Why sending parcels between the UK and Italy is more expensive after Brexit

Brexit has impacted the lives of British nationals in Italy in a multitude of ways – including making it more difficult to send and receive packages to and from loved ones in the UK. Here's an overview of the new rules and charges you need to know about.

Why sending parcels between the UK and Italy is more expensive after Brexit
(Photo by Ina FASSBENDER / AFP)

Leaving the European Union has affected Brits in Italy considerably, including instances of not being able to access jobs and healthcare or having to resit their driving test. Another change to life in Italy are the high taxes applied to sending and receiving parcels between the UK and Italy.

No matter how good the reputation of Italian food and wine is, there are some British home comforts that can’t be beat. If you previously received packages of Marmite and Yorkshire Tea from your mum, Brexit has made it more difficult to get that taste of home.

Postal taxes

All parcels, whether commercial or private, were affected by postal rule changes when the UK left the EU on January 1st 2021. For individuals, one main difference British nationals in Italy are noticing are the high taxes. These are the extra costs involved when sending packages between the UK and Italy.

READ ALSO: Q&A: The British Embassy answers your questions about life in Italy after Brexit

Most goods arriving in the UK are liable to any or all of the following taxes, according to the latest UK government guidelines:

  • Customs duty
  • Excise duty
  • Import or supply VAT

You need to pay these fees whether:

  • you purchase the goods or receive them as a gift
  • the goods are new or used (including antiques)
  • the goods are for your private use or for re-sale
(Photo by Lewis Joly / POOL / AFP)

If you are sending a gift from Italy to the UK, import VAT typically only applies to goods whose value is over £39, or the equivalent in euros (around €45). Customs duty is due only if the value of the goods exceeds £135 (around €158).

To make sure your parcel is a gift – and to avoid paying import VAT – you must complete a customs declaration – this states that it must be for personal use rather then commercial, and it is only occasional, such as for a birthday or an anniversary.

READ ALSO: EXPLAINED: What are the different documents Italy’s British residents need after Brexit?

Twitter user Alessandra Libutti tweeted about the costs and bureaucracy involved in sending a parcel from Italy to the UK post-Brexit. Even a low-cost item incurred high delivery fees, which amounted to three times the value of the contents.

The paperwork is as much a source of umbrage as the costs.

Amanda Mouse from the UK runs a dance clothing company. Before Brexit, she worked with clients across Europe, including Italy. Due to the new rules, she complained that parcels didn’t reach her clients, and as a result, she is losing customers.

If you use online marketplaces, such as eBay, there are extra traps to watch out for. Under the UK’s new VAT rules, either EU sellers or UK buyers will now have to pay UK VAT on items shipped to Britain, depending on how much a product costs. For sales under £135, the tax burden will fall on sellers, while items exceeding that cost will see UK residents liable to pay the tax.

Customs declarations

Aside from the extra delivery costs, parcels now being sent between Italy and the UK need an extra customs declaration form attached. For packages being sent from the UK to Italy, the CN22 or CN23 form is required.

This is fixed to the package and contains information such as the sender and recipient’s details, and whether it’s a gift. The other options, such as item for sale, may affect the level of duty.

You also need to include a description of the contents, which takes away the element of surprise for birthday and Christmas presents – so don’t read the label if you want to be kept in suspense.

READ ALSO: Brexit: Anger and frustration for Brits in Italy amid confusion over new biometric ID card

The same also applies to sending parcels from the EU to the UK. A customs declaration must be completed before sending, either at the post office or in advance by downloading it from the postal service. 

To send a parcel from Italy to the UK, you need to complete a CN23 form, which is required for delivering parcels to all third countries. Post-Brexit, the UK now belongs to that category, so you need to attach one to your package to ensure it reaches its destination. The form can be downloaded here, or you can ask for one for free at your local post office.

Animal products

Now that the UK is a third country, the process of sending products derived from an animal has become a bit more complicated and it applies to both businesses and individuals.

READ ALSO: Bovril, tea… ham sandwiches: What can you bring back from the UK into your EU country?

For British online food delivery service, The British Corner Shop, Brexit halted delivery of food goods including meat and cheese to most of Europe – or items were being returned due to the new restrictions. Their latest updates show that services are resuming in some countries, including Italy, but that the range of products has been reduced “to comply with customs”.

