I beat Federal Express – the implications are potentially big


A few weeks ago I bought a Christmas gift over the internet. The company I bought it from is based in Israel. I paid for the goods including shipping charges without a problem.

About 10 days later I received the gift via Federal Express (Fedex). So far so good.

Roughly a week later I received an invoice from Fedex for VAT (you have to pay VAT on goods bought from outside the EU if they’re above a certain value). But the invoice also included a ‘Clearance Administration Charge’.

The charge wasn’t a lot of money but having checked the website of the company I bought the gift from I phoned the FSB legal helpline to check the validity of this admin charge. I found out that, since I’d not agreed to the charge at any point, then I shouldn’t have to pay it.

Based on this I sent an email to the invoice enquiries address at Fedex saying that I hadn’t agreed to the admin charges and, therefore, wouldn’t be paying them (a copy of my email is below).

Well I’ve just had a response from them and they’ve cancelled the charges and cleared my account.

The thing is: I never agreed to the charges up front. In UK contract law, if there is no prior contract/agreement for the charges then I’m not obliged to pay them – and neither are you if you have the same situation.

This makes the admin charge potentially unlawful.

So, if you buy something from outside the EU and the vendor has nothing about admin charges by the shipping company in their T&C’s then you should not have to pay the admin charge.

Sadly I think far too many people would just pay the charges without thinking about whether they should.

My email to fedex if you want to contest the charges.

Dear Fedex,

After having bought a present for my wife from Israel I was surprised to receive an invoice from you for VAT and clearance administration charges.

After having consulted my lawyer about the issue I agreed to pay the VAT, since Israel is not in the EU.

However, I refuse to pay the clearance admin charge since at no point was I made aware of, nor did I agree to, any terms and conditions which clearly stated that I would be liable for any such charges.

At no point in the transaction and subsequent delivery was any contract for a clearance administration charge made between Fedex and myself.
I understand that the supplier (Walletex) state on their website that they are not responsible for custom brokerage fees but I was not made party to the agreement between the supplying company in Israel and Fedex and, thus, entered into no contracts for any explicit charges with Fedex. I paid Walletex for delivery in good faith and no agreement between Fedex and myself exists.

If you want to pursue further charges for delivery or administration or the terms upon which goods are shipped, I suggest that you take it up with the organisation that hired you.

Therefore, I have paid the sum of £9.21 on the invoice (by phone) and hereby request that you cancel the remaining sum of £6.80 on the invoice for the clearance administration charge.

Please let me know when this has been done.


*** OCTOBER 2019 UPDATE ***

OK, due to Brexit this may change and I’ll make the effort to update the legal status on this (If I can find a definitive answer).

Just as a note though; I’m not a lawyer, just a businessman.  So, please don’t ask for legal advice because I’ll always point you in the direction of a lawyer.  Many home insurances come with a legal helpline, so check your policy.

What I do strongly suggest is that you keep records of all your correspondence with FedEx if you’re disputing a charge.  They seem to be ignoring emails and letting calls go unanswered but make sure you can show that you’ve made the effort in case they send the debt to a collection agency.

*** APRIL 2020 UPDATE ***

FedEx have been putting up some resistance to this in recent months, even threatening to send the outstanding bill to a collection agency.

However, you do have some legal options. So have a read of this which was contributed by someone below:

So FedEx caved in after my second email.

I think the email you have on your blog is still the best starting point. It clearly stated the fact in a polite manner. If it doesn’t work, please aware that under the Unsolicited Goods and Services Act 1971 (updated in 2000), it is a criminal offence of a company to send unordered goods or services in the hope that the recipient will pay due to ignorance. The section 2 of this act specific outlaws the company bringing legal proceedings, invoke any collection procedure in attempts to collect the payment.

Also, the Consumer Contracts Regulations 2013, Regulation 39 and 40 outlined that the company has to get consent from consumer prior and additional charges has to expressly agree in advance, for example, it cannot be something automatically bill you additional fee unless you unclick/opt out.

One important thing is you need to make sure no one (not your seller, shipper) communicate this advancement fee to you and you don’t accidentally agree to it. Please consult a legal professional, but the law seems to be on our side if FedEx ever wants to go to court for £12.

I don’t think it will ever get to this stage, but anyone who get harassed by collection agencies over fees they are clearly not liable to. Section 2 of the Fraud Act 2006 and section 21 the Theft Act 1968 cover area where companies made up false representation as well as send threats to collect money that you are not legally liable to. Very few sane companies want to go there because these two laws could lead to jail time. If you find yourself in this area, please do get a lawyer.

**AUGUST 2021 UPDATE & SUCCESS – sharing email templates** (Thanks to Kirsty for this)

Thank you for all of the advice on here. I emailed FedEx with the template provided to dispute this clearance / administration fee. They have recently changed their processes so that you cannot make a partial payment either online or over the phone therefore, I amended the original email template appropriately to request they adjust the bill allowing me to settle the remaining VAT charges only.
I received FedEx’s generic / automatic response shown below:

“Dear Sir or Madam,
Thank you for your query regarding the charge on invoice xxxxxxxxx.
FedEx would like to inform you that the amount billed is an ancillary charge and these are raised on shipments that require a specialised clearance procedure through customs.
Under certain circumstances additional fees are payable to FedEx for the clearance of goods, for example to cover fees paid to external agencies for border inspections or for non-standard clearances. The charge may also cover all other services not covered by the standard conditions of FedEx.
The charges raised for this additional service are specifically billed to the consignee / importer rather than the shipper. The charges remain the responsibility of the consignee / importer as they relate to the importation of the goods through customs.
FedEx trust this concludes the matter, however should you have any further queries please do not hesitate to contact us.
Yours Faithfully,
FedEx Invoice Adjustment Team”

Using all of the advice from this thread, I responded with the below template I thought may be useful for you all:

Thank you for your response – it however does not resolve this matter.
Under the Unsolicited Goods and Services Act 1971 (updated in 2000), it is a criminal offence for a company to bill for unordered services in the hope that the recipient will pay due to ignorance. Also, the Consumer Contracts Regulations 2013 (regulations 39 and 40) outline that a company must obtain consent / express agreement from the consumer prior to levying and / or billing for any charges.
At no point prior to receiving invoice xxxxxxxxx did I receive any communication of this advancement fee from any party. I therefore did not agree to, nor do I accept, these charges.
To resolve this matter, please remove the sum of £xx.xx for the clearance administration charges from invoice number xxxxxxxxx. I am happy to make payment for the VAT charges of £xx.xx to close the matter at your earliest convenience.
Kind regards”

I then received the same generic / automated response again to which I responded:

“Dear Fedex,
I have now received this exact same email from you twice.
I have already replied to this email on [insert date] and await your response.
Kind regards”

Finally, they responded appropriately and the admin charges had been cleared from the bill and I was able to settle the VAT only fees online.

I hope this helps others! Thank you all again!

380 thoughts on “I beat Federal Express – the implications are potentially big”

  1. Please be aware that you should not treat this as legal advice. I’m merely sharing what I did and what happened as a result.
    This information was correct at the time of writing but may not be so now. So, if you act on this information then you do so at your own risk and I accept no liability..

    1. Hello There, Dont feel regretful or threatened by a massively corrupted company like FedEx. They are behaving unlawfully according to UK law and they are trying to force UK costumer to pay unreasonable charges unlike no other major delivery company.

      You did an excellent job by publishing this so other people can learn to stand up against such shameful company whereas the UK government could not care less about its people.
      The UK tax office ( tax man) is cooperating with such monstrous company in the expense of British people. Lots of people been charged unlawfully so its about time that the so called ” UK Government” STOPS supporting corrupted companies and get a grip on the issue before people take to the streets and call for CAMEROON to go.

    2. Thank you Karl for sharing.
      I bought a $25 product from Malaysia delivered to uk, invoiced for £4 vat and £12 admin.
      I contested FedEx admin charges using the format of your letter on 16/04/2017 and received a cancellation and case was closed on 19/04/2017.
      Thank you very much.

    3. Tried that and got the following e mail in response.
      Thank you for your e-mail regarding the invoice 387310961. Please accept my apologies for the delay in getting back to you.

      Please see the attached breakdown of charges, which explains how the import charges were calculated for your shipment.

      The invoice is for the import tax levied by HM Revenue & Customs on the package, when it arrived in the UK. As an explanation, all items that are imported in to the UK from outside the EU are assessed by Customs for import tax. The tax is based on the value of the goods including the cost to transport the goods, as that is seen as being a part of the overall purchase price.

      Any monies due on a package are paid in advance by the carrier to HM Revenue & Customs, so that the goods can be cleared and delivered in a timely manner. For this advance payment, FedEx charge an advancement fee to cover the cost of the use of our deferment account with Customs. A deferment is an account we hold with Customs, this is the only way Customs will accept payment for import charges, unless you employ your own broker. FedEx charge 2.5% of the total duty and taxes or £12.00, whichever is greater. As this charge relates to the import of the goods, the importer is responsible for the fee, not the exporter.

      If you wish to avoid the advancement fee you can use one of the following options.

      1. Open a credit card account with FedEx to enable us to take the duty/VAT at clearance. Customer Service can set the account up for you on 03456 070809.
      2. Apply to HMRC for a deferment account and supply FedEx with the details for future shipments. This is only available to businesses.
      3. Ask the shipper to send the goods on the Broker Select Option (BSO) and employ your own broker to clear the goods at the UK border.

      As we have none of these options on file for yourself, the advancement fee has been charged and will stand as issued.

      We trust that this clarifies the matter for you. However, if you should have any further queries, please do not hesitate to contact us.

      Kind Regards
      Emily Gilbert

      1. Hi Kenny,
        looks like FedEx might be getting wise to this.
        However, personally, I would make the point that you’re still under no contractual obligation to pay the fee. The cost of doing business, in this case their deferment account, is their problem and not yours. It’s unlawful to arbitrarily add fees without giving the customer any notice.
        But please don’t take that as legal advice, it’s my own opinion. If you want to fight it I’d recommend a chat with a friendly lawyer.
        Good luck,

      2. Hi Karl, I have followed your advice; however, they really have been putting up some resistance. The unjust thing is my package is a gift sent by family; it’s not even an online purchase. Fedex still charged me VAT. While VAT is charged more than 20% of the product price my family claimed when they sent to me. I do not know how they can do so.

        And here’s what they replied:

        Dear Sir or Madam,
        Thank you for your query regarding the Duty and Tax charges levied on the invoice 115422819.
        Our terms and conditions are such that the recipient or importer will be invoiced for Duty and Tax charges unless the sender selects the ‘bill sender’ or ‘bill 3rd party’ option on our Air Waybill. Neither of these options has been selected on this occasion, therefore FedEx have invoiced you, the recipient, correctly.
        FedEx pays the import duty and tax directly to Customs and then subsequently sends the invoice to the ‘bill to’ party on the Air Waybill.
        Please contact us if you have any questions about this invoice.
        Yours Faithfully,

    4. Thank you for your post – I’ve just had the administration charge removed too after my 14 year old bought an item from America – I’ve paid the duty amount and the rest has been cancelled :)

  2. I brought a gift for my wife from hong Kong I think and Fed Express had contacted me a week later to tell me about VAT charges. I could not believe It. Item cost was £450 and VAT cost was £90. My item did say gift on it so I think it is unfair that I should have to pay VAT, but non the less, thank you for this email. I can atleast challenge the Admin charge of £10. What I dont understnad is why they want to cheese people off by adding a final VAT charge to the cost of their package. The think is we dont even know if the government will finally get the money and are they agents of customes and excersize?

    1. Andrew, I know exactly how you feel about VAT but even gifts attract VAT. I’ve bought gifts from all over the world and had to pay VAT many times, it stinks. Buying within the EU is one solution because it’s only goods bought from outside the EEA (European Economic Area) that you’d have to pay VAT on.

      But to answer your question: yes the government gets the money. FedEx and all the other carriers have a legal obligation to declare the VAT they’ve charged and hand the money over to HMRC.

      1. Thanks Karl. Another question. I received a note through the door from Royal Mail. They have a parcel for me from Royal Mail. The parcel comes from the USA. They have charged VAT and £8 handling fee. Do you have any idea how I would go about getting the handling fee as the Royal Mail would usually hand the item over after I have paid.


  3. Hi Andrew,

    this one is a lot more tricky because Royal Mail can and will hold your parcel to ransom until you cough up. This is a constant issue with people who buy from outside the EU through eBay, they think they’re getting a bargain until the Post Office asks for £8 on each parcel.

    Fedex, and the like, tend to deliver and then ask for payment, which gives you a bit of wriggle room on the fees.

    The big thing to overcome is the fact that what they’re doing is actually legal, or legal until someone takes them to court to challenge the admin charges. And I can’t see that happening over £8.

    I think that this thread on MSE sums it all up: http://forums.moneysavingexpert.com/showthread.php?t=592233

    So, sadly and reluctantly, I have to admit defeat on this one. Sorry.


    1. Thanks Karl

      I took a look at the thread and it is clear that I have to pay the Royal Mail charges just as I thought. I would like to say that I disputed the FED EXPRESS admin charges and did not have to pay their £10 fee (I followed the instructions above.). I accepted the VAT charges so they still got £90 out of me.
      Thanks again.


      1. Hi Andrew,

        Glad my efforts could be of help.

        the VAT payment is a common misconception. Many people think they shouldn’t pay VAT because they didn’t buy it from the UK.

        But I often have to remind people who email me: YOU HAVE TO PAY THE VAT, it’s the law.


  4. Thanks for your advice, I’m just in the process of disputing the same £10 charge, but additionally in my case they inflated the total VAT Value by adding an extra £62 freight amount on top of the existing value, even though freight was already charged in the original order. That meant from my original £119 order I had a bill from Fedex for £47, nearly 40% of the order!


    1. Karl Craig-West

      Hi David,
      in this case it’s vital that you check the T&C of the vendor. Make sure that they’re not stated that you will be liable for freight charges etc.
      The last thing you need is for FedEx to come back to you and say that you were notified and thus agreed to the charge.

  5. thank you so much for this i didnt even know about the charges the man at the door never said anything about charges and im damn well gona try and fight it – cant believe its not even a legal obligation for companies not to advice you before purchasing. so angry right now but i am defo gona fight it. thanks for great info :)

  6. Thanks for the post – I’m expecting a parcel by Fedex early next week, and there will be VAT incurred. The vendors T&Cs state “…buyers are responsible for all federal, state or local taxes, tariffs, import duty fees, and any other costs or expenses that may be associated with receipt of the item.” To me, that seems very vague as to whether it includes Fedex fees or not – do you have any advice? Cheers, Emma.

    1. Karl Craig-West

      Hi Emma,

      I’d be inclined to challenge the admin fee because the vendor T&C’s are definitely vague. After all, the only thing that FedEx can do is to say no.

      However, as mentioned in the article above, you won’t have explicitly agreed to any charges by FedEx so you’re not, strictly speaking, contracted to pay them.

      Good luck and let me know how you get on.

  7. Thanks so much for this great piece of advice. I disputed the FedEx charges and paid only the VAT on my invoice. I have now received an email from FedEx which says: “To confirm I have credited the administration fee from the invoice as requested. A credit note will follow in the post confirming this.”

    This is a fantastic result for us consumers. Many thanks again.


    1. Hi Woo,
      glad to have been of some help. Would you mind doing me a big favour and tweeting this post out?

      1. Hi Karl,
        Could I get your advise on my case? I’ve bought some earrings from a US company and now I got charged by FedEx just like everyone else.
        I’ve been aware that the parcel would be delivered by FedEx but obviously I didn’t know about admin charges, all it said on the website was:
        Order of US $100 and up are shipped Free Federal Express International Priority service. This service is fully trackable.

        In the Terms and Condition section, the only thing I found out was to do with the tax which is as follows:
        Prices on the website do not include sales tax or any other customs duties, use, value added, excise, federal, state, local or other taxes. New York residents will be charged sales tax, but all other such duties or taxes shall be paid by you, or, in lieu thereof, customer shall provide us with an appropriate tax exemption certificate.

        So to my knowledge I have not entered into any contract with the FedEx, do you think I could successfully challenge their Clearance Administration Charge?


        1. Dmitrijs,

          If it is as you’ve said then you seem to have no contract between you and FedEx so what I would do is challenge the charges anyway. The worst they can do is say no.

