What Happens If You Don’t Pay Import Tax?

This blog post aims to answer the question of what happens if you don’t pay import tax in the UK. while the consequences of not paying your import tax remain our key focus of discussion in the following content, we will also explore the reasons(s) behind import tax as well as some basic calculations related to imported goods in the UK. 

What Happens If You Don’t Pay Import Tax?

If you (the receiver) don’t pay import tax on goods bought from outside UK, your parcel will be held by UK Customs for three weeks. If you are still not able or willing to pay the import duty, the goods will be sent back to the receiver. This remains applicable whether the goods were imported for personal or commercial use.

In some cases, the HMRC can also penalise the receiver if they have brought goods into the UK being aware of the possible import tax and refusing to pay the amount when the goods arrive in the country.

Items that are couriered across countries go through a customs check to confirm that they don’t belong to the restricted or banned items list and the right amount of import tax is levied on their trade. This includes the following:

  • buy online from another country while living in the UK
  • buy from another country and send it back to the UK
  • receive as a gift

As a receiver of such goods, one is expected to be aware of the applicable duties and taxes; including import duty when the parcel enters the UK. 

Whether you are the one who initiated this transfer of goods by making an online purchase or sending items back home while being in another country, you should be prepared to pay the required import tax to have your parcel cleared through UK customs. 

In the other case, there is no other option other than losing your access to the parcel at all.

Why Do You Have To Pay Import Tax?

The main reasons why import tax is to be paid are: 

  • to make sure that goods imported from other countries do not impact the sales and prices of locally produced goods while maintaining fair competition in the local market in the best interest of consumers
  • To raise revenue for the Government so that they may be able to fund public goods, provide for schools, hospitals and general infrastructure in the country

If you want to get an estimate of the import tax due on the goods that you have purchased from outside the UK, you can use a web-based Import Tax Calculator.

How Are Customs Charges Calculated For Imported Goods In The UK?

Customs charges in the UK are based on the following factors:

  • Country of manufacture
  • Country-specific regulations
  • Description and end-use of the product
  • Product Value
  • Trade agreements (if applicable)
  • The product’s Harmonised System (HS) code

Below are details of these charges and their rate of application in the UK:

Disbursement FeeDuty and Tax
30% of the Duty & Tax amount with a minimum of 4.25 GBP0 – 42.50 GBP
A flat fee of 12.75 GBP42.50 – 510 GBP
2.5% of the Duty and Tax amountAbove 510 GBP


The above discussion helps to conclude that if you don’t pay the import tax for goods that you have purchased from outside the UK, your shipment will not be cleared through UK customs and will be sent back to the sender if you, the recipient of the goods is unwilling to comply.


Tax and customs for goods sent from abroad: Tax and duty – GOV.UK

Paying Import Taxes and Duties — ChamberCustoms | Customs Clearance Agents, Customs Training & Customs Consultants