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Why does the French post office care about value of items sent abroad?

A reader asks why they are quizzed about the value of parcels when they go to post something from France to the UK

It is important to fill out the correct paperwork when sending packages outside the EU to avoid surprise charges Pic: mrphoto757 / Shutterstock

Reader question: Whenever I go to the post office to send a letter or small parcel to the UK, I am quizzed about the contents and value. Why is La Poste bothered about what leaves France? Is there an export duty that I don’t know about?

It is important when sending a package outside of the EU to fill in all the correct paperwork, so that neither you nor the recipient will have surprise fees to pay. 

Read more: How to fill out French customs form online for packages sent abroad

This information is to help customs officials in the destination country identify the item and correctly apply local fees or restrictions. 

When sending goods to a non-EU country, you will need to fill in three CN22 (for goods up to €380) or CN23 (for goods over €380) customs declarations, plus a ‘pro forma’ invoice. 

If sending the parcel to the UK, this will allow British officials to enforce customs rules, and apply VAT for goods from £39, and customs duty from £135. 

While posting documents abroad usually requires no paperwork, this will depend on the rules of the country you are posting to. 

In the UK and the US, for example, books, magazines and posters are categorised as goods, whereas in South Africa they are considered documents. 

Even if you appear to be sending a simple letter, the postal worker might wish to verify that the envelope does not contain any goods.

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