          But I must reiterate that this isn’t advice, just a suggestion of what I’d do in your circumstances.

          Let me know how you get on.


  8. Hello Karl and hello to all other readers.

    I’ve recently bought some shirts from the US and I’m not even going to bother to read the Terms and Conditions on the sender’s website because I’ve also received an invoice (2 weeks after the things arrived) and FedEx charged me a VAT of 9.11 GBP and an Advancement Fee (it’s the Clearance Administration Charge) and that was 10.5 GBP. So now, after reading all the posts, I’m most certainly going to write them an e-mail and refuse to pay for the second fee. However, I wanted to know is it possible to pay for the VAT over the phone and just tell them my Visa Debit Card number and not waste time to send cheques (it’s much too complicated seeing as how I’ve just opened my first bank account)…

    Thanks in advance and I look forward to hearing from you soon!



    1. Hi Valeri,

      You should be able to pay just the VAT over the phone since (I suspect) they’d be on very shaky legal grounds if they refused to take payment for taxes.

      However, I can’t say for sure how they’d react if you plain refused on the phone to pay the Advancement Fee. But it’s worth a try.

      The thing to bear in mind is that if you don’t fight it you’ll never get anywhere. And since they’ve already delivered the goods they can’t hold them to ransom until you’ve paid.

      Hope that helps and I look forward to hearing about how you got on.


      1. Hi again.

        Well it has been exactly one month since I’ve received the invoice. Of course it takes some time for it to be delivered but the invoice date was Oct 11 and after sending fedex an e-mail about the vat and admin charge they still haven’t done anything about it. I’ve also sent them a letter (wasn’t recorded) , explaining my e-mail and all the other stuff I’m concerned about and told them to contact me asap, but to this day there hasn’t been any sort of information from them. So I’ve been reading that a lot of people have been receiving an ‘overdue invoice’ – after what time should I expect that letter, if they were to bother to send it that is….

        cheers :)

        1. Hi Valeri,

          It’s great to hear that you’re fighting this charge but it’s no surprise that FedEx have taken their time to respond to your letter. The key with big organisations is that very little happens quickly. I would say that if you don’t receive an overdue invoice letter then don’t worry about it, they may have dropped the clearance admin charge without telling you. If you do get the letter then it’s likely that there will be a specific reply address or email address and you can continue to fight your corner from there.

          Good luck,

  9. hi,

    I bought some pictures from outside the eu.
    I got a bill charging me vat not just for goods, but for vat on freight.
    I didn’t know you were charged vat on delivery costs, is this the case?

    thanks for any advice anyone has to give.

  10. Hi, I’d appreciate some advice on my situation relating to a FedEx invoice.

    My 12 year old son was sent a gift at Christmas from his uncle in the USA. It was delivered to my mother’s address as that’s where we were visiting over Christmas.

    Like everyone else an unexpected invoice arrived at my mother’s house a few weeks later for VAT & advancement fee.

    My question is can FedEx enforce an invoice sent to a child at an address they don’t even live at?!

    1. Hi there,

      Fedex have a legal obligation to collect the VAT no matter where or to whom it’s sent, so you’ll not avoid that under any circumstances.

      However, the advancement fee is something else entirely. So follow the process in the post above stating that you have no contract with Fedex and are thus not obliged under UK law to pay it.

      Hope that helps and let us know how you get on.


      1. FedEx charges the fee because they are paying the taxes for you in advance. Just like Royal Mail does. Basically FedEx did the paperwork for you, and loaned the money, so it’s part of life.

        The simplest way to move forward is pay UK Customs to the UK Treasury before the parcel arrives in country.

        Then it’s all done in advance.

        Everyone’s argument about not entering into a contract with FedEx, well you did the moment you accepted the parcel. OOPS. FedEx is being courteous by waiving the fee.

        In UK by law couriers / Customs brokers are allowed to assess a fee (to pay/cover the bond while it clears customs). In other countries like Hong Kong FedEx will telephone you or email you and have you pay upfront before it’s delivered. Reason for it is they want to make sure they get the tax money they shelled out, and unlikely to recoup it.

        My account FedEx provides free brokerage for all express shipments. However if you pay with Visa or something they will assess a processing fee equal to what Visa takes to do the transaction.

        FedEx makes a lot Off International shipments, but the administration fee they don’t profit, it just covers their costs with the UK Customs House and or any local GST, HST.

        I negotiated free Customs for express shipments, but legally everyone here is in the wrong, and the comment about a child, well the parent assumes liability, just like if the child got in a fight at school.


        1. You may have a point but I’ve twice sought legal opinion on this and under UK consumer law you can’t impose T&Cs without letting giving the other party the opportunity to see and agree (or not) to the T&Cs. Since FedEx makes no apparent effort to make these charges visible to people when they sign for deliveries then I doubt that their claim would stand up in court.
          However, I suspect that a middle ground is being adopted my FedEx and that they’re just letting it slide for sake of not having to test the claim and then maybe added cost of having to hold parcels until payment is made if they win it. The Post Office can do this because they’re set up for it.

  11. Great post, thanks.

    But how did you manage to pay only the Vat charge over the phone? Does it not take payment for the full amount when you enter the invoice number and you card details?

    1. Hi Will,

      when I phoned them up I simply said that I’m only paying the VAT amount. No business can legally take more from your card than you state that they can.

      Hope that helps and please let me know how you get on.


      1. Hi Karl

        I paid via bacs in the end and sent them an email, just had a response from them after just under 2 weeks and they have accepted it but only as a goodwill gesture and no credit will be issued in the future. They mention that their terms are legally binding and enforceable.

        Well I think I’ll be thinking twice about using fedex again in the future for international orders.

        Thanks again for your help Karl


  12. I have a different problem. Fedex started sending letters to my address just before Christmas. I returned them unopened and said that the named person doesn’t live here and never has, at least not in the 15 years I have. I keep getting letters for that person and the last one I opened. I called Fedex and explained the situation and they said I have to pay the bill regardless and then take it up with HMRC or they will start legal action. Why should I pay a bill for a parcel not received, not requested and not in anyones name in this household? I’ve told them I’m not going to pay anything and they need to refer back to whoever shipped and paid for the goods as I have no contract at all with them. I’d like your opinion please.

    1. Hi Karen,

      This seems to be one of those ‘guilty until proven innocent’ situations. But here’s my view (and I must state that this just my opinion and doesn’t constitute legal advice, it is just my understanding of the law around this).

      I would write to FedEx (yes an actual letter, with proof of postage) and explain to them that you have nothing to do with what they’re trying to charge you for. If you (or anyone else in your household) haven’t received any goods, didn’t order any goods and the invoice isn’t even in your name then FedEx haven’t a legal leg to stand on.

      They can tell HMRC all they want but if they can’t prove that you have ordered or received any goods then they have no legal case either.

      The only case where this might have happened is if someone has stolen your card details and ordered stuff for you. But, from what you’ve written, seems unlikely.

      Hope that helps and please let us know how you get on.


  13. Hi Karl,

    I really need your help please!

    I ordered a Go Pro from the US and asked for it to be delivered to the UK (in order to save a few quid in the process, ironically). According to the final order, there was $0 tax and $70.39 shipping & handling costs, which I obviously paid for, having no choice. On http://gopro.com/support/articles/customer-responsibility-for-import-duty-vat-other-taxes-outside-us , I am assured that VAT is included in the item price for deliveries to the UK.

    Having received the Go Pro, I am now being chased by FedEx for a delivery invoice of £100.96! I never knowingly entered a contract into paying this fee.

    In the Go Pro email acknowledging the order, they said “Customers with shipping addresses outside of the USA are responsible for all duties, import taxes, and brokerage fees. These costs are not included in the price of shipping/handling of your order. Customs, duties, and taxes vary widely from country to country and can be as high as 80% of the total value of your order; please check with your local customs agency for details regarding exact costs.” Inevitably, I didn’t do this in the first place.

    Do I seriously have to pay £100 extra?

    Thank you


    1. Hi Rory,

      here’s what I would do in your situation: I’d write to FedEx and ask them for a copy of the signed contract that exists between you and them for this delivery charge. I would further explicitly ask for the bit of paper that details these charges and has your signature on it signifying that you agree to the fees.

      I’d also make sure that no such T&C’s exist on the vendors website from where you bought the Go Pro. If there are no explicit terms where you agree to paying FedEx this delivery fee then, in my experience, you have no binding contract with FedEx.

      FedEx may come back to you with your delivery note where you will have signed for the goods where delivery terms may have been hidden, would be wise to check this. In this case, I would ask FedEx at what point you were explicitly notified of these charges.

      Every company that does business with consumers in the UK is legally obliged to notify you of charges before you agree to any transaction. Should they fail to do that then they will find it hard to gain any legal basis for action.

      This kind of money is worth fighting for so start here.

      Let me know how you get on.


      p.s. I must point out that this just my opinion of the situation and what I would do in your shoes. I’m an activist and not a lawyer and, as always, this does not constitute legal advice. Thus, while I hope you win this case, I can accept no liability for how things turn out.

  14. Hi Karl,

    I ordered some security cameras from Shenzhen, 2 weeks later I received the Duty/Taxes invoice from Fedex. As expected they’ve charged Duty, VAT on top and a £10.50 admin charge.
    I plan to challenge the admin charge as you described but firstly I am trying to challenge the import Duty.
    They processed the duty at 14% using trade tariff code 8525809900, which appears fair enough (see the following link)
    but I called the tariff classification line and was given code 8525801920 which frustratingly seems to have exactly the same description but is only charged at 4.9% (see following link)

    I was wandering where you think I stand on getting them to recalculate the duty and amend the invoice?



    1. Karl Craig-West

      Hi Andy,

      Not so sure of this one, to be honest but here’s what I would do:

      If you think the duty classification is wrong then state why you think it’s wrong in your letter with a suggested/correct code and calculation. Make sure you give them opportunity to respond.
      Wait for their response and if you win then great. If not you need consider whether it’s worth fighting for and whether you have a good legal/tax basis for the challenge.

      The key with this is that you’re obliged to pay duty, there’s no argument there. Whether you can get FedEx to change their classification and percentage calculated may not be very negotiable either.

      Hope that helps.


      p.s. please let us all know how you get on.

      1. Hi, Karl.

        After challenging Fedex about the tariff code used they sent me a revised invoice, some £30 less than the original.

        My advice to others would be to check the harmonized tariff code on the suppliers invoice against the one used by Fedex and if in doubt call the product classification line on 01702 366077

        1. Karl Craig-West

          Thanks for sharing Andy and you’ve raised an interesting point.

          It’s not unknown for courier companies to get the import duty (VAT) wrong when they bring goods into the country. However, in their defence, it’s often down to inaccurate or misleading labeling by the company that sells the goods.


  15. Hi Karl,

    My case is quite different to others. I won with a design contest and the sender(from the US) sent me(to the UK) the result piece to me. Like others, i got an invoice letter a week later i receive my package. I am on my way trying to deal the problem by emailing and communicate with FedEx. Here is one of the reply email i’ve got:

    In response to your query regarding the above referenced invoice we should explain that in order for a gift shipment to be exempt from import Duty and VAT, HM Customs & Excise have strict criteria which must be met as follows:

    I just sent my reply to them with providing more evidence and details of my case hoping for any changes.

    I need your help and advice for my next further action. Not only admin fee but also i disagree with the VAT charges they put in the invoice and trying to charge me. Because i did not “purchase” anything but being deliver with these regulation which not even suitable use for my case.



  16. UPDATE:

    sorry, don’t know why the email i was trying to paste is not appearing.

    Here is the rely email i’ve got from Fedex:
    In response to your query regarding the above referenced invoice we should explain that in order for a gift shipment to be exempt from import Duty and VAT, HM Customs & Excise have strict criteria which must be met as follows:

    1. The item(s) must be sent from person to person as a private transaction. There should be no company name stated on the paperwork, only the sender and recipients’ own names and home addresses.

    2. The value of the gift must not exceed £36.00 per person.

    3. The sender states on the commercial invoice and airwaybill that the item is a gift, otherwise, HM Customs & Excise will assume that this is a normal importation and not take the gift allowance into consideration.

    After looking through the paperwork for your consignment, we find that the criteria has not been met on this occasion. Therefore, the charges have been levied correctly.

    We would advise you monies due on a package are paid in advance by an independent carrier, like ourselves, to HM Customs & Excise to enable a speedy delivery. Our terms and conditions are such that unless the sender selects the ‘bill sender’ or ‘bill 3rd party’ option on our airwaybill when requesting FedEx to ship the goods, the recipient will be invoiced for these charges.

    We trust this clarifies the matter for you with regard to the importation of gifts into the UK.

    1. Karl Craig-West

      Hi Winnie,

      Import duty isn’t an area I’m all that familiar with, so am struggling to help with an answer.

      What I can recommend though is that you put your question on the forum of http://www.vatexchange.co.uk where they may be able to give you a more specific answer that’s directly relevant to the Duty nature of your prize.

      I hope that’s OK and that you’ll understand my reluctance to give you uninformed opinion.


  17. I’m not long off the phone from Fedex. They’ve agreed to waive the administration fees in my case as well. It took two emails and a cool but polite phone call from me for it to happen, but at least it did, and in the end up, I was actually quite pleased with their complaints dept (though might not have been if they disagreed with me). I used your letter for the main point of my argument, so thank you for making it available online.

    I still don’t understand though why on earth they think that it is ethical, let alone legal to charge money for a service that you didn’t require or request. I don’t imagine that in any other business it would be allowed to continue. Imagine buying a shirt, and getting a bill two weeks later for an extra three buttons that the sales assistant decided to include or something equally daft like that! It just wouldn’t happen.


    1. Karl Craig-West

      I agree, it’s ludicrous that they can get away with blatantly (and unlawfully) charging people for something they haven’t agreed to pay.

      So, the mission is to let as many people as possible know about things like this and hopefully companies like FedEx will learn.

  18. You also do not have to pay any duties or VAT for any imports, to the courier. These charges are between you and HMRC, if a courier, out of the kindness of their hearts decides to pay your charges for you to HMRC, then once it does so, your debt is wiped and as far as HMRC is concrned, you owe nothing. The couriers however will invoice you for the VAT because they want to claim it back, but legaly they have no right to it back as you did not give permission for them to act as your broker and to pay off your debts for you. This is why most couriers will not deliver your goods until you pay the VAT if it is a large amount. If however they do deliver your goods, you are not legaly obliged to pay the invoice they send you, as the VAT etc has already been paid to HMRC, without your permission (unless you have a contract with the courier and an account and arranged the import youself, only then have you agreed to let the courier act as your broker, if it was just something you bought on ebay and then was shipped to you by the sender, you are not legaly obliged to pay anything to the courier and they can not legaly persue it). The most they can do is employ a debt collector or sell the debt to them, but then you instantly win as law prevents debt agencies from collecting debts they have bought or are representing. You have no contract with agencies and by law you can tell them to take a hike as you will only deal with the original debtor (unless you have signed a contract agreeing otherwise, which never happens with couriers, only credit cards etc, and even then it is rare). In short, most charges, including VAT, when charged to you by the courier and not by the goverment directly, are not legal debts. Any lawyer will explain this to you. If you are an importer with an account etc it is different as it is part of their account terms, but as just a regular ebay buyers etc, if they deliver first and charge later, they can’t claim the money back, they can blacklist you from their courier company, or attempt to trick you with a debt agency, but legally you do not have to pay them a penny for anything, as they have paid the debt to HMRC for you without your permission, and it is up to you if you pay or not. Just remember that they might blacklist you or hold future imports until you pay them, but you don have to do anything, they paid off all your charges you owed to HMRC for you! You owe nothing!

    1. Karl Craig-West

      Some very interesting points made there by Brian.

      My thoughts on this, and it’s not to take anything away from what Brian wrote, is to tread carefully.

      I’m not saying that Brian is wrong and that you don’t have to reimburse couriers for VAT that they’ve paid, I’m saying that I have no experience of this.

      Brian, it might be worth you letting us know how it is that you know this and what your experiences are?

