Postal imports

By Tolley

The following Value Added Tax guidance note by Tolley provides comprehensive and up to date tax information covering:

  • Postal imports
  • Postal imports arriving from a non-EU country
  • Limits
  • Low value consignments
  • SAD
  • What documents should accompany the completed SAD
  • Payment of import tax charges
  • Prepayment of import VAT on goods purchased over the internet

Businesses importing goods via the post, using Royal Mail or Parcelforce, from a non-EU country must declare the goods to HMRC. In most cases the sender will make the customs declaration by completing a form which is attached to the package. The relevant form will be a CN22 or a CN23, depending on the value. However, for certain imports it is necessary for the Single Administrative Document (SAD) to be completed. A SAD will need to completed for:

  • imports of goods with a value exceeding £873 (€1,000) declared to home use and free circulation
  • imports of goods for which relief from customs duty and import VAT is being claimed, for example, inward processing relief, outward processing relief, temporary importation
  • certain exports including all goods for export with a value exceeding £873 (€1,000)

De Voil Indirect Tax Service V3.318, V7.251 (subscription sensitive); HMRC Notice 143 ; HMRC Notice 144 

Details of how to complete a SAD are shown below.

Please see the Importing goods from outside the EU guidance note for more information on how the import charges are calculated and the Recovering import VAT guidance note for more information on how to recover import VAT incurred.

Import documents are required due to the fact that imports are potentially liable to import VAT and customs / excise duties. Import taxes may be due where:

  • the importer purchases the goods
  • goods are imported as gifts
  • new or secondhand goods (including antiques) are imported
  • goods are imported that are intended for both private and commercial use

There are some exceptions to these rules and are briefly outlined below.


More on Buying goods from overseas: