters/parcels to EEC countries from the UK.

My wife posted a parcel to Germany at the beginning of December 2022 containing gifts for relatives living there. The parcel was hand delivered to our local post office and a sum of £8.70 was paid for Royal Mail International Standard service. A completed customs declaration (CN22) was affixed to the outside of the parcel itemising the contents which included 2 scarves, 2 chocolate bars and a small broach with a total estimated value of £40. The contents box marked "gift" was ticked.

Fast forward to yesterday. The parcel was delivered to our address by Royal Mail in its original packaging with several labels attached by Deutsche Post DHL. One label has a box with a cross next to it and the words "Nicht abgeholt" (not picked up) and another one with "Zoll" (customs) €8.8 and "Auslagepauschale" (round sum expense) €6. The translations in brackets are mine.

It now transpires that my wife's aunt went to pick up the parcel from her local post office and declined to pay the additional sum of €14.8. The story goes that the local post office could not explain what the extra charges were for and she refused to pay.

I contacted Royal Mail customer services this afternoon and similarly they could provide no explanation either.

I have a feeling that this may have something to do with VAT post Brexit but really have no idea. It also raises in my mind the question of whether it is a waste of time and money using the Royal Mail service for this type of delivery to a foreign country in the absence of any assistance in following the correct protocol and avoiding additional charges at the point of delivery.

Look forward to comments from anyone familiar with UK postal services to EEC countries. TIA


  • I believe the gift threshold for VAT exemption is €45 - from the €8.80 VAT and Germany's rate being 19%, that implies the ~£40 value converted to just over €46. 
    The €6 is most likely a handling fee.  (Impressive it's that low!  Royal Mail's is £8, and many couriers charge £12+ in the UK.)
  • Be interested to know what other people think but I don't think it's reasonable to expect every post office assistant to know the ins and outs of customs, VAT, import/export and every country's postal system and charges. 

    If you post something then the PO will tell you the correct way and charges to ship the item, but they aren't responsible for customs and I don't think ever could be expected to be. 

    From the post above it looks like yes you got charged VAT. The rules are set out on the Royal Mail website so in that respect there is advice available.

    And furthermore it doesn't look like anyone made any mistake at any point - this is how the system is supposed to operate. The only thing that could probably have been done differently would have been to declare the gift to be under 45EUR.
  • sheramber
    sheramber Posts: 19,092 Forumite
    First Anniversary I've been Money Tipped! First Post Name Dropper
    edited 10 February 2023 at 12:00PM
    Remember the Post Office do not deliver. They accept items on behalf of Royal Mail, who deliver. 

    Royal Mail have a leaflet explaining charges when sending items to another country.

    UK is not longer in EU, so  items sent to Germany are subject to German Customs charges.

    Whoever clears the items through Customs charges a handling fee.
  • Thanks for the very helpful comments.

    Looks to me like there are a couple of alternative solutions for future reference. As several have suggested, keep value of gifts below €45 or my other thought is to purchase the gifts from online sources in the country of destination.

    Lesson learned!
  • DullGreyGuy
    DullGreyGuy Posts: 10,353 Forumite
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    Double check the rules in Germany but in many countries VAT thresholds are for the total value of the parcel and so that includes the postage and any insurance not just the content.

    Often we've found its just cheaper/easier to buy from or in your case, than have relatives/friends paying taxes and then reimbursing them etc.  Unfortunately couriers/postal services offering a landed cost service tends to be limited to larger customers and not offered to the individual users.
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