      1. I know this because Fedex sent me an invoice based on a HMRC estimate, since the sender forgot to put the actual shipping total and left it blank. In the UK you are charged import fees on the total amount, not just the product value. e.g is you pay 1 shipping and the item is worth 1000 also, you pay fees based on 2000. Fedex should have known the actual shipping total as they are the ones that arranged the shipping of the goods and charged for it, they could have easily checked this. Instead they accepted HMRCs estimate which was about 4x the amount because the sender had a cheaper rte than the standard. I refused to pay it, they said i have too. Obviously i didnt have to as all charges were paid in full to HMRC without my permission. I told them i would not pay. They referred it to a debt collector since it was now a non priority debt. I told the debt collection agency, as i always do, that as i have no contract with them i would not be paying it. 2 warning letters that i ignored and then nothing. No debt collectors in britain have any legal rights to claim any debts if you don’t have a contract with them. I didnt have a contract with fedex either the sender did, so they were both screwed. Had i owed HMRC directly it would have been a different matter, but i didn’t. Also, i have since had deliveries from fedex just fine but only from the UK not from abroad.

        1. sorry missprint should have read if you pay 1000 shipping and 1000 product value you are taxed on a total of 2000, in the UK.


        2. Karl Craig-West

          Great Stuff Brian. I guess the annoyance is how many people would have just accepted the terms and coughed up. Makes me wonder whether Fedex actually keeps a record of how much they collect in these fees (I’m sure they do) and how much it contributes to their profits.

  19. VICTORY!!!!
    Steve 1 – Fedex 0

    I had an invoice from Fedex today for my Harmonium with the expected £10.50 VAT but with an extra ‘advancement fee’ of a further £10.50 wot!
    I got straight on the phone stating that I don’t have a contract and under UK contract law they cannot apply fees or charges as I am not their customer.

    I got nowhere with the girl on the phone as I was being really polite and she just kept saying it’s an agreement we have with the vendor :-) I asked for the legal department and got through to the area manager. I explained the same again and was reassured the fee was taken off and I just paid the VAT… Yeehaa mini tribal dance!

    Next step no VAT come on Gov put em up, put em up!

    1. Karl Craig-West

      Great stuff Steve, thanks for sharing.

      However, I don’t rate your chances of beating HMRC on the VAT issue. I’d certainly love to hear what happens if you decide to give it a go.


  20. Hello Karl,

    I was just wondering whether you could help me in my case. I recently lost my iPhone while in Switzerland and it is being sent back to the UK. Seeing as it was personal property, am I correct in saying that there will be no VAT or Customs charges? I got this from the HMRC website (http://www.hmrc.gov.uk/customs/post/sending.htm) Also once the phone has been delivered by Fedex, will I also be in the advantageous position of not paying the administrative fee?

    1. Karl Craig-West

      Hi Sam,
      You’re right, there is no VAT to pay on personal goods being sent. You only pay import duty on goods you’ve bought from outside the EEA.

  21. Hi Karl,
    I recently returned from a holiday in the USA where I left my phone. Alamo forwarded it by fedex at a cost of £66.47 I have now been invoiced by fedex for 14.79 disbursement outside eu vat and clearance admin charge of 10.50. If I am following this thread correctly neither charge is valid. Am correct in this assumption?

    1. Hi Dave,

      sorry for the delayed response.
      The clearance admin charge is an easy one to contest, as above.

      However, on the VAT front you’ll have to make it clear to FedEx that the phone isn’t being imported, it’s being returned as a result of leaving it abroad. If you bought the phone in the UK (or even in the EU) then you will already have paid duty and thus it shouldn’t be charged again.

      Keep us posted.


  22. Thanks for this. I am an online reseller of goods and received two shipments from China via Fedex, and have been invoiced later for £14.40 on each – £3.90 VAT and £10.50 clearance admin charge.

    I politely emailed my intention not to pay the admin charge using your letter as a template, and received this reply:

    “Dear Sir or Madam,

    Thank you for your query regarding the Duty & VAT charge on invoice 5XXXXXXXX.

    We would like to inform you that the amount billed is an ancillary charge and these are raised on shipments that require a specialised clearance procedure through Uk customs.

    Under certain circumstances additional fees are payable to FedEx for the clearance of goods, for example to cover fees paid to external agencies for border inspections or for non-standard clearances. The invoice may also cover all other services not covered by the standard conditions of FedEx.

    The charges raised for this additional service are specifically billed to the consignee/importer rather than the shipper. The charges remain the responsibility of the consignee/importer as they relate to the importation of the goods through Uk customs.

    We trust that this helps clarify this matter for you and look forward to receiving your payment in settlement.

    Yours Faithfully,

    Sounds like nonsense to me. I’ve reiterated in a reply that they still have no legal ground to charge me for the ‘administration’ of my parcel, paid the VAT due on each parcel and stated that I trust the matter to be closed.

    Let’s see what happens…

    1. In this case I would ask them to show where you expressly agreed to any of their terms and conditions. Under UK consumer law (or any UK contract law) no company can impose any terms after the deal has been done unless you explicitly agree to them.

      However, the caveat is: make sure that these T&C’s aren’t included in the sellers terms first. Normally most vendors simply state that you’re liable for any import duties and ‘other charges’. This is certainly not an explicit agreement to any clearance or admin charges imposed by courier companies.

    2. Thank you for the advice!

      I paid the VAT only and then wrote an email based on the original one posted here. Eventually got the same reply as shreddedmeat. I ignored it, waiting to reply to the next email from them. My patience paid off and I got this email today:

      Thank you for your query.

      By way of explanation, all goods entering the UK may be liable for import charges in accordance with HM Revenue & Customs regulations. Any monies due on a package are paid in advance by the carrier to HM Revenue & Customs so that the goods can be cleared and delivered in a timely manner. For this advance payment, FedEx charge an administration fee to cover cost of the use of our deferment account with Customs. A deferment is an account we hold with Customs, this is the only way Customs will accept payment for import charges unless you employ your own broker. FedEx charge 2.5% of the total duty and taxes or £10.50 whichever is greater.

      However, on this occasion I have issued a credit for the Advancement fee and a credit note will be posted to you shortly.


      Jagdeep Jutti
      Customer Relations.
      FedEx Europe, Middle East, Indian Subcontinent & Africa

  23. Thanks for this advice. I didn’t know this. I have just paid Fedex only the VAT and have sent them an email very similar to the one that you sent saying to remove the £10.50 charge from my account. I will let you know what happens.

  24. Hi Karl,

    I recently recieved an unsolicted gift from the USA via FedEx. I promptly returned the gift by airmail (much cheaper). However FedEx are asking for £39 for VAT and Admin. Not really sure how to proceed. I didnt ask for the gift, did not expect the gift and did not enter into a contract with any person or company. This is a very questionable practice by FedEx. I really can not see how I can be expected to pay for anything in these circumstances… What would Karl do?

    Thank you in advance for any advice you may have.

    Best Regards


    1. Hi Nigel,
      yes, that’s a very interesting case. And here’s what I would do:

      To begin with I’d ignore FedEx until they contact you again (if they do). At which point I’d write to them and let them know that you did not purchase the item delivered, did not order (or even ask for) the item delivered and have since returned it to sender. Thus you entered into no legally binding contract that would make you liable for VAT or admin charges.

      Hope that help and let us know how they respond.

      Good luck,

  25. I received a gift from USA and am now being charged VAT which is almost £50! This was a surprise gift. I never entered into no contract with no one. I only received the gift from FedEx. I didn’t even know about it until it arrived at my door. Why on earth am I being charged, surely it should be sent to the sender and not me? It’s ridiculous, and I am refusing to pay it, any advice or opinions about this would be much appreciated. Thanks

    1. Hi Molly,

      thanks for your question. I’m not a VAT expert but after a little bit of research I can say this:

      The quick answer is that if your gift is valued at over £36 then you will have to pay VAT (import duty). This is because calling something a gift would be a convenient way for folks to unscrupulously avoid paying VAT. And I’m fairly sure that HMRC wouldn’t want to open that can of worms.

      So yes, you’ll have to pay the VAT (or try and get the sender to pay it).

      Sorry I can’t be of more help.


      1. Hi Molly,

        I had a similar situation (unsolicited/surprise gift from USA) where FedEx wanted to charge me VAT and Fees. I wrote to them and explained that I had not entered into a contract with either FedEx or the sender and at no time did I ask FedEx to act as a broker on my behalf or pay any monies on my behalf. I also explained that I had the protection of UK Consumer law and UK Contract Law. FedEx decided to drop the matter. As I understand it, even if you had signed for the package it does not make you liable for any charges that have been payed on your behalf without your express permission.

        I hope tjhis is helpful.

        All the best


        PS Thanks to Karl for intial advice!!

  26. Karl, thanks for this website. I used your approach regarding an item I purchased in India and had shipped to the UK. Totally forgot about the VAT charges when i bought it! I was willing to pay those but not happy to pay the admin charge. Used google and your wonderful blog came up. I spoke to someone on the phone to begin with who had clearly be trained to say “the computer says no”. She put me through to her boss who was very similar and even tried to send me some literature to justify the charge. I decided to ignore her email and instead pay just the VAT over the phone and instead sent a generic email asking for my payment to be confirmed as received and for them to waive the admin fee charge based on your template above. Worked a treat! Thanks again

  27. Hi Karl,

    I had not heard back from Fedex so contacted them again and they have removed the £10.50 admin charge! Thanks so much for this blog. It has been invaluable.


  28. Hi Karl and everybody!
    I received admin charge credit as well £10.75. But I have paid my invoice and then found your website and contacted FedEx. They confirmed that I need to pay VAT only. But they didn’t read carefully my message. It says that I request a refund. Contacted again. At the moment waiting for the reply. I don’t really care will I get my money back. But this information will help me in my business in the future. Thank you for sharing with us your experience.

    1. Karl Craig-West

      Hi Olena,
      thanks for getting in touch. Not sure I rate your chances of a refund but good luck anyway.

  29. Hi Karl,
    I have had similar letters (Fedex sent me 2), but my circumstances are slightly different, I wonder if you could advise me.

    A friend of mine in America bought me a present online and had it shipped to me from America to Britain. I didn’t purchase this item, nor did I sign for it when it was delivered, yet I have received a letter from Fedex with VAT charges of £8.37 and a £10.75 advance fee.

    As I had no idea about the gift until I came home and found it waiting for me, am I still liable for the VAT? I also don’t understand how being a recipient of a gift leaves me with regard to agreements in the contract law you wrote about. Any advice is welcome, thanks.


    1. Karl Craig-West

      Hi Ross,
      thanks for the comment and the question and I have mixed news: Sadly there’s no avoiding VAT, even if it was an unsolicited gift.
      I checked this out with a VAT specialist recently and she concurred that duty is payable. HMRC seem to take a blanket approach because anything else would open up a huge problem about ‘everything’ being labelled as gifts to avoid the duty.
      On the brighter side, you should easily be able to get out of the admin charge.
      Good luck,

      1. Thanks, for the reply. I think it’s great that you are still keeping this thread active given how long it has been running. I appreciate the advice.


  30. So I’ve an odd one. Any advise would be appreciated. I purchased a number of sports supplements from the states. I have them shipped to a bybox account in the UK. Last november I received a bill from Fedex for all of the above fees. VAT, import, admin charge. I was advised by bybox that my items couldn’t be released until the fees were paid. The total for the purchase was 320 usd and the fedex invoice was a total of 68gbp. I paid the fees and my items were delivered. All good then? No. So, this morning (months later) I have now received a final warning bill from Control accounts (some 3rd party used by Fedex) to collect 397 gbp!! I called control to query the fees and they have informed me that Fedex did not bill me the correct amount and it has been sent to them for collection. This is the first I have heard of this, Bybox are now holding all my packages until this is cleared. This is the first communication that control/fedex have issued to bybox also. Advise? Opinions?

    1. Karl Craig-West

      Hi Michael,

      yes this is an odd one and a little beyond the scope of what the original post is about.

      In my view the issue is a contractual one between you, FedEx and Bybox and would involve scrutinising the agreements that FedEx and Bybox have between them that would enable Bybox to legally withhold your packages. In all honesty, I wouldn’t really know where to start with that.

      However, all is not lost (and I know this will sound like a cop-out) but you could try posting your problem onto the UK Business Forum in one of the legal help boards to see if someone more adequately qualified can give you some direction. http://www.ukbusinessforums.co.uk/

      Sorry I couldn’t be of more immediate help but good luck and keep me posted with how you get on.

      All the best

  31. Hi Karl,

    First of all I want to thank you for this site and all your advice on how to beat, what is frankly a con by Fed-Ex. I ordered a t shirt from US website to UK and it arrived via FE in about ten days. Then around two weeks later I got the fed ex letter wanting £17.28 from me (£10.75 Clearance Admin Charge; £6.53 in VAT). So I paid the VAT and sent an email why I did this also stating that I did not enter into a contract with Federal Express Europe plc). Heard nothing for about four weeks then I get another letter in the post demanding payment of the £10.75, saying I have seven days to pay or “immediate legal proceedings may be issued against me”. There was nothing in this letter countering my original reasons for not paying the CAC.

    I will contract them via telephone to see if they response to this email. I will keep you updated.



    1. Karl Craig-West

      Hi Scott,
      thanks for your comment. In your shoes I would stick to my guns and maintain that you did not expressly agree to any charges by FedEx. Ask them for evidence of contract between you. You might even want to copy the vendor’s T&C’s and send it asking them where you agreed explicitly to pay FedEx any money.

      Good luck and keep us posted.

      p.s. remember that what I’ve written shouldn’t be taken as legal advice, it’s just my opinion.

  32. Hi Karl, thanks for your reply. I send another email to Fed-Ex, but I decided to call them also, I explained the situation to a fed Ex customer representative and they agreed to “recredit” me the clearance admin charge so I got a result. Their systems are awful, when I received email confirmation of the recredit they stated I still owed them the VAT duty!

    Thanks again,


  33. Hi,

    I was sent a small video camera by post by a US production company to do some filming, which I then returned to them. This was never my property and they paid for all the postage via their account.

    However, I’ve since had an invoice for duty/charges as the other company didn’t tick the box to say they were paying it. They’ve now gone quiet and are not replying to my requests for them to sort it out.

    Do you think there is any way round this if they don’t reply? Am I really liable for charges of something I never paid for or posted? Hopefully the US company will pay this but I want to be ready just in case.

    Many thanks


  34. Hi Karl,

    I have an interesting situation currently with FedEx – i bought something from a UK website, where they state an ‘all in’ price with no hidden extras. after a few days i got an email with tracking information for my shipment from FedEx – you can imagine my surprise when i noticed the sender is in China. never the less, the items turned up ok and all was well, however i have subsequently received an invoice from fed-ex for £15.14 consisting of 4.39 for VAT and 10.75 for ‘advancement fee’

    are they gonna throw me in prison if i ignore their letter?



    1. Karl Craig-West

      Hi Garry,

      In my view (and it is just my opinion) you believed you were buying from a UK company and the VAT should legally have been included in the price.

      However, you need to scrutinise the vendor’s site and all T&C’s to check the business address of the company. If it’s china (despite the .co.uk domain) then you’re liable for paying the VAT. If it’s a UK address then you’re not liable.

      The advancement fee should be fairly cut and dry by now.

      Keep us posted and good luck.


      1. some feedback for you…i elected to not contest the VAT part of the charge, for the sake of £4 the hassles were not worth it…i did however refuse to pay fedex fee, which they wavered without any resistance. thanks for your help!

  35. Karl Craig-West

    Hi James,

    I’ve Passed this over to a friend of mine who is a VAT expert who will be able lto help since I’m not sure how to approach it.


  36. You don’ t say who sent the invoice for the duty/VAT charges or how much money is involved. But either way, it may be possible for you to have the charges removed because the camera was only imported temporarily.

    Anyone who has ever had to deal with the occasional import/export issue knows that it can be a messy and labourious process, so it’s not surprising if your US client didn’t understand the rules.

    I should say that I’m a UK VAT consultant, not an expert on import procedures. But I’ll do my best to point you in the right direction and tell you where to find additional information.

    In principle, if you import goods on a temporary basis (usually up to 24 months), then you can import them into the UK without paying duty or VAT. However to do this, the importer (i.e. you) has to make a declaration to HMRC at the time of importation for “temporary admission relief” or “TAR”. Usually this is done by completing the standard import document, a C88, which is also referred to as a SAD. I suspect that your camera was sent by post, in which case you’d probably have to made the declaration at the local post office.

