Royal Mail accused of wrongly charging customers £150 ‘Brexit tax’ on items they already own

Brad Ashton of RSM UK, a tax firm, said people have been left “between a rock and a hard place” and forced to accept costly charges for taxes that may not actually be due.

Payment request letters from Parcelforce, part of the Royal Mail group, said customers must pay their bills within 20 days before parcels are returned to sender. The company said packages won’t be delivered otherwise, even if the customer believes the charges are wrong.

The letters stated that Parcelforce was “not in a position to dispute the fees” charged “on behalf of HM Revenue & Customs” and that any complaints should be made directly to the tax authority.

Customers are encouraged to pay the fees even if they intend to dispute them. A statement on Royal Mail’s website urged customers to pay “to ensure the item was not returned to sender while your case is being investigated”.

Parcelforce has denied the allegations, accusing the senders of the packages of making mistakes in their customs declaration forms.

Since the change in post-Brexit rules in January 2021, goods over £135 sent to the UK from the EU are subject to, including personal items, import and customs duties. Gifts of less than £39 are exempt, as are letters, postcards and documents. Prior to that, no tariffs were levied.

Royal Mail and other postal services collect this money directly from the recipient before delivery on behalf of the Inland Revenue.

Duties are calculated based on the customs declaration forms completed by the sender.

Simon Sutcliffe, of chartered accountant Blick Rothenberg, said the “substantial change” to tax rules brought about by Brexit has left citizens with an extremely complex system to deal with, leading to errors in return forms and a lack of knowledge about the tax breaks have that they could claim.

But he said Royal Mail and other providers are being too “prescriptive” and not offering enough support to customers to deal with the changes.

Mr Sutcliffe said: “They are in a hurry to push these packets through and do not exercise enough discretion when something has likely been filled in incorrectly.”

A Parcelforce spokesman said the company was “required to submit all imported goods to HMRC for tax assessment” and was “not authorized to assess the tax burden itself.

“The information we submit to HMRC for assessment is based entirely on the customs declaration completed by the sender and we are not responsible for any errors in the information we have received,” the company said.

“Anyone who believes they have been charged a tax or duty from which they should have been exempted must first pay the charges and then submit a ‘BOR286’ form to HMRC asking that they be the fees are checked. HMRC will then refund any charges it believes are incorrect.” Royal Mail accused of wrongly charging customers £150 ‘Brexit tax’ on items they already own

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