One UK firm working in cross-Channel removals confirmed that the picture is simpler for those moving to make France their home, as opposed to those bringing items to a second home.
Peter Rattue, of Reflex Moody’s in Salisbury, said: “It is very complicated. If you are moving primary residency, as long as the documentation is in order, you can do it tax and duty-free.
“You have to have proof you’ve lived in the country and are moving, an inventory and declaration forms, passport copy, etc.
“If you’re moving to the UK, you need to apply for a transfer of residency, which you can do online, called ToR1.
“It’s quite straightforward but formalities for going to France can’t be done online. Paperwork should be sent to us, which we forward to an agent in France, and they have to clear it before the goods are moved. We cannot export anything unless it is pre-cleared. We can’t even board the ferry without the paperwork.”
He said before the UK joined the EU, goods could be moved to a French holiday home if they were more than six months old. However, rules for third countries have since changed.
He said he understands standard TVA (French VAT) is the main levy being charged – the UK now charges VAT in the other direction if not a transfer of main residence – but he is waiting for confirmation of the exact taxes and rates.
He said types of goods are given different codes, but there appears to be nothing specific for used household items so far.
He said he will have to use an agent in the UK for export paperwork, as well as a French agent for import paperwork and customs clearance.
“It is a costly and time-consuming exercise which is taking up a lot of time and expense.
“The problem is, removals has been lumped into the same sector as commercial haulage, where the goods being carried are all for sale.”
What about moving items from France to UK?
Anyone relocating to the UK to make it their main home can use Transfer of Residence Relief (ToR) to avoid paying customs duty.
ToR is for people to bring in personal belongings and home goods when moving to the UK as their main residence.
They are sent a code that a removals firm can use to declare for them.
An HMRC spokesman said: “Those not eligible may be able to utilise Returned Goods Relief (RGR), otherwise they must make a customs declaration and pay any import VAT or customs duty owed.”
RGR provides relief from VAT and duty on goods exported from the UK and re-imported within three years.
RGR also allows for a transitional grace period for goods which had been transported to the EU more than three years ago and were in the EU at the end of 2020. Such goods are able to return to the UK under RGR rules during 2021.
A person travelling with items that do not qualify for RGR or ToR can make an online declaration and calculate and pay duty at the same time.
It is also possible to do it in person by entering the red lane on arrival.
Where using a removals company, that company will need to submit a declaration on their behalf.
The standard duty-free ceiling for items, if not moving home, is £390.
There are specific limits on goods such as tobacco and alcohol, and a declaration is needed for bringing in money over £10,000. HMRC can be contacted on 0044 (0)300 322 9434.