    Obviously you didn’ t do this, but it might still be possible to claim the relief retrospectively. The TAR procedure is explained in HMRC Notice 200: Temporary Admission http://tinyurl.com/nhasb8h and the provisions for claiming retrospective relief are in section 5.1 of the notice.

    However before you get bogged down in trying to make sense of the Notice, I’d suggest that you read section 5.1 and then call the Customs Helpline (0845 010 9000) and discuss your situation with someone there. They will do their best to help, though unfortunately I’ve found that the qualify of the responses isn’t always consistent and different officers might give different information. Their information probably won’t be wrong, but might be incomplete or just a bit inaccurate. That’s usually because some officers have more experience of different issues than others and may have limited knowledge of the TAR procedure. Sometimes you just need to be persistent!

    I’m sorry I can’t be more helpful, but at least you have somewhere to start. And if you have any other specific customs/VAT issues, please feel free to put them on the forum on my website http://www.vatexchange.co.uk and I’ll do my best to help.


  37. You can also check out my recent blog where I’ve explained the main procedures for dealing with queries and requests for refunds for personal imports. Hope this helps!

  38. Fedex give you immediate delivery and pay your duty and vat on your behalf. The sender will usually have something in his T&Cs about you having to pay taxes and fees. This is how business is done. Most people in this discussion thread are getting wound-up over nothing. How do you value your time?

    1. Karl Craig-West

      Thanks for your comment John and you’ve raised a good point. Yes we should consider whether fighting the charge is worth the time.

    2. I probably wouldn’t bother challenging a relatively small charge, but £5 or £10 is a lot of money to some people.

      I may have agreed to a contract with the vendor to pay taxes and charges, but does that legally bind me to paying a third party, other than HMRC? I’d always assumed that the “taxes and charges” clause referred to costs incurred by the vendor, not third parties. But then I’m not a lawyer.

    3. another day another advancement fee I won’t be paying.

      Vat charged. £5.48
      Advancement fee. £12

      Again I won’t be payin the advancement fee. Not even my credit card charges 200+ interest.
      I see it as fedex doing a service which the seller paid for. Which includes paying vat on my behalf. If the advancement fee was 10% of the vat I would pay it because not worth wasting time. I think it should be like that with a max among of £12. It isn’t like I can charge you a £12 job completion fee if we didn’t agree before hand.

      1. That’s brilliant news. Thanks for letting us know. It’s great to hear about how so many people are taking on the big players for such under-handed practices.

  39. Hi
    Same story bought goods outside EU value of £16 plus shipping charge £3
    package delivered fed ex ],
    4 days later got an invoice from fed ex for EU vat £3.86
    and surprise surprise clearance admin charge vatable £10.75.
    Thanks Karl and everyone have e-mailed fed ex now waiting for an response.

  40. Thankyou! I Just read this called 0800 1691960 (fedex freephone UK) asked to be put through to the billing department and told them i would not be paying the advancement fee. They waived it without a fuss!

    Cheers! £10.95 saved :D

  41. Hi I ordered a christening gown and extras from the USA, they arrived promptly. I Just received an invoice from FedEx saying I owe duty of £18.36 and VAT of £38.71 and clearance of £10.75. Total being £67.82

  42. Interesting thread, Karl. I’ve probably made a mistake in my approach to fedex and their advancement fee of £10.75, because I wrote with a cheque for the amount of VAT and £5 in view of the clearance service that I accepted they had provided, but objecting to paying more as I had not been given the chance to pay in advance. Just had an e-mail from them saying “Having reviewed the above mentioned invoice, we can now confirm that a partial credit of 5.75GBP has been raised,
    FedEx will not issue a revised invoice and therefore we look forward to receiving payment for the remaining balance on this invoice.”
    Am considering my next move. Since the VAT was less than £22 I think a 50% advancement charge is a bit much!
    Any advice? I don’t want them to start rolling up collection charges!

    1. Hi Alison,

      sorry for the delayed response. Here’s what I would do:

      If they send you a bill for the balance write them a letter/email saying that since yo hadn’t entered into contract with FedEx then you don’t feel obliged to pay the rest and only paid the first part as a gesture of goodwill.

      Having said that, there is a risk that you may be obliged to pay the balance since you acknowledged the fees and paid part of it in the first place.

      Good luck and let me know how you get on with this.

  43. Hello everyone

    Im new here ( my english its not perfect so im sorry ;) )

    I bought some things form american designer website
    Fedex has a contract with them, so I received my parcel almost 2 months ago…last week ( 14 f september ) fedex sent me a letter I hace to pay “disbursements out of the scope EU VAT -£60.18 and ” clearance Administration Charge ” – £10.75 !

    if I knew I will never buy anything from US
    can anybody tell me do I really have to pay all Tax now?

  44. Hi Karl
    Thank You for reply me
    So shall I contact with Fedex now and ask how much do I have to pay?
    and another question how many days I got to pay them?

    Kind regards

  45. I wonder, does this apply to UK only or, in other countries as well? I am right now in a similar situation, but the country the item is in is Denmark. I don’t live there so I am not accustomed to their laws (item was a gift for my girlfriend that is doing her Erasmus there)

    1. Hi Alex,
      It’s a good question but I’m unable to give you an answer on this. Chances are good that similar laws exist in Denmark but I wouldn’t say for sure.
      Sorry I can’t be more helpful.

      1. Hi Karl,
        Just a small update from me. I can confirm this worked also in Denmark, fedex replied to my mail today and agreed to cancel the fees regarding their administration fees. Your blog post has been an invaluable source of help.

        Thank you for taking time to write it and share with us all.

        1. Thanks Alex,
          That’s good news and I’m glad it worked for you, thanks for letting us know.
          It’s highly likely (although I couldn’t say for sure) that this applies across the whole EU.

  46. kevin millington

    I also E-mailed fedex today and got a response back in three hours as below:

    Thank you for your query regarding invoice 547558296.

    We can confirm that we have now completed our investigations and are pleased to advise that a partial credit of £10.75 has been raised, leaving an amount still due on the invoice of £12.97.
    We look forward to receiving your payment for the remainder of the invoice.

    If you have any further queries, please do not hesitate to contact us.

    Yours Faithfully,

    Dinesh N

  47. I’m probably going to make myself very unpopular here but (after getting over the initial shock the first time) I’ve always felt it fair enough when I get charged a fee. What I’m doing when I order from abroad is importing something without doing any of the required processes (which you can do yourself if you want to avoid the charges from the courier). This responsibility then gets dumped on the delivery company who do the calculations, make the package available to HMRC (including unpacking and repacking if required). The delivery guys then pay the customs charges out of hand, put the package back in the system and deliver it. Having looked at what I’d have to do to sort this out myself I certainly feel this is a valuable service I’ve been provided with – well worth a tenner anyway.

    Anyhoo, with that in mind: The Question.

    If you feel you were unfairly billed for a service you didn’t want would you prefer for the delivery company to leave your package in limbo until you sort the charges out yourself? (Although how would you feel about being billed for storage by the courier while you deal with HMRC?)

    If you really didn’t want this service then why didn’t you get arrangements in place before the package was sent – this would have avoided any uncertainty on the part of FedEx as to whether you wanted them to clear it or not? If you don’t want to do it yourself then who should and why should they do it for free?

    1. Hi Laurence,
      I can see your point of view but Fedex aren’t exactly doing anything for free in that the sender pays for their service. Not only that but Fedex has the systems in place to handle VAT and the sending of invoices for VAT and the collection process is fully automated.
      I don’t think anyone would want to have to deal with HMRC directly but it’s not as though Fedex do it out of any kind of altruism.
      The main point of this stream is that these additional charges by Fedex are added without the recipient’s permission or knowledge, thus making them unlawful. If the sender and recipient were notified explicitly in advance then I don’t think anyone could complain. However, typically, not even the senders are aware of these admin charges so it could be argued that Fedex are playing a sneaky game and boosting their profits in doing it.

  48. Hi Karl
    Great work. Yes, I was stung last year on this when I bought some shirts from US website. Accept it all (tax and handling) except that my shirts were sent from separate warehouses as post, so each one with small tax was + £10 – ouch!

    Now question in-hand. My sister in the US who uses Fedex for her company sends my daughter odd gifts – ok so far (well 8 years). Her name is her married name – she stated GIFT but forgot to tick related/non-related box so we been hit with VAT on £31 ($50). Ok, tax is tax and this is small but…. all the HMRC stuff says the consignee/importer is responsible – an 8 year old? I know your not a tax expert, but is she really a ‘Taxable Person’? At what point do I step into the firing line with HMRC on the unexpected gift? I admit if not clear they slap tax on it.

    As for Fedex, no contract between us and my daughter is the ‘importer’ (her Aunt wrote my daughters name not ours!). So yes, she opened the Fedex invoice addressed to her. None of the Fedex invoice instructions I’ve read on the web say the named consignee / importer must be an adult. To be fair Fedex wouldn’t know she is a child but they must have some case law to (try to) pass this (the tax) to parents/guardians.

  49. Hi Graham

    I’m a VAT consultant so am replying to the VAT part of your query. So as you know the normal rule is that you don’t pay VAT on imported gifts if the value is under £36 (notice 143, section 2.4 http://tinyurl.com/ncxp7e9). Unfortunately, one of the criteria is that the customs declaration must be completed correctly so if your sister forgot to tick one of the boxes, then HMRC are in their right to charge VAT. That’s the law and as you know HMRC aren’t known for overlooking it!

    I think that’s the crux of your query but let me know if I’ve missed anything. However there is no harm in contacting HMRC to ask if they will reconsider their decision – you can call their import helpline on 0300 200 3700 – here’s the link to their webpage http://search2.hmrc.gov.uk/kb5/hmrc/contactus/view.page?record=iQ9MFQAxnZk.

    Please let me know how you get on, I’m always interested to hear if someone persuades HMRC to change their mind!


  50. Hi Craig,

    I don’t know if you’re still replying to this post but I’ll go ahead and leave my comment anyway.

    I recently received a gift from a friend in the US which contained all kinds of sweets and chocolate etc. I received an invoice from FedEX for £32.17 (£10 of which is the admin fee). What I don’t understand is where they’ve got the other figure from as the value of the item was under $10. Can I query the amount they’ve calculated?

    Many thanks in advance,

    1. Hi Alex,
      Sorry for the slow reply.
      You can challenge the rate if you feel that FedEx have miscalculated the VAT. Simply drop them an email with the consignment/parcel/delivery number and ask them.
      Of course, you don’t have to pay the admin fee but I would definitely query the calculated rate.
      Good luck and please let us know how you got on.

      1. Just an update.

        I contacted FedEx about how much they calculated the VAT to be based on the value of the parcel. The first email response didn’t help one bit, the rep obviously didn’t read my email correctly. Whilst the email conversation was happening, I received debt collection letters which I found very unnecessary. Another couple of emails and the whole amount was removed because they miscalculated the charge.

        Huge win :)

        Thanks again!

  51. Hello karl
    i have just received a mail from fedex that says i have to pay VAT and advancement fee after receiving my package from canada to uk. Do i have to pay ? since few months ago i bought the same package from USA without paying this charges!

    1. Hi Abdul,
      yes you have to pay the VAT but you should be able to challenge the advancement fees using the letter template above.
      Good luck,

  52. Hi Karl,

    I’m not sure if you’re still writing on this thread but I’ll put my question here nonetheless. I’ve received two packages from a supplier in Australia, one before Christmas and one just after. Today I received a bill from FedEx for the first package, requesting a total of £14.80, of which £4.05 is VAT and £10.75 the “advancement fee”. (I assume I’ll get another one for the second package.) I was surprised to say the least.

    On the supplier’s website the T&Cs and shipping info is quite vague, and states basically that the parcel may later be subject to customs/duty charges etc – which I fully expected – but there was no mention of a £10.75 advancement fee from the courier anywhere. Moreover I selected FedEx through the supplier’s website, and paid the postage there, instead of their standard free airmail. It didn’t state anywhere that I would later be charged such a fee.

    Do you think it’s worth taking these charges up with FedEx, as I will most likely end up being billed £21.50 in fees that I wasn’t told about! To me that’s quite a lot of money!

    1. Hi Lewis,

      my view is that unless the seller’s T&C’s are explicit then you should challenge the charges. So, I’d say: go for it.


  53. You are all unfortunately under the delusion that UK law applies to purchases made from overseas. They do not. If the monetary transaction takes place offshore, (or outside of the EU) the laws applicable in THAT country apply. Neither SOGA nor the new 2015 Consumer Contracts Law applies. First port of call for anyone doubting this is your local council Trading Standards office.
    FedEx are legally permitted to make the advancement fee, in just the same way Royal Mail and ParcelForce do, but will, on occasion, forgo charging it if challenged. They are simply too busy to worry about a tenner.

    1. Hi VATman,
      thanks for posting and you’ve raised some good points.
      However, what I would point out is that FedEx has to abide by the laws in the countries in which it operates and that UK law does apply when they try adding charges in the UK without the express consent and knowledge of the buyer. This is a fundamental tenet of contract law, you can’t just add arbitrary charges after the deal is done without consent of both parties. Your UK rights are not put aside just because you buy from overseas.
      The point made in this post is that your contract is with the vendor and not with the shipping agent. The shipping agent carries it’s contractual duties for the vendor and at no point does a buyer enter into any previously stated contract with the shipping agent.
      FedEx may feel that they are allowed this under UK provisions but, in my view (which is based on my research), would still struggle to argue their case even if they legally challenged it.
      And, in my experience, no business is too busy to worry about lost revenue.

    2. The charge gets applied in England, by someone employed and gets paid a minimum wage in British pound. It doesn’t get applied off shore. So I still won’t pay the advancement fee.

      Saved £100s so far and counting.

  54. Phoned to pay the VAT only part of my bill and told them I was not going to pay the admin or advancement fee because of the lack of a contract with them. They agreed to waiver this fee on this occasion but said that it would be enforced on the next shipment.
    Please note the advancement fee has now gone up in price.
    Thanks to all for this information.

  55. Hi Karl,
    Just wanted to say a big thanks for your helpful post! I made use of your template yesterday when I emailed FedEx. You’ll be glad to hear it worked, yay!

    Thanks again,

  56. Hi,
    Thanks for advice. Made a phone to call to fedex – on the freephone number posted above. Asked for billing department. Said I wanted to make a payment, but also said I had a question reference the bill. I asked them to please forward me proof of my agreement with fedex for the advancement fee. I was put on hold for 1 minute whilst the operator “checked with her supervisor”, and she immediately came back and said the advancement fee would be credited. I was very polite throughout, total call length about 5 mins (including being on hold before being put through to the billing department). £10.75 saved for 5 min free call.
    Thanks again for advice above.

  57. Just a quick thank you. Although this is an old post, this saved me £10.75 which I’m extremely grateful for. Called them up and without any real hesitation they credited the 10.75 from my invoice, super!

  58. I basically copied the same words of your email and sent to Fedex.
    I received it a response from them after a minutes.
    It said ”If your enquiry requires a claim or amendment to be submitted to the local Customs Authorities, we may need to contact you for further information before we can proceed. Please be aware that claims for clearance errors not caused by FedEx may incur an administration fee of £53.00 + VAT (UK only).”
    what should I do next?


    1. Hi Kelvin,
      it looks like that reply email was just an automated response. In your shoes I would wait for a proper response. If they don’t respond after a week then give them a call following the example of many of the success stories on this page.
      Good luck and let us now how you get on.

      1. thanks for your quick reply,
        also, because I have already missed 2 letters about this charge as I was out last month. I thought Fedex passed my case to a company, which is called” controlaccount” in order to chase my money.
        I am wondering whether I have already broke the Law or not.


        1. Can’t say if you’ve broken the law or not. I doubt that you have since not paying an unlawfully imposed charge doesn’t amount to a criminal matter.
          I would simply use the email in this post to point out that you have no explicit contract with FedEx etc.

  59. Hi
    I sent exactly the same email to Fedex, and I just got a reply from them. But I am not sure about what does the email mean.
    ”Having reviewed the above mentioned invoice, we are pleased to advise that a full credit of 10.75 GBP has been raised. FedEx trust this concludes the matter.”