Anyone bringing animal products such as meat and dairy into the EU will now need a veterinary certificate to prove that the food conforms to EU regulations.

The EU’s strict sanitary and phytosanitary rules – measures that aim to protect humans, animals, and plants from diseases, pests, or contaminants – mean that all imports of animal derived products come under these regulations.

These products are known as personal imports, which also include items that you bring back in your luggage after a trip to the UK. Some exemptions extend to limited amounts of baby milk, food required for medical reasons or a quantity of honey and certain fish products – find more information here.

If you flout these rules and send banned animal products, your parcel could be seized and destroyed.

Stick to them, on the other hand, and you can still keep in touch with people back in Britain through care packages and gifts.

READ ALSO: EXPLAINED: What are the rules on travel between Italy and the UK?

Member comments

Log in here to leave a comment.
Become a Member to leave a comment.


Driving licences: Are the UK and Italy any closer to reaching an agreement?

With ongoing uncertainty over whether UK driving licences will continue to be recognised in Italy beyond the end of this year, British residents are asking where they stand.

Driving licences: Are the UK and Italy any closer to reaching an agreement?

Many of The Local’s British readers have been in touch recently to ask whether any progress has been made in negotiations between the UK and Italy on a reciprocal agreement on the use of driving licences.

If you’re reading this article, there’s a good chance that you’re familiar with the background of this Brexit consequence.

READ ALSO: Frustration grows as UK driving licence holders in Italy wait in limbo

When Britain left the EU there was no reciprocal agreement in place, but UK licence holders living in Italy were granted a grace period in which they could continue to drive on their British licences. This period was later extended to the current deadline of December 31st, 2022.

The situation beyond that date however remains unclear, and concern is growing among the sizeable number of British nationals living in Italy who say no longer being allowed to drive would be a serious problem.

There was the option of exchanging licences before the end of 2021, but many didn’t make the deadline. As has been proven before, this was often not due to slackness but rather all manner of circumstances, from having moved to Italy after or shortly before the cut-off date to bureaucratic delays.

Driving licences: How does the situation for Brits in Italy compare to rest of Europe?

So is an agreement any closer? Or do those driving in Italy on a UK licence really need to go to the considerable trouble and expense of sitting an Italian driving test (in Italian)?

With five months left to go, there’s still no indication as to whether a decision will be made either way.

The British government continues to advise licence holders to sit their Italian driving test – while also stressing that they’re working hard on reaching a deal, which would make taking the test unnecessary.

This message has not changed.

On Wednesday, July 27th, British Ambassador to Italy Ed Llewellyn tweeted after a meeting with Italian Infrastructure and Transport Minister Enrico Giovannini: “The British and Italian governments continue to work towards an agreement on exchange of driving licences.”

But the ambassador earlier this month advised UK nationals “not to wait” and to “take action now by applying for an Italian licence”.

In an official newsletter published in mid-July, Llewellyn acknowledged the concerns of British residents and confirmed that negotiations are still going on.

“I know that many of you are understandably concerned about whether your UK driving licence will continue to be recognised in Italy, especially when the extension granted by Italy until 31 December 2022 for such recognition expires.

“Let me set out where things stand. The British Government is working to reach an agreement with Italy on the right to exchange a licence without the need for a test. 

READ ALSO:  Do you have to take Italy’s driving test in Italian?

“The discussions with our Italian colleagues are continuing and our objective is to try to reach an agreement in good time before the end of the year.

“We hope it will be possible to reach an agreement – that is our objective and we are working hard to try to deliver it. 

Nevertheless, he said, “our advice is not to wait to exchange your licence.”

“If you need to drive in Italy, you can take action now by applying for an Italian licence. This will, however, involve taking a practical and theory test.” 

He acknowledged that “the process is not a straightforward one and that there are delays in some areas to book an appointment for a test”.

READ ALSO: ‘Anyone can do it’: Why passing your Italian driving test isn’t as difficult as it sounds

“We will continue to work towards an agreement,” he wrote. “That is our objective and it is an objective we share with our Italian colleagues.“

The British Embassy in Rome had not responded to The Local’s requests for further comment on Friday.

The Local will continue to publish any news on the recognition of British driving licences in Italy. See the latest updates in our Brexit-related news section here.

Find more information on the UK government website’s Living in Italy section.