Laposte charges for customs duty on parcels

In the last three weeks I have had three requests from the postman to pay 9 euros customs duty on secondhand books (values of £4 , £8 and £11) I have also had books delivered which have had no duty payable. I have paid the duty, as the postman said if I refused to pay, the books would be returned to the sender. On carefully examining the labels on the packages, I can’t see any difference between them. I asked the postman and he said it’s purely by chance that payment is demanded. I wrote to Laposte, and they said I have to have my email address on the package so they can contact me to pay in advance and the customs duty is less. I wrote to French customs, and they said that although Laposte says the duties are for customs, in actual fact they are just administrative costs collected for Laposte. Does anyone know the truth of the matter, and how to avoid these costs! Thank you!

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I heard the same story, pure luck if your pacel arrives with no charges or bad luck if they select it to be charged for out of so many received. Since brexit I have not ordered anything from the UK nor will I do again for fear of being charged supposed customs duty, yet family in the US regularly send parcels of goodies, presents etc and I have never had any charges to pay.Seems, as you said, not a customs thing but La Poste making a few extra million euros.


This reference might be of some help


Are the books purchased available from French sources such as Amazon France or ebay? I have (since Brexit) purchased some IT written resources (in English) from Amazon France which otherwise I would have got from Amazon UK previously. There was no duty or additional charges to pay.
There has been some commentary on social media suggesting that the charges by La Poste are levied in respect of their administration costs for delivery of the packages, not necessarily import duty per se.

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I had exactly the same a few weeks ago, one for a specialist book and one for a specialist tool from the UK. For both I had to pay a charge that was almost more than the item. The post lady said it was a customs charge - if it’s laposte adding a ‘random’ opportunistic charge that’s a bit naughty. Needless to say, haven’t, and wont be ordering anything else from the UK. I’ll either wait and bring it back myself or get a visitor to bring it. Another bit of salt in the Brexit wound!

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I found it interesting this week, when I succumbed to a book from Amazon UK (not yet available here) and it was clearly sent to me from a depot in France so no charges. I suppose it depends whether the UK companies we order from have depots of any description in France :thinking:


I’ve asked OH to check that nothing is coming actually from UK… we buy little from Amazon but, if we do, it’s or (I think…).

Incidentally, we did get charged by laPoste for some specialist car bits not available anywhere else. (Obviously not Amazon).
No VAT charged on the company’s invoice, so fair enough, we got charged that… plus an amount charged by laPoste. Can’t remember how much, but we needed the bits so were stuck… but that’s it !!

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The charges are largely handling fees on small value items with some small duty in there.

It’s in part luck - part how it’s labelled/described. There used to be exemptions below a certain value but they went this year.

There’s always been the same charges for non EU deliveries - including

I thought Amazon was now wrapping duty/vat into its pricing to avoid this

I buy a lot of s/h academic books from the US (cheapest source, but also usually superbly bound) and very seldom pay any duty.

By contrast, whenever I buy a Hawaiian shirt direct from Honolulu with original 1950s designs (one of my many weaknesses) I get hammered, but they’re still great value. Meanwhile, the French are unable to decide whether these shirts are trop americaine ou très chic.

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wouldn’t an aspirin be better value :wink:


Conversing with the Connexion, it seems it is a scam run by the LaPoste to which they (newspaper) are collecting information and evidence to counter LaPoste. It has nothing to do with the Douane. Unfortunately the postie is in the middle of all this and does as they are told. Fact is they (LaPoste) can do what they want with us, if you dont pay, then you dont get the article.

…but the thing is, La Poste or a courier co. should not be able to add an admin charge unless there is a customs/import/other tax charge to collect. La Poste can’t add their own charge to nothing.

What does the itemised receipt, which you are entitled to for any charge, say?

Books are not VAT-able in the UK but they do, I think, have VAT on them in France. Though not sure why second-hand books have TVA on them unless it is the fact of them being bought from a commercial seller?

and sunglasses

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A very good point, I haven’t received a receipt when I have paid the 9 or 10 euros, but I will insist on one next time I am charged!
The seller (Abebooks) always notes on the bill, “estimated VAT” so I assume there is French TVA to pay on second-hand books sold by a dealer.
It would be interesting to know if the paper, The Connection, can find out the actual regulations!

Hello, there are two things to note here : when you import from a country that is not EU (USA / GB), you are liable for paying VAT on the items purchased. Unfortunately the VAT is calculated on the value of the items PLUS the cost of the transport, not just the value of the items alone. You should not, however pay customs duty (which is different from Vat) but I fear this may depend on the nature of the items involved. Unfortunately, some transporteurs (be it La Poste, FedEx, Ups, DHL…) are adding to this a “service charge” (of which I doubt the legality) but which you have to pay in order to retrieve your parcel.
All the rigmarole described above did NOT previously apply to shipments with a value not exceeding 22 euros, but, two or three years ago, the EU (in its “wisdom”!!!) decided that the measures were to be applied to ALL shipments from outside the Union, whatever their value.
I know that Amazon have developed a “One Stop Shop” (OSS) which enables the VAT to be payed upstream at the time of purchase and delivery to you by Amazon Logistics without surcharge but I THINK this only applies to items which are both SOLD AND SHIPPED by Amazon. As regards the EU measures, they are systematically applied by the courier services who lay the administrative charges on thick, but in the case of La Poste, these charges are apparently “aléatoire” (random) affecting some parcels and not others. You will probably find that their administrative charge if applied is much inferior to that applied by the courier services.


@BEACHYHEAD55 welcome to SF
Some interesting points to consider there… thanks.
With books in particular, haven’t things changed of late in France concerning distance selling to protect bricks and mortar booksellers?
Could this also be a factor, do you think?

This is really useful information, thank you. The VAT on the value of the secondhand books concerned plus the postage is mostly less than 1 euro, so the additional service charge randomly levied by La Poste is pretty high.

The problem is that the tiniest amount of VAT or duty gives La Poste or the courier company an excuse to add their ridiculously disproportionate charges.

Even if VAT on your item was 1 cent, literally, La Poste would add around 7-8 euros minimum, and the flat rate charges by Fedex, DHL and the like seem to come in at 10-15 euros min.

The silly thing about this is that govermments probably agreed to this to increase their tax take and prop up their ailing national Post services. As demand for physically transmitted letters has disappeared. And yet they will lose far more tax due to it. This is because trade will stop as people are being disproportionately charged on top of the actual new tax take, and so many more tax-paying jobs and activities will reduce further back in the chain in both sending and receiving countries. So it’s an own goal as overall tax take will reduce.

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Steela, I need spares (secondhand bits) for a car I am restoring - most likely from UK friends - any knowledge of how delivery agents might view their value? Some tiny things might be quite valuable to the receiver, but just look wothless, while other things might be thought to be valuable, in reality not.

I regularly get parcels of wool from UK, but no charge. The sender, Lovecrafts, are registered to pay the French customs duty.

I have an anonymous parcel supposedly awaiting delivery supposedly needing 3€ to be paid on it but as I can’t think what it might be, there’s a mistake in the text and the email address it is sent from is some weird mashup of letters I don’t trust it and am ignoring it.

I have not had to pay anything on any parcels so far, and I get many.