  60. Hey

    Thanks for this! I received a parcel from Hong Kong then was hit with a invoice of around £15 a month later.

    I managed to ring up FedEx and told them I didn’t mind paying the VAT but wasn’t aware of the Admin costs. She explained it was in the small prints but obviously I never saw this as this was the supplier’s issue.

    She did waiver the £12 of the Admin fee this time so only had to pay around £3 for the VAT! She did say she would do this as a one-off.

    Thank you for your help!

  61. Lol I got a FedEx invoice few month ago for Bruce Wayne. Yes I wa ready for them. I even signed for the package with a batman sign. I have been discussing their admin charge over the phone and have as of yet refused to pay it. They have also refused to remove it and send me a new invoice for the £3.80 tax and duty. Their fee got paid by the person posting the item. And if they decide not to send me a new invoice then I guess batman will have some debts. After all. I haven’t signed a contract. Also them who send a letter to say pay this to get item released. If it has an admin charge then ring them. Get it made clear you won’t pay it. Stick to your guns people. They can’t hold packages for ransom.

  62. Just got an invoice from FedEx for £3.96 VAT and £12 admin for replacement goods from China. How can they justify a VAT charge on something I have not paid for?

    Anyway, thanks for the outline e-mail, I’ve sent it after a bit of editing and will update with any reply.

    1. Oh, the VAT is based on a value of $30 US which, if I’m correct, isn’t an amount that VAT should be charged on anyway. I’ll give them a call on Monday but it seems to me that they’re not only trying it on with the charge but also with the VAT amount.

      1. Karl Craig-West

        Hi Steve,
        I think the VAT amount seems about right, you’ll pay VAT on all imports. Just get onto them about the admin charges, you should have no problem getting that waived.
        Good luck and please let us know how you get on.

        1. Steve, if the goods are replacements and you paid VAT/duty on the original purchase, then you shouldn’t pay duty/VAT on the replacments, whatever the value. I’m not an expert on import procedures, but it sounds as though the wrong import code was shown on the import documentation so they’ve treated it as a purchase, rather than replacement.
          Go back to them and query it and they should cancel any VAT/duty charge. If they won’t do this, let me know and I’ll try to find the reference in HMRC’s guidance.

          1. Marie, thank you. This is sort of what I e-mailed them with but without putting it quite as you have. It’s all currently logged and I’m waiting for a reply.

            I really appreciate all the pointers and help here.


  63. Hi all.

    Just finished talking with a FedUp consultant, paid the VAT and politely said there’s no way in hell I’m paying admin fees (mentioned about solicitors, legal advice, not signing any contracts and all that). The lady charged my card just the VAT and did not make any problems about refusing to pay other fees. Also sent a copy of the email from the first post of this thread. Will see how it goes from here.

    Thanks for advice :)

  64. Hai, I received an invoice from Fedex regarding charging VAT on a gift from my family in Malaysia. When I asked for the breakdown of the charges of VAT on my good, the calculation seems so wrong. Then, I emailed Fedex and asked for an actual invoice from HM revenue & customs, Fedex sent me Supplementary Declaration Acceptance Advice. Is this advice slip really issued by HMRC?
    And can I use the email you posted in the first post to get rid of the administration fee? Thanks.

    1. Karl Craig-West

      I’m not sure about VAT on gifts, Marie Stein covers this further down the page (I think).
      But you should definitely be able to get rid of the admit fee, so feel free to use the email example.
      Good luck, Karl

  65. You’re totally missing the point without fex ex paying your Tax on behalf of you would of had to wait 1 maybe 2 more weeks to get the item.

    So yeah you should just pay up instead of whining.

    1. I have just given your comment time of day by reading your comment.
      I am now charging you £12 for my time and effort. It probably doesn’t even take fedex this long to scan a package to come up with the vat and advancement fee.

      Btw you have 7 days from date of this comment to pay the fee or I will be sending your account to my in house collections department.

      1. You’re on a sticky wicket there: at no point did I agree to pay any fees, neither were fees mentioned in any of your previous comments.

        1. I was replying to @masters “your totally missing the point” comment. I like what you have done and totally encourage it. My comment was to show other readers who may think it’s a rightful charge how stupid their thinking is. A lot of fedex charges can mount up to equivalent of over 200% interest. Imagine if credit card company’s did the same logic. You spend 100 pound, instant interest 200% the more you spend though the less the interest. Until you spend lots more then they add % plus the initial sum.

  66. Hi Karl,

    I would need some advice..

    Here is my situation:
    I did order a machine from China, I got it.
    Everything fine, the only problem is the factory made a wrong invoice where is not shown the price includes delivery. So FedEx put the freight charges on that and calculated duty and vat on that . I did ask FedEx to look after this because something wrong. Of course they didn’t. So I did ask Chinese factory to send detailed invoice to show the price includes everything. They did , but FedEx want me charge 85€+VAT , got this:

    “We have levied the charges correctly from the information supplied by the shipper, even if the shipper does supply revised commercial invoices and we approach Irish revenue for amendments the charge for this will be €84 plus VAT per entry.

    Kind Regards

    Simon Venters”

    It was not my fault, the factory mistake and even I have sent bank statement and detailed invoice to prove mi right, they just want to pull out money of me.

    1. Karl Craig-West

      Hi Simon,
      sorry for the slow response but I’m really not sure how to advise you on this one. Despite the fact that your supplier got this wrong this is a contractual issue.

      If you already have the goods and a corrected invoice (that includes shipping) I would argue with Fedex and suggest that they had already been paid for shipping by the sender and that you have an invoice to show for it. It would be up to them to prove that you had agreed to pay shipping after delivery. However, in my experience, companies like Fedex don’t send anything without having been paid up front.

      So, in my view (and this can’t be considered legal advice) the same argument applies: at no point have you explicitly agreed to pay any charges to Fedex.

      Good luck and let us know how you get on.

  67. Danielle Phillipson

    You are amazing! This worked. I was so upset that it was costing me more in charges than tax, but they have replied to my email and cancelled the charges! Thank you so much.

  68. Hello my english is bad but i will try to explain, i live in Switzerland and i bought some things online in Sweden, and i paid that 53 euros that is in swiss francs 58Chf, and today belive or not i got 2 same bills from fedex, they ar asking from me 30.10 euros to pay on each bill, its rly hard for me to understand i need pay more to fedex then i paid for my order, my problem is i paid one bill and second i found today in my mailbox, i call them and they said to me that i need only pay 1, but im sure 100% they will send me bill again and then i willl need pay even more money cuz i didnt pay on time.

    1. Karl Craig-West

      This isn’t quite on topic but here’s what I would do: If they bill you again for the same shipment just make sure you give them the receipt number from having paid and tell them you’ve already paid.
      Sorry but that’s the only help I can give.

  69. Thank you for your advice Karl,

    Followed your brief by sending a quick email to fedex. Got a response in 48hrs:

    “Having reviewed the above mentioned invoice, we can now confirm that a partial credit of 12.00 GBP has been raised, leaving an amount still due on the invoice of 6.66 GBP FedEx will not issue a revised invoice and therefore we look forward to receiving payment for the remaining balance on this invoice.

    Thank you for your assistance with this matter. If you have any further queries, please do not hesitate to contact us on.”

    Just paid rest by BACS. Easy Peasy. Great shared bit of advice, much appreciated.

      1. Hi Karl, just thought I’d mention I took down some notes from your email and made a little script. Called them up to pay and had the £12 waived. So thanks alot.

  70. We ordered an item from USA, paid for FedEx priority shipping and they have not paid the customs or duty for us. This means that even though their website states they will usually pay it for you and then invoice you, they actually haven’t. They are demanding a ‘direct processing fee’from us ? Why? They haven’t done Nothing for us for this fee and day it’s there for expensive items or people who have bad credit! We have neither

    1. Not sure what to say about that. If they’re demanding the import duty then I would probably pay just that and nothing more. There’s no getting around paying this bit.

  71. Hi Karl,

    I have read your post that is very helpful indeed. However, I’ve got a problem of a different kind and I would be very obliged if you gave me any advice.

    I made an order from China to the UK, the website where I made an order states that they are not responsible for any duties, taxes and etc. The stuff was shipped by fedex. After it was a delivered I left the UK for summer holidays since I am a foreign student and the address the goods were shipped to me isn’t my permanent address. When I returned three months later I found a letter from Fedex stating that I have to pay 30 pounds as VAT. When I called Fedex in order to make a payment and they informed me that the amount of payment has increased because I haven’t paid on time and now I have to pay 90 pounds! However, I wasn’t notified that I have to pay before the deadling or additional costs may apply. I also received the letter from Fedex stating that if I don’t pay in 7 days they may start legal action against me.

    I don’t mind paying the original VAT but not the increased amount. What woul you advice?

    Thank you

  72. Also, when I called Fedex and tried to explain my situation to them, they told me that it is not their problem and that I still have to pay the full amount (90 pounds)

    1. I would write to FedEx with similar words that I used in my email. You’ve not explicitly agreed to these fees so you shouldn’t have to pay them.
      Just remember that this is what I would do in your situation and it shouldn’t be considered legal advice. Good luck.

  73. Hi,

    About 3 months back I have received a courier from my home country(India) through FedEx and paid everything including freight charges, service tax and all. Within a week I had received my packages in UK with my signature. After a month the fed ex had sent me a letter stating that I have to pay vat of 26 GBP. But I ignored it as I had already paid all the vat back in India. And again a few days back I had received another letter saying that I owe the 37 pounds. Today I received a call from control account, but I missed the call. So I am unable to understand whether I need to pay the amount or not, I will not be happy to pay as I had already paid all the charges for the courier. Please help!

    1. Hi Maddy,
      it’s highly unlikely that your supplier in India will have paid the UK import duty. The VAT that would have been charged in India will be Indian sales taxes and not UK taxes (despite what they may have told you). So I doubt that you’ll get out of paying the duty to FedEx with that kind of argument. But you can certainly avoid any admin charges. Good luck and let us know how you get on.

          1. OK. So at first they’ve charged me with £27, but I had ignored it.And few days later got another letter stating that I owe them £37. So I am not sure whether I need to pay them £27 or £37?

  74. Hi karl ‘ great thread. Thnks in advance for any advice .
    I am an ebay seller, I sold some clothes to someone in Thailand.
    He later returned the clothes to me in the UK. Clothes worth about 200 GBP.
    I know that hmrc site says no taxes are due.
    But the sender – the returner – had used fed ex and also not filled in the customs form very well – possibly even incorrectly.
    A long time after delivery of the parcel, ed ex sent letter wanting customs of 20 and admin fee of 12. I know the fee was unsolicited, so they can sing for it.
    But where do stand on the customs now?
    I Phoned fed ex, the guy said to e-mail with evidence and they would drop it.
    I sent an email with no evidence, but they say they proccessed correctly as per the senders declaration – which I guess they did – but the sender has chosen and contracted, not me.
    It sounds like hey are not interested in me proving no tax was due in retrospect. I’ll be informing all returners to be care full on that form in future, but fed ex are trying to uphold both charges on this

    1. Fed ex has pretty much accepted that this was my own property being returned – and I can prove that if need be, but its the sender’s (fed ex’s customer) error in filling the customs label that has caused the problems. I did not instruct the sender in any way as to how the customs label should be filled in. It didn’t occur to me.

      I probably signd for the item, but at no time then was told of any charge – what if i had signd a paper that makes a contract with me and fed ex – making myself responsible ? Surely that would be unlawful’ I thought I was signing for receipt – that’s just hypothetical at the moment.


      Says that any refused fees are the sender’s responsability . Not checked the site yet- but its supposed to say – in the t&c s

      Duties and Taxes
      Duties and Taxes are not included in the export rates and will be billed to the recipient unless otherwise requested by the shipper. An advancement fee may be charged.

      If the recipient refuses to pay, the sender shall be ultimately responsible for the payment of all Duties and Taxes

      1. I would say “stand your ground” because the terms were very vague and you still have no explicit agreement between you and FedEx.
        Good luck.

        1. Hi Karl, firstly can I say what an excellent article this is, most enlightening!

          However just to play devils advocate, if too many people start getting out of paying the FedEx fee is there a chance they’d go down the route of others and withhold the goods til fees have been paid?

          Just curious as I’ve taken delivery of a mobile phone from South Korea which will be liable for VAT and FedEx’s fee. In my case (and I appreciate this won’t apply to a lot of people!) I’m ‘happy’ to pay as (I believe, please correct me if I’m wrong) it’s in part to get it through customs and to my door quicker as they have paid the VAT. I, being the impatient person that I am, am willing to pay a few £ if it saves my parcel sitting around in a depot for a few more days. Am I missing something?

          Perhaps a suitable solution would be to offer people a choice of whether they’d like FedEx to pay the VAT (including a fee to be added with the invoice) which means getting the goods quicker or whether the customer would prefer to wait a little while and sort this themselves?

          1. Hi Mike,
            thanks for your comment and you do raise an interesting point. I guess it’s always possible that FedEx (and others) will go down the same route as the Post Office by holding the item until you’ve paid. However, I’m not sure that FedEx etc would want the additional expense and hassle of doing that when considering the amounts involved. Having said that, the volume of such payments might make it commercially viable at some point. I guess we shall see.

  75. Little bit miffed as I had sent that email listed in first post to them and at the same time rang up the free phone number. No two ways about it they wouldn’t budge on the £12 adv fee even after stating what others here have mentioned and refusing to pay the adv fee. Ended up paying the full £16.79 due but said I’d be taking the matter up further. Feel like a mug now. What are the chances of them issuing a refund now I’ve already paid? Zero I guess? :(

    1. Hi Nick,
      sorry to hear that you ended up having to pay. But to be honest, I don’t rate your chances of getting any kind of refund from FedEx. They’re a big company and have the resources to simply ignore any request.
      Give it a whirl though, I’d be interested in knowing how you get on.
      Good luck.

      1. Extremely annoying when you consider how many people they must be ripping off on a daily basis. Well as karma goes around I’m sure they’lol get what they deserve.

        1. Just an update after the hassle I got on the phone the email has seemed to work and I’ve received a credit of £12. Seems the best route is to just pay it and then complain via email. Thank you again Karl I’m glad I stumbled upon this blog and got this sorted.

          1. Well somewhat good news I’m still waiting for the refund to come through. I rang them up and they had said to email my account details to the ukinvoicequery@fedex.com address as I don’t have an account with them so I can tell them where to pay it back to. Still feel like they’re giving me the run around. Shouldn’t their billing department be able to do the refund there and then considering they’re all too quick to take money off me!

          2. Well after taking it to twitter they followed up with this and gave their office and finally got the refund to my cc. Bit of a faff but is finally sorted now. Thanks

  76. Hi Karl – just a quick note to let you know of another success here – £12 fee promptly waived after I used your letter. Many thanks for your excellent thread.

  77. Good morning!

    I had the same problem as received an invoice from fedex for more than 80% of the value of the item I bought abroad and just sent an email to them saying that I am only going to pay the vat as bought an item from a country out of the UE. I have just received an automatic answer saying that they are going to investigate my query and.. I will copy the following part from the email: “If your enquiry requires a claim or amendment to be submitted to the local Customs Authorities, we may need to contact you for further information before we can proceed. Please be aware that claims for clearance errors not caused by FedEx may incur an administration fee of £53.00 + VAT.”

    So it seems that they have found a new way to threaten people. I am a bit scared now. Did anyone received something like this?

    Thank you for all your help!

    1. Hi Marce,
      the email clearly states that they can charge you if your query is about the amount you’d pay to customs. You’re not querying the duty o the item, you’re refusing to pay the admin fee that’s attached to it.
      It’s not a clearance issue that you’re disputing, it’s their unlawful addition of admin charges that you plainly haven’t explicitly agreed to pay.
      Stick to your guns and make it clear to them that it’s not the duty (VAT) that you’re objecting to paying, it’s their admin charge.
      Good luck and let us know how you get on.

      1. Hello Karl,

        I received a reply this morning confirming that I only have to pay the Vat, which I just did. So this is another victory! Thanks to you, it is really amazing what you do, how lucky I am taht I came across to your website!
        It is really upsetting what they do, I tried by phone, email, live chat and they could not answer where that “Advancement fee” came from, one of the customer service sent me an email with such a silly explanation… So annoying and unfair, because if you don’t pay that crazy amount of money (they were trying to charge me more than the 80% of the price of the value) they can take you to court! How can they be allowed to have these unfair practices!!

