I was a little surprised on Thursday when I had a postcard delivered in the post indicating there was a package that required £18.92 to be paid in customs fees before I could claim it. It took me a little while to realize this was stuff my sister had sent me that I had accidentally left at her place over Christmas. The fee seemed a little high to me so I did a bit of research and found the following.
Items sent via post have different exclusion rates than items you personally carry into the country. Items over £36 pounds are subject to VAT, items over £105 pounds are subject to Customs duty. My sister had valued the package at $100 which currently is about £70 pounds which meant VAT has to be paid, at a current rate of 15% that is a total of about £10. The remaining £8 is for the Royal Mail International Handling Fee. From what I understand this fee is because the Royal Mail has to process the transaction and send money back to HM Revenue & Customs. I'm sure they're making a tidy profit in here somewhere as well.
What I find slightly more interesting is that this package was received and the customs charges computed on February 10. I did not receive notification that duty was owed until the 19th. Why it took 9 days to get delivered is beyond me. I am just lucky I was home and able to pick this up as they will only hold the item for 7 days before returning it to the sender.