        Thank you so very much!

  78. I found myself in the same situation as Karl and all the other people who left comments here. The FedEx Clearance Administration Charge was £12 in my case (with no explanation of how this is calculated). I more or less copied and pasted Karl’s letter, changing/deleting/adding few relevant information. I received a reply from FedEx right the way advising me that they waved the fee. So thank you Karl; and not just for saving me £12 but for the principle.

  79. Just thought id let you know I have also been charged £12 fee by Fedex for brockerage fees that I didnt agree to. I sent the same email but they refused to cancel it, so I mentioned UK contract laws and highlighted that under no circumstances was I aware that Fedex had bern the courier or that I had known they would be acting on my behalf. I paid the VAT but refused the £12 charge and said I they wanted to recover it I would be more than happy to defend my position in a civil court. Today I received an email from them cancelling the charge as a gesture of goodwill. Thanks

  80. I am relieved to find I’m not the only one with this problem. I have just spoken to FedEx about their £21 “returned goods fee” they are trying to charge me and will now fight them all the way to get this charge rescinded. My wife left her watch at security at Dubai airport and only realised when we were about to board. Emirates said not to worry and they would post it on. We had to agree to any VAT or import duty charges, but as the watch is 6 years old (very sentimental reasons to get it back) didn’t expect anything. On arrival there was no duty to pay but 1 week on we received FedEx’s demand. They said they have processed the import paperwork on my behalf and that is the cost!

    1. They key is to remember that you’ve not explicitly agreed to any charges beforehand from FedEx. If there’s no contract/agreement then there’s no fee.
      FedEx will have been paid by Emirates for their services and any other fees should be taken up with Emirates.

  81. Hi Karl
    I have just used your template to respond to FedEx & their collection agents (Contralaccount plc) . My orginal VAT charge was £6.45 & FedEx also wanted a £12 admin clearance fee! Since Controlaccount have got hold of it they have added a further £25 in costs! They were also threatening me with a CCJ! I have paid the £6.45 VAT today, & informed FedEx & Contralaccount via e-mail. My original order was from the USA & I don’t remember being warned about any of these charges or even that it would be FedEx who were the shipping agent. Hope they agree to waive all the costs!

    1. FedEx are obviously becoming a little more aggresive with this. The key thing is that they will never be able to prove that you have a contract with FedEx so will struggle to give you a CCJ, since courts require evidence that contract exists and that you agreed to the charges.
      They can’t even say that you agreed to the charges when you signed for the package unless they “explicitly” gave the opportunity to see terms and conditions beforehand (that is the law in the UK).
      This might be helpful: https://www.gov.uk/unfair-terms-in-sales-contracts/implied-rights

  82. My 17 year old son was sent some pc parts as as gift from his friend in the USA who didn’t want them anymore as he’d upgraded his PC. We have today received a letter from Parcel Force saying he has to pay import VAT of £61.12 plus an £8 clearance fee before they will be delivered. Can customs still charge VAT on this as they were not bought as a gift for my son they were sent as his friend didn’t want them anymore and thought they would be useful to my son? I don’t know the full details as I haven’t seen what has been declared on the parcel but I assume his friend has put on a value for insurance purposes or something similar. I am aware of VAT being payable on postage costs too.

      1. Thanks – we have now paid for the items to be delivered. My son’s friend had filled out the form Customs Declaration and Dispatch Note CP72 and listed the parts separately and their value – he has also ticked the box marked gift. I’ve tried googling our situation but have yet to come up with a solution.



  83. Hi Barbara

    Unfortunately this sounds correct. You have to pay VAT on gifts worth more than £34 – here’s the link to the HMRC information http://tinyurl.com/l5gkh4r. Unfortunately, there is no difference whether the “gifts” were purchased or pre-owned. I’ve heard of many situations over the years where people have actually returned gifts because of the import VAT!

    The VAT is calculated on the cost, insurance and freight value of the goods (and any duty, if charged) and it can add up, so in your son’s case I assume that the value of the goods was quite high – about £300 (with VAT @20%). I guess that you have to decide whether paying £61 import VAT is worth paying in this case.


  84. Hiya

    I would like to say thank you very much for your advise. I have used your letter and changed what was necessary. I am happy to say the £12 Clearance charge has been credited against my Invoice.

    Thanks again


  85. Surprisingly, this has worked for me!
    Yesterday I received an invoice for the amount of £17 on Tax and Duty (for a product that was £40 to start with) and £12 was admin charge.
    I was beyond pissed of as it was more than double the tax amount. Admin and tax combined were almost half the value of the product! I stumble upon this article, so I sent an email to Fedex standing my case. I got an email today, the £12 admin charge is been withdrawn!

    Thanks Karl :)

  86. my daughter who lives in USA came to UK for christmas and left boxing day she received a gift from a friend in USA while she was here which needed to be returned so she took it back to USA with her a week later a letter arrived at my house asking for £214 in charges she has not lived in the UK for 4 years does she have to pay these taxes

    1. Hi Russell, import VAT and duty don’t apply because she’s taken the goods out of the UK, so they were only in the UK for a very short period of time. If the shipper persists then I’d suggest that you call them or write to them on her behalf explaining the circumstances.
      Either way, the shipper would find it difficult to chase her for any import VAT/duty anyway because she doesn’t live here!

  87. charlotte graham

    Also quick response when I complained about the advance charge. think they add it on and hope that some will pay but if contested they seem quick to remove it.

  88. Like so many others I too was billed by FedEx for Tax and an administration charge. Being that I was the one at fault I can accept BOTH charges being made. What I cannot accept was the fact that I had the bill sent to me nearly 2 weeks after having received the item. Had I been informed of the charge prior to or upon delivery I could have made the decision whether to accept the item or not. To have me receive the package, wait a few days and then try and sting me with additional charges is totally unacceptable (possibly illegal?). I virtually copied your original reply to FedEx, and yes, you guessed it, the admin charge was immediately dropped, leaving just the tax to pay. I’m very grateful to you for this. Although the £12 admin fee isn’t a great deal of money I wonder how much they have made in the past from other people by this rip-off charge? I hope many others read your post and avoid the charge. All the best, Ian.

  89. Thank you so much for this I used this exact template and got my money raised I feel so much better now ! I was not going to be conned into paying more money than I should of by them

  90. Thank you so much for this thread I’m glad to say I’ve not fallen victim to their overcharging due to using this exact template !

  91. Hi Karl,
    A few months ago, I bought a golf club from a seller in the US, and successfully challenged FedEx’s admin charge using your template email. Thanks for that!

    Now I have a different issue. I recently returned from holiday in South Africa, and inadvertently left my laptop in the hotel room in Port Elizabeth. The hotel was really helpful, and arranged to courier the laptop back to me, and I have reimbursed them directly for the shipping costs. The laptop arrived about 10 days ago via – you guessed it – FedEx, and this morning I received an invoice from them, demanding I pay them £21 “returned goods fee”.

    What is this charge, and how can they justify charging me for returning my own property to me, on top of the shipping fee already paid? Until the courier arrived at my door, I didn’t even know it was FedEx that were the carrier, so I didn’t enter into any kind of contract with them, even by implication. There was no tax or duty collected, even though the invoice calls itself a “Tax & Duty invoice”.

    What do you suggest I do?

    1. Hi Clive,

      the same principle applies, if you’ve entered into no contract with them then you’ve no legal obligation to pay it. Simply amend the email template to say that kind of thing and then see what they say.

      Good luck and remember to let us all know how you get on.


  92. Hi,

    First I need to say thank you. I had a same issue, I have challenge fedex to refuse to pay their advancement fee. I used same technique as your’s. Just I am waiting for the reply. Hope it will workout.

    Thanks and cheers

      1. Hi Karl,

        This morning I got this replay from Fedex.
        “Having reviewed the above mentioned invoice, we are pleased to advise that a full credit of 12 GBP has been raised.
        FedEx trust this concludes the matter, however should you have any further queries please do not hesitate to contact us.”


  93. Just thought you might like to know, I finally had this reply from Fedex, more than two weeks after my original email:

    “Apologies for the delay in responding to your query regarding FedEx Invoice number 549777479.

    By way of explanation, the amount billed is an ancillary charge; these fees are raised on entries that require a specialised clearance procedure through HM Revenue & Customs.

    You will appreciate that we have an electronic system for completing HM Revenue & Customs entries which affects automatic clearance. However, for return shipments we are obliged to pull them from the auto clear channel and present them separately to Customs. This in turn creates additional time consuming work for our clearance team and I must confirm that these costs are not included in our standard freight charge.

    The charges raised for this additional service are specifically billed to the consignee/importer rather than the shipper. The charges remain the responsibility of the consignee/importer as they relate to the importation of the goods through HM Revenue & Customs and as such require confidentiality.

    I do appreciate you were not made aware of the charge therefore as a one off goodwill gesture I have cancelled the aforementioned invoice. I would advise however for non standard entries shipped via FedEx Ancillary charges will be levied unless you provide your own Broker for the Customs clearance.”

    So after all the self-justification, they agreed to drop the charge in the end: result!
    Thanks for the advice – keep up the fight.

  94. PS: Surely the additional “time consuming work” for their staff (I wonder how much time it actually does consume?) is simply part of the cost of doing business for Fedex? If all companies insisted on billing people after the fact for every little aspect of their service, we wouldn’t have a clue where we stood.


    1. Thanks Clive. I think they know that they haven’t a legal leg to stand on and, yes, this is a normal part of their business processes that they’re trying to get unsuspecting customers to help fund.

  95. Hi Carl,

    I recently bought an item from an eBayer seller in USA. HMRC have confirmed to me that the item qualifies for full relief so no import duty or VAT needs to be paid.

    FedEx delivered the item to me but about two weeks after delivery they sent me an invoice asking me to pay import duty and VAT! The sender’s paperwork mentions the package is duty exempt and it provides the correct tariff code, but FedEx are saying that the description isn’t clear enough about what the item is so I must pay what they’re asking!

    Can I pick your brains on how you would handle this?

  96. Hi Karl – i wrote to you a bit back (1/10/15 above).
    In short my own items i sold came back from Thailand for a refund.The sender had not completed the form properly and the VAT was charged by customs and paid for by fedex.

    On the basis that the customs held this VAT to be applicable because of the sender’s botched customs declaration and not mine, i’ve refused to pay. I also believe that the sender has an agreement with fedex, whereas i don’t.

    Now it’s been passed to ‘control account’ fed ex’s in house debt recovery agency –
    they are bumping up the fees every time i refuse to pay – of course i have no agreement with them.
    the conditions of carriage state:

    >>>13.5 Customs may levy customs duties and/or import VAT or any relevant duties and taxes in arrears, as well as fines, penalties and/or late payment interest on FedEx when inaccurate or incomplete clearing information and/or documentation – such as invoices, (customs)values, currencies or commodity codes – has been provided in relation to Shipments. If the inaccurate or incomplete information/documentation was provided to FedEx by, on behalf of, on the instruction of or under the responsibility of the Sender or Recipient, the Sender, Recipient and – if applicable – the responsible third party will be jointly and severally liable towards FedEx for any such amounts.<<<

    I am slightly worried now, i have rang them to ask for a copy of the agreement i have with them – they said we needed no agreement together as this was a charge for tax –
    although i see it, it was a charge for tax when fedex paid the duty – but now me owing fed ex (or control account) is not a matter of tax – but the advancement they made on my behalf and without solicitation – just a fee, would you agree? .

    are the fees mounting enforceable ?

    once fed ex has handed off the 'debt' to control account am i in the clear ? – it's obvious i have no agreement with them .
    Or is an agreement not needed in these case – i can see if this was between me and the customs then no agreement would be needed.

    help asap would be appreciated they are accruing fees all the time on this case. i want to fight them on principle, but part of me wishes i'd just paid their ransom earlier, however Brian's comment above are most reassuring – and I am prepared to take it all the way with them



    p.s if they take me to court (unlikely for a 20.82 debt that's not clear cut) would it small claims ? (they quoted 'county court judgment')- presumably they can't load on solicitors fees, admin charges etc.

      1. Greetings.

        Seeing this site from across the pond, is helpful for me to show buyers (we use FedEx, among UPS, I-Parcel, DHL Worldwide Express and others. Our FedEx account doesn’t have admin charges, but it is still good to know.

        Paul above, the way I see it is, he proves with Tracking and outbound customs info what was sent to Thailand, and then the return shipment, tracking, etcetera, would be classified as “Returns Clearance” and would be DUTY FREE.

        Hope this helps.

  97. Hi Paul,

    I’m not a solicitor so I can’t comment on the arrangement with Fedex. I would suggest that you contact Citizens Advice or your local Trading Standards office about their threats of court fees, though I doubt they’d go that far for an amount this size.

    Unfortunately I think that the problem is the sender’s incomplete declaration. At the time, you accepted delivery of the goods from Fedex when they returned to the UK, it’s difficult to argue that you aren’t liable for the duty/VAT. The problem here is that the sender completed the documentation incorrectly and Fedex are only following normal procedure in paying/collecting the duty/VAT.

    I know that it’s probably not the answer you were hoping for, but at the end of the day you have to decide whether it’s worth your time and the hassle to challenge Fedex when the problem was with the documentation completed by the sender. The only thing I can suggest is that you send an email with full details (including a copy of any documentation you have) to HMRC’s import query http://tinyurl.com/hsoeha5. It’s always better to write about these things because you get a written response and if Fedex are at fault, then you can show them HMRC’s reply.


  98. A friend recently just sent me a gift via fedex, that I hadn’t requested and had no idea was being sent to me. Sure enough a few days later an invoice arrived in the mail for Duty and Tax. The total was £18.88 (EU VAT £6.88 + Admin Charge £18.88).

    Obviously there was no way I wanted to pay this since a) I hadn’t requested the package in the first place, and b) the item was only a small gift worth less that $50 USD, and c) I had not agreed in advance to pay an admin charge to Fedex

    I decided to call up Fedex to dispute the invoice. After looking into it, the guy on the phone said that it was a Fedex error and I shouldn’t have been sent the invoice in the first place since it was clearly met all their criteria of a personal gift.

    So I guess the takeaway is always to call up and dispute an invoice if it seems unfair. I almost just paid the invoice – I wonder how many people do just pay it? It seems slightly underhanded from Fedex to be invoicing customers for things they shouldn’t be, probably knowing that most people will just pay it. I wonder if I need to report them over this. or was it just a genuine error?

  99. Pingback: Peeter Joot's Blog » Shipping with DHL. They will screw you, but not quite as bad as UPS.

  100. Hi,

    My name is David and I have a small issue in terms of being resolved, however quite distressing and upsetting to say the Least.

    In 2015 a parcel from FedEx (Federal Express) was delivered to my neighbour as I was currently not home. My neighbour kind fully signing for the packaged addressed to me and brought it round a few days later. The parcel was sent from a friend of mine which he also paid a total of $344 for the package to be delivered which i had also paid him back for. Some time after the package was delivered Fed Ex claim to have sent me an invoice to pay some extra fee to do with taxes or VAT im not 100% sure i dont remember receiving it – if i did it may of been thrown as one would assume this is human error.
    The other day i received a Country Court Judgement filed from FedEx. I have had no success with resolving this matter with FedEx directly. If any comment about the service should be mentioned – it would be that it was poor.
    The only evidence that the courts have agreed to file a CCJ against me with is outgoing mail records to my mothers address.

    Now I have never purchased, paid and certainly have not signed anything to do with FedEx – therefore as contract law states that boths parties meaning me and FedEx have to sign a contract for me to be liable for any financial cost and so on. As They have no documentation specially with a signature from myself I am not liable to pay any invoice fee. I do believe in due time i will have the CCJ removed from my credit file at the very least – which bring me to my main point.

    This CCJ and the stages it must of have gone through before becoming a CCJ, it has had a massive effect on my credit file and above all the stress and anxiety of this current situation and fear of what effect this will over all. Am I in my rights and likely to have success in claiming for compensation for in my eyes an unethical and illegal business move.

    David J Breckon-Payne

    1. Hi David,
      that does sound pretty serious and the only thing I can recommend is for you to contact Citizen’s Advice or find a friendly lawyer.
      Since I’m not legally trained I can’t give an informed opinion as to whether you have any grounds for compensation. However, one thing, I would certainly do in your corcumstances, is to contact the credit referencing agencies (such as Experian) and make a note on your credit file that the CCJ is disputed.
      Hope that helps and good luck.

  101. Thank you for this advice which is still current. The lady on the phone suggested I look on FedEx’s website to “educate” myself, to which I replied, referring her to your site. She then took the £12 admin charge off, but only as, “a gesture of good will”, you understand ????

  102. Hi Karl. I am currently having a dispute with Fedex. I’ve just come across your website. If you’re still on it from time to time, it would be great to have your advice. I live in the UK. At the end of August I was travelling in Switzerland, and left my wallet on a train headed for Zurich. It was handed in to SBB, who shipped it to my home address using Fedex. A week after getting the item back, to my surprise, I received a £21 customs duties invoice from Fedex in the mail. It is my understanding that under UK law, lost possessions being returned to their owners (and coming from the EU or Switzerland) qualify for relief from customs duties. Am I right? I should add that on my customs declaration form I clearly labelled the wallet as a ‘personal possession being returned’, so Fedex and HMRC had all the information they needed.
    Here’s the catch, though. I was informed about the £21 fee after the item had landed at Heathrow. Because it was too late to abort the transaction without costing Fedex significant monetary loss (the wallet would have been returned to its point of origin, and I would have been issued with a full refund), and because at the time I wasn’t aware of the relief rule for personal items, I agreed to go forward with the transaction. Is there anything I can do to resist the charges successfully? Lastly, Fedex has now entrusted the matter to a debt collection agency. I wrote to them yesterday, telling them pretty much what I’ve told you, and now am now waiting for their reply.

    1. Hello again! Feel free to ignore my previous post, as it doesn’t require answering anymore. In the end, I decided to pay up. First, I was actually being required to pay administration clearance charges, not duty. Second, I realized that my Swiss sender did in fact inform me (albeit in a very oblique manner) that I would be liable to pay said charges. So, I had no choice. My case wasn’t airtight, and I couldn’t risk Fedex taking legal action. Oh well. It’s only £21, and at least I’ll be prepared next time. NB: to anyone who finds themselves in my situation, I strongly recommend contacting Fedex by phone and not by email. The company’s online customer service is shockingly mediocre, to the point of making you wonder if it’s staffed by robots.

        1. Aye, the risks outweighed the benefits. But what I find really strange is that Fedex doesn’t seem to consider it sensible to inform customers of the nature of the administration clearance charges beforehand. One of the people I spoke to on the phone (an agent of Fedex’s debt collection agency) seemed baffled by the idea. Now in my case, the sender (being a national railway company) was savvy enough to forewarn me. But what happens when the sender is just a single, uninformed individual? Then the importer won’t be warned. In such cases, Fedex shouldn’t have a leg to stand on. They must rely on the knowledge that most customers aren’t aware of UK contract law, which is deeply dishonest and unethical.

  103. I think the International Postal Union does allow an administration charge to be made for paying tax and duty, but stipulates that the charge must reflect the actual cost of the work. This would be pennies rather than the £8 charged by Royal Mail, so I wonder if making it clear that you are paying the charge under protest and then making a small claim for its return would be worth a try?

    What happens if you tell Royal Mail that you will pay the tax yourself and do not require their service?

    1. Hi Rod,
      not quite sure how Royal Mail would react but I’ve never known an example of where they’ve delivered something without these fees having been paid to them.
      Good luck and keep us posted (so to speak).

  104. Really appreciated reading this my 14 year old daughter brought some make up from the USA received it last week and got a duty and tax bill, so rang them to say I was happy to pay the EU VAT but would not be paying the clearance and admin charge of £12 . To which I was read some terms and conditions so I repeated what I was prepared to pay to be told as a good will gesture they would accept this . So many thanks .

  105. Amazing how many people have issue with Fedex.

    I did backed one of the projects on Kickstarter over 2 years ago and it cost £82 which was finally delivered to me last week. Today i received letter from Fedex asking me to pay £102 which is £12 for admin fee and £90 for import tax.

    I have proof that i did pay only £82 but Fedex told me that they need new invoice and it will cost me anyway over £50 for changes with HMRC.

  106. Very good advice Karl.

    I’d would suggest though concerning any VAT charge that you ask for proof from FedEx that they have actually been charged the VAT sum by HM Revenue & Customs. I read of several cases recently where FedEx blithely charged the recipient VAT despite no VAT actually being charged by HM Revenue & Customs. (In one case the item was in a category exempt from VAT!)

  107. Hi There,
    Very interesting reading I have a question to ask regarding a similar problem with Fed Ex . I met a musician in the US and having links with radio stations in the UK I told him to send me some and id pass them on . I received a parcel via fed ex the value of which was put at 100 $ 2 weeks later I receive a bill for 28.99 from fed ex including a 12.90 admin fee thing is – half these cds are sample for radio and had no value the other half (10) will go into a record shop and attract vat via the retailer of 20% this seems unfair the vat is being collected twice and also on samples the true retail value after vat is about £50 . I had no intention of paying and ignored this bill but they have sent a cheeky letter giving me 10 days to pay – what should i do ?

    1. Hi Tony, sadly there is a declared value of $100 on which Fedex will apply VAT. The bad news is that you’ll struggle to argue your case on that score.
      However, the good news is: there’s no reason why you should pay the admin fee. So copy and paste the letter above and send it.
      Good luck,

  108. if fedex charges an Admin fee first, please dont pay it in the first attempt as this I personally think is a rip off after delaying my package when it clearly said its out with driver and had a day off waiting at the window all day for the package. The driver lied saying he left a card and fedex never updated this on their website as missed delivery.

    i would wait and let them send the next post demanding the monies owed then i’ll pay for it as this would create more admin and paperwork for them, i think if everybody does this they’ll end up scraping it all togather.

  109. This is great advice. Not sure if this thread is still active but I’ll post my question here:
    I ordered an indiegogo campaign item form the USA. It was made in China and shipped to my address in the UK. I then also got the dreaded invoice from Fedex for over £53 which included a £12 forwarding fee. According to this thread I can contest this which is fine however the charge for “Disbursements out of the scope of EU VAT” was £41. VAT at 20% of the price I paid for the item should be £29.30 so where the hell does the extra £11.70 come from?

  110. I have just had an invoice from fed ex including the £12 forwarding fee on some goods shipped from Australia.I telephoned them and told them I would pay the vat fee but not the forwarding fee as I had not entered into a contract with them for the forwarding fee.The man took the money for the vat and waived the forwarding fee .Result

  111. I know i sound like an ungrateful sod, but i received a $40 gift from a student in Turkey. It’s a small square of carpet. The parcel was pushed through my post box. Now I’ve had the vat ++ letter.

    Am i obliged to accept an unsolicited gift? I’m sure the student would be mortified if she learned I’d been charged £20 to accept her gift!!

  112. I received a Fedex shipment today and anticipate receiving a vat = collection fee demand soon. I have looked at the vendor T&C and notice the following:

    This shipment may attract local duties/taxes and other costs associated with clearing goods through local customs in country of destination. These fees are your responsibility.

    Do you think I will be able to argue that I do not have a contract with Fedex to pay their fee?

    1. Hi Steve,
      many international vendors have similar notices but it still doesn’t mean that you have a contract with FedEx. I would, in your shoes, argue your case.
      Good luck,

  113. Karl,

    I haven’t read the entire thread, but I’ve read enough of it to know that you’re missing a rather fundamental point about these non-VAT charges: They are NOT based on contract, so the fact that you did not have a contract with FedEx is misleading. Instead, these non-VAT charges represent the “reasonable cost” of FedEx handling the customs clearance process on the behalf of the recipient (who is liable for the VAT-related charges as a matter of law).

    The actual basis for FedEx’s claim regarding their non-VAT charges is “unjust enrichment”, which is based on a UK common law concept called “quantum meruit”. Their argument would be that they have done a service, at their cost, for the recipient (handling customs clearance), for which the recipient has not paid, and therefore the recipient has been unjustly enriched. In such a case, FedEx would be entitled to the reasonable value of the service they had performed for the recipient.

    Here’s a recent UK Supreme Court case about unjust enrichment: http://www.lexology.com/library/detail.aspx?g=e7780833-e579-4152-8468-607cecdd3038

    It is indeed very annoying that FedEx surprises people with these charges weeks after the delivery, but that doesn’t change their legal position (ParceForce and UPS, to name just two, simply require full payment before delivery). Believe me, I too was upset the first time I received one of these letters, but once I had understood the reason for it I was left with just the bad feeling against FedEx, rather than the righteous indignation I had first felt…

    As for the effectiveness of your email, I’m not surprised FedEx (reportedly) gives up so easily, as there is very little chance of them cost-efficiently recovering the sum of £12 using the UK small claims court process. So long as you understand that you are not really the victim, here, go for it!

    1. Hi there,

      Thanks for your comment.

      I understand your point, and perhaps you’re right, but I took legal opinion on this issue before I wrote my email to FedEx in the first case. Thus I feel justified in claiming that the charges are unlawful, especially considering the consumer-bias of UK consumer law.

      The more I look into this the more I believe that this is waiting for someone with the time and resources to take the carriers to the courts to eliminate the practice of holding their customer’s parcels to ransom for a fee the recipients haven’t agreed to. UK consumer law is very clear on this type of underhanded practice. At no point did FedEx show me terms and conditions before I signed for my delivery so, under UK consumer law, I wasn’t made aware of charges.

      Not only that but the case you refer to is not about a business to consumer transaction and it could readily be argued that, under UK consumer law, quantum meruit is virtually impossible to apply in the case of delivery services because all terms and conditions must be made available to customers before charges can be claimed. Not sure how FedEx (et al) would get around this but that would be their problem.

      Also, FedEx (and many other carriers) indiscriminately apply charges, whether duty is required or not. And that is unlawful.

      I’m not a lawyer but did study contract law as part of my degree so I would say that I have some understanding of how these things work.

      Cheers, Karl

  114. In 2011 I ordered approx. €170 worth of goods from Digi-Key in the US for Ireland with free shipping FedEx, expecting to pay VAT. I received the goods without any immediate VAT etc. charges.

    About 6 weeks later I received a letter requesting €42.35 for “Other Charges Vatable at 21%” = €35 + €7.35 VAT (on the €35), however no VAT for the €170 of original goods. I found this very puzzling.

    I called FedEx UK and the €35.00 + VAT initial charge was explained as five €7.00 + VAT line assessment charges (there were 14 line items in total however).

    About 5 weeks letter I received a second letter requesting €37.57 VAT for the original goods, which I subsequently paid, and a further €12.10 = €10.00 + €2.10 VAT (on the €10.00) for “Clearance Administration Charges Vatable at 21%”.

    The total goods VAT+Duty is thus €37.57, while the total FedEx charges are €45.00 + €9.45 VAT = €54.45, in addition to, and outstripping, the true VAT+Duty charge.

    Having read the original post of 2008 above I composed my own letter to FedEx carefully listing transactions/letters and I also noted relevant Digi-Key webpages indicating the responsibility of the purchaser to cover VAT, Duty, and in one case, brokerage fees.

    I explained that I had made no prior contract with FedEx as a broker, nor for arbitrary administration charges and no such charges were indicated at the time of purchase, other than free shipping.

    I also expressed satisfaction dealing with FedEx in previous years of business and hoped to continue doing business with them.

    I next received a letter offering to reduce the charges from €54.45 to €44.45, still more that the actual goods VAT+Duty.

    I then noticed that, unlike previous correspondence, a single letter in my name had been changed. It was thus not technically addressed to me. I resealed the envelope and returned it to the post office with a “Does not live here” message.

    From the more recent postings above it appears that FedEx are not pursuing charges if they are contested. I understand that technically FedEx might have a legal position, however a free shipping service should be for free (and can be if assessment charges are paid by FedEx non-free services).

    It would alternatively be possible for FedEx to establish a simplified assessment charge method, with limits, that is listed clearly up front before purchase. Business can be conducted this way.

    In either case I considered the assessment charges exorbitant (effectively much more than doubling the goods VAT+Duty rate) for run of the mill electronic components that I had purchased hundreds of times before without any such problems.

    I now see that Arrow US appear to be shipping as little as $20 worth of electronic goods free to UK/Ireland via DHL or FedEx. More than $20 but less than €22 would make them shipping, VAT & Customs Duty free (and surely assessment free ?).

    Between $20 and €150 would mean VAT, no shipping, and no Customs Duty in Ireland. However, I wonder what assessment charges might be applied.

  115. Karl, Thank you! I sent a letter that you gave as example, and I think I also have success. :)

    1 letter from FedEx included automatic respond with this info:
    “Please be aware that claims for clearance errors not caused by FedEx may incur an administration fee of £53.00 + VAT.”

    2 letter:
    “Having reviewed the above mentioned invoice, we are pleased to advise that a credit of 12 GBP has been raised.”

    3 letter:
    “Your query with number ***** has been closed.”

    But as they said by phone (when I was paying) this is only for the first time. The next time they would ask me to pay administration charge for my parcel.
    Anyway, I also saved my money for now. Thank you!

  116. Just had the same; notified of the VAT and Fedex handling fee 2 weeks after delivery – more than 50% of the price of the goods. I used your letter, adapted to my circumstances, this late morning and by 2.30 had received an email crediting the £12. Thank you for this advice.

  117. It costs more for FedEx to read your message, than to let it go.
    FedEx has legally binding pros on their air waybill, no doubt. However, they are prone to providing good customer service, and may fault for that instead of wasting money pursuing a small pittance. If the amount was anything substantial, it wouldn’t have been as simple, I’m sure.

  118. Thank you for your help. Yes, £12 deducted. Very pleased. They really stuffed me around with not complying with requests for rescheduling etc etc etc – delivering to neighbour, no card, etc etc but in the big picture I know I have to pay VAT so I am just happy to pay that and not the requested £12 admin fee. Many thanks

  119. Hi, karl,
    I received a package from fed x sent from a company in the USA.. it was a kit for testing medical etc..just a few vials and a letter from the company saying how much they charged if I was interested etc. Two weeks later I got letter (invoice) from Fedx for £25.33 does not even say what it is for? now I have another one this morn saying they will take me to Debt collection agency plus I am liable for incurring legal charges. As far as I am concerned I never asked them to deliver anything to me and did not enter into a contract with them.Am I right ?

    1. Hi Carole,
      The first thing I would do is to ask what the charges were for. Make them explain and also justify what they’re doing.
      Technically you’re right, you’ve never entered into contract with them because shipping fees etc will have been paid by the sender.
      When you know what the charges are for (get an email breakdown if you can) then you can tackle any undue charges.
      Good luck and keep us posted.

  120. Thanks to original post. Just called them to pay vat only, asked why not paying full, told them I was disputing it, and they instantly cancelled the advancement fee. Perfect.

  121. Hello, I recently disputed the FedEx clearance administration charge and they emailed to say that a partial credit had been applied to the invoice so I only had to pay the VAT. However the online payment page won’t let me process the payment and I can’t get through to customer services on the phone. I have emailed them to explain this but wondered if you have any advice on how I should proceed. I don’t have a cheque book and I don’t know how to do a BACS payment. Thank you.

  122. This is great and still valid info and advise more than ten years after the original post. Thank you so much I would never have thought that a company might chance profit making in an unlawful way. I had my £12 administrative fee waived just this morning having used your letter as a template.
    Many thanks and keep disseminating the information to us mortals!!

  123. Just got two £12 fees credited. Thank you.
    It took several emails. I suspect it depends who receives them, because I got several fob off ones before I got the required result. My final email was more closely worded to the first example in this forum and that seemed to do the trick. You can pay any amount to their account using the BACS sort and account info shown on the invoice. Hopefully they will cross reference the invoice and payment correctly.

  124. As a adjunct to this. I have also got the incorrectly levied VAT refunded from HMRC by using form C285 from National Duty Repayment centre.

  125. Hi Karl,

    Thanks for creating this page, it’s been really useful.

    I have a dispute on going with FedEx, my issue is as follows:

    Purchased car parts from an online supplier based in UAE, expecting to pay some VAT when they reached the UK. This category of goods has a zero rating for duty.

    Parts were delivered and like everyone else on this forum, I then received an invoice from FedEx two weeks later.

    The parts were approx $44.35 with $11.75 shipping and there was an invoice on the package clearly showing this breakdown.

    Yet the FedEx invoice quotes an additional ‘freight’ charge of £126 which has been added to the customs value of $44.35 + $11.75… resulting in an extortionate VAT charge of £35, plus admin of £12.

    I have disputed the charge, proved how much I actually paid for my item and shipping, but they’re just ignoring my emails. Calling them is no help as they just keep telling me to contact the invoice department via email.

    It has been three weeks now, I am concerned that they will pass my bill over to the debt collection agency.

    Where do i stand in terms of rejecting this? Any help will be much appreciated.


    1. Hi Bill, sorry for the slow response. The only thing I can recommend is trying to find a lawyer to help you. Keep trying but make sure you keep a record of all correspondence with FedEx so if they pass your details onto a debt collection agency you have some recourse in that you attempted to contact them.
      Good luck.

  126. I recently bought some embroidery hoops from China. They sent me an invoice for the costs of the hoops ($129)and the freight costs which were $78. A total of $207.
    FedEx delivered the parcel. I received an invoice from FedEx yesterday for over £80! When I checked it, they had stated the freight charge as £239.30! I emailed and sent them a copy of the supplier’s invoice showing the freight charge, clearly, at $78.
    They replied with some sort of automated answer saying that their invoice is correct and must be paid immediately.
    I paid with PayPal, so I have proof of the cost of the goods. The supplier`s invoice has no T&Cs and I was unaware that FedEx were the carriers, otherwise, I would have cancelled it.
    I have emailed them to remove the `Advancement Fee` which is a scam, but I am annoyed that they are ignoring the legitimate invoice from the supplier showing the freight charge at $78.
    How should I best go about dealing with this?


    Chris Arnfield

    1. Hi Chris, sorry for the slow response, I hope you’ve made some progress. The only thing I can say is that you keep trying but get in touch with a lawyer to make sure you’re covered. But make sure you keep records of all correspondence with FedEx so if it comes to dispute then you can show you’ve made an effort.
      Best of luck,

  127. When I faced a similar situation I concentrated on FedEx just to cancel the “advancement” fees. Which they seem to do if you go on at them enough times and find an amenable person on their help desk. Then pay the rest of the FedEx contested bill by BACS minus the said fees.
    Independently use your evidence to contact HMRC and use form C285 to claim back the difference between the duty you have paid and the duty that should have been levied. I found the eBay supplier in China had no understanding of the consequences that if their shipper declares some fictional values in the customs declaration that the importer (you) will be clobbered with ridiculous import VAT charges. HMRC were very fair but very bureaucratic and long winded. They wanted all my evidence of correspondence with the supplier and original invoices to prove my claim. I did eventually get a cheque for all the overpaid duty.
    FedEx warms of all sorts of charges for sorting out shipping duty issues and I can see why they may do that. Because they are bound to use the information the shipper has declared on the import documentation. So whilst it may seem like FedEx are all the problem, I think often it is only the advancement fee scam that they are responsible for directly.

  128. Dear Karl,
    I faced a similar situation I with FedEx,they sent me an invoice for the costs of extra £72.45 as tax for a gift i received fro Nigeria. I have a dispute on going with FedEx, via email, i tied to contact them via phone but they are not picking. i thinks i will send them a recorded delivery letter at this point.

  129. Perhaps you should also require a receipt of the tax paid. To ensure they have actually redirected the value you paid to HRMC.

  130. I lost my tablet in Denver, it was found by the Airline and returned to me as “lost property” and I paid the £39 shipping for FedEx – I saw no T&C’s and thought that was the end of it. However, yesterday I received an Invoice for a “Returned Goods Fee” of £21 which I have paid (I fear being sued of blacklisted ) but was advised by the FedEx cusotmer services person to appeal the charge via their website, which I have done. I don’t expect to be repaid, but I do feel ripped off.

  131. Fascinating lot of info here, I have just received one of these letters demanding money by FedEx, in this case an eBay item that claimed on purchase, and in listing to be coming from London UK ( I’m in UK) however the item, a jacket, arrived from Pakistan, what is referred to as drop shipping I believe.
    Anyway the jacket was hopeless and I immediately that evening returned it for refund under eBay’s system, the return address was in UK btw.
    Upon the seller receiving it a few days later I got a full refund including my 9.99£ original postage,
    Subsequently got the famous FedEx letter demanding some £40 and change!
    I phoned them and was told to email their invoice query email add which I did explaining the situation, including a screenshot of the original eBay listing stating item coming from London UK, and a scan copy of the eBay return label showing a UK return address, this was yesterday and I have yet to hear back from them.
    I also called, very laboriously, eBay’s “customer service” who confirmed, for what it’s worth that there should be no charges against me on this.
    Anyway I await a response, my stance is that I’m damned if I’m paying them a penny, and I’m utterly disgusted by the whole thing, particularly as I’ve been misled by the seller originally and I don’t even have the item anymore either!!

  132. just to let you know I’ve just had a success with this letter regarding UPS Brokerage charge of £11.50 on a delivery from Mexico. delivered Novemeber 2019, wrote off brokerage charge in Feb 2020. thanks

  133. Found this site with a bit of googling after fedex invoiced me out of the blue for a hundred quid of import duties and fees. Here’s my response to the ukinvoicequery email address. As far as I’m concerned, myself and Fedex have no legal relationship whatsoever. It was very kind they should choose to pay some customs fees on my behalf without asking me first, but they seem to now want me to pay them (plus 12 extra quid for some reason) back. That’s just not happening. What if you came home one day to find your house painted, and an invoice for 500 quid from a painter who said he was passing and noticed it was looking a bit tacky and thought you could use a touch up?

    In response to my request that you provide proof of an agreement or
    contract intended to create legal relations between us, you simply
    attached another copy of the invoice originally sent.

    It is not my policy to pay companies for goods or services they have
    performed without my prior permission, knowledge or consent.

    As I did not ask for, agree to, or authorise you to make this payment, I
    do not consider any debt to be owed to you, and therefore decline to pay
    your invoice and suggest you seek repayment for any amounts you may have
    mistakenly advanced on my behalf from HMG.

    Kind regards etc

  134. Hello Karl,

    I was not so lucky. Seems enough people found your blog post so that Fedex found it too costly to waive the handling fee. Below is the response that I got, and I will grudgingly pay the fee, because reading through the referenced legalese and arguing will cost me time which is worth more than £12.


    In the interest of customer convenience and ensuring timely deliveries, FedEx routinely pays any Customs Duty assessed on the shipment upfront on our customer’s behalf. Without the pre-payment policy, FedEx would be required to hold any shipment until the customer made separate arrangements to pay Customs Duty before goods could be cleared

    The customer would be forced to locate a bank to raise said bank draft or transfer to the FedEx accounting system and the customer would need to submit an online form with the payment to secure release of goods. In addition to the inconvenience, the customer would incur a significant slower delivery time and a greater expense (a minimum of £15 per item transaction fee)

    In the express parcel industry, it is a requirement on the carrier to ensure the goods are cleared through customs at the point of entry into the UK

    Customs Duty that is payable on the import of the goods is assessed based on a number of factors including the declared value of the goods for customs purposes, commodity code and reason for importation. This information is taken from the air waybill and other documentation provided by the shipper

    The purpose of Customs Duty is to bring the cost of imported goods up to the same cost as those produced within the EU to keep competition fair

    HM Revenue and Customs does not authorise the goods to be cleared for import or released for delivery until the Customs Duty has been paid in full

    A private importer does not have the ability to set up a Duty Deferment Scheme and corresponding financial guarantees with HM Revenue and Customs

    FedEx levies an administration fee in addition to the Customs Duty for setting up such duty deferment scheme and financial guarantees and making the advanced payment of Customs Duty on behalf of the customer. The Advancement fee is currently £12.00 or 2.5% of the Duty and Taxes charged (whichever is greater).

    The recipient of the goods is the importer of the goods for customs purposes and is liable for Customs Duty (see http://ec.europa.eu/taxation_customs/common/buying_online/buying_goods/within_non_eu_en.htm). When offering goods for sales from outside the EU it is good practice for the shipper to state on its website that Customs Duty is payable on the import of the goods.

    It is up to the shipper to confirm whether it will pay Customs Duty in advance or whether this cost will be passed on to the recipient. This is part of the agreement for sale between the shipper and the recipient. When confirming the delivery with FedEx, the shipper has the option to select “bill recipient” on the Airway Bill. FedEx then acts on behalf of both the shipper and recipient in its collection and payment of Customs Duty to complete the customs clearance and delivery of the goods in accordance with the contract for shipping between all parties and in particular as per Article 13 of the Montreal Convention 1999. (See: Article 13 – Delivery of the cargo. “Except when the consignor has exercised its right under Article 12, the consignee is entitled, on arrival of the cargo at the place of destination, to require the carrier to deliver the cargo to it, on payment of the charges due and on complying with the conditions of carriage.”)

    1. Sounds like they’ve made a big deal out of burying you in legalese. Still doesn’t (in my view) make their charges legal but I completely understand that you’d be reluctant to fight it for the sake of £12.

  135. Karl,

    Thanks for writing this post. It is very helpful. Unfortunately FedEx pushes back on my attempt. Similar to the previous response, they wrote a long explanation on what the fee is for and expect me to pay it. I am going to write them again asking for a proof or agreement between FedEx and me. I will see what they come back with. However, I just want to say that they do push back, and there is a good chance I have to pay the £12.

    One thing I do want to ask is if there any customers groups, government bodies we can complain to? Personally, I think they did perform a service and deserve to have the cost covered. However, I really hate the idea that someone is charging me an unspecific amount, on goods and service that I do not know or ask for. They need to rethink their cost structure and quote it upfront prior in picking up the shipment. I wonder if any consumer ombudsman/regulators can push them on the right path?

    Thank you very much!

      1. So FedEx caved in after my second email.

        I think the email you have on your blog is still the best starting point. It clearly stated the fact in a polite manner. If it doesn’t work, please aware that under the Unsolicited Goods and Services Act 1971 (updated in 2000), it is a criminal offence of a company to send unordered goods or services in the hope that the recipient will pay due to ignorance. The section 2 of this act specific outlaws the company bringing legal proceedings, invoke any collection procedure in attempts to collect the payment.

        Also, the Consumer Contracts Regulations 2013, Regulation 39 and 40 outlined that the company has to get consent from consumer prior and additional charges has to expressly agree in advance, for example, it cannot be something automatically bill you additional fee unless you unclick/opt out.

        One important thing is you need to make sure no one (not your seller, shipper) communicate this advancement fee to you and you don’t accidentally agree to it. Please consult a legal professional, but the law seems to be on our side if FedEx ever wants to go to court for £12.

        I don’t think it will ever get to this stage, but anyone who get harassed by collection agencies over fees they are clearly not liable to. Section 2 of the Fraud Act 2006 and section 21 the Theft Act 1968 cover area where companies made up false representation as well as send threats to collect money that you are not legally liable to. Very few sane companies want to go there because these two laws could lead to jail time. If you find yourself in this area, please do get a lawyer.

        1. Thank you very much Sig. I am just dealing with Fedex this week and they refuse to back down on the payment. I quoted your post in my reply. I think I will pay the charges anyway since I don’t want to waste my time but at least they should know people are not stupid either :)

  136. Hi Karl,

    I couldn’t get the charges waived. I received the bill on 27/4, and I wrote to the invoice team immediately. I sent 2 more email asking them for the update, and it was only yesterday that they got back to me:


    Thank you for your e-mail. Please accept my apologies for the delay in getting back to you.

    By way of explanation, all goods entering the UK may be liable for import charges in accordance with HM Revenue & Customs regulations. Any monies due on a package are paid in advance by the carrier to HM Revenue & Customs, so that the goods can be cleared and delivered in a timely manner. For this advance payment, FedEx charge an advancement fee to cover the cost of the use of our deferment account with Customs. A deferment is an account we hold with Customs, this is the only way Customs will accept payment for import charges, unless you employ your own broker. FedEx charge 2.5% of the total duty and taxes or £12.00, whichever is greater. As this charge relates to the import of the goods, the importer is responsible for the fee, not the exporter.

    If you wish to avoid the advancement fee you can use one of the following options.

    1. Open a credit card account with FedEx to enable us to take the duty/VAT at clearance. Customer Service can set the account up for you on 03456 070809.
    2. Apply to HMRC for a deferment account and supply FedEx with the details for future shipments. This is only available to businesses.
    3. Ask the shipper to send the goods on the Broker Select Option (BSO) and employ your own broker to clear the goods at the UK border.

    As we have none of these options on file for yourself, the advancement fee has been charged and will stand as issued.

    We trust that this clarifies the matter for you. However, if you should have any further queries, please do not hesitate to contact us.


    Invoice Adjustments Team


    I wrote a second email, and this was their reply:


    Dear Customer

    I must advise charges are payable and correct as per your email from Customer Services.

    Please refer to your invoce for payment options to avoid debt recovery and extra charges being incurred.

    Regards Customer Financial Service


    Sadly, it seems that I would have to pay the charges, since it’s not worth my time and effort to deal with their bullying. I will try to complain to an ombudsman but I don’t think it will come to anything either…

    1. Well that’s disappointing but no small wonder that they’ve been getting more aggressive on this. I still believe their legal position is tenuous but I suspect that they realise that nobody will likely properly challenge them in the courts over a few pounds worth of fee.
      Thanks for letting us know.

  137. Hi Karl
    Thank you for sharing this .. I have ordered some skincare from Switzerland, ignorant me , didn’t think it is not a non-EU country … Fedex has charged me 50% vat + £12 admin fee . I contacted the seller and expressed my disappointment of how this has been handled, as they never mentioned anything about the charges at the checkout – it stated tax:0.00 and shipment : 0.00 – delivery : fedex international.

    They replied, thanked me for my honest feedback and promised to make this more transparent for customers!

    I am reluctant to pay any of the charges , and want them to take the goods back ..

    Two issues here: overly charged taxes and administration fee.

    Should I start a dispute with Fedex ? Or just follow it up With the seller (Swissline Cosmetics).

    1. Hi Bahar,
      thanks for your comment. What I would do (and this isn’t legal advice, just the approach I’d take) is to dispute the charges and especially the VAT rate.
      You could take it up with the seller but they’re under no obligation to do anything.
      Good luck and let us know how you get on.

  138. Hi,
    Second time I have had to do this. Back in April I purchased goods via myUS.com which is a site that provides you with a US based address so you can order goods not available in UK and bundle them up thus saving on shipping costs. Or so I thought, as a few weeks later I received an invoice from FedEx for £64, of which £52 was VAT and duty, and there was the £12 “Clearance Admin Charge”. On the myUS.com shipping page, it said nothing of using FedEx as shipping courier. I paid the £52 via BACS, and explained why in an email. I received the standard reply about why from FedEx why they stick this false charge on.

    About a month later I received a rather nasty “Final Notice” letter for the whole £64 amount, and threatening me with a Debt Collection Agency. Sent another email explaining I had already paid £52 and added in the bits from Sig post above. Few days later got the email explaining they I had received a “£12 credit”. Funny that.
    Thanks all on here for your help. These shysters have got to be stopped from doing this.

  139. Hey!
    Im so glad I have found this post.
    My friend in the US sent me a birthday present (gift) comprising spices. (I’m based in UK)

    Then a week later I received one of these infamous invoices and tbh I just ignored it and threw it away.

    I have now received a ‘Reminder IMMEDIATE ACTION REQUIRED’ I feel calling them will be a waste of time, Instead using some of the info provided here. However, do you think its worth me addi g department heads in the email too?

    I think it’s absolutely ridiculous I have to pay almost £40 for a gift that was sent to me.

    1. Hi Ash, in my view you should definitely dispute it (I would). As I understand it (and I could be wrong) there is no import duty on gifts below a certain amount. Thus, there shouldn’t really be any duty and certainly no admin fee. However, I would recommend you have a look at this first (regarding import duty) since you may be obliged to pay duty but not an admin fee : https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/notice-143-a-guide-for-international-post-users/notice-143-a-guide-for-international-post-users

  140. Hi Karl,

    I just purchased a product from China and received a £20 bill from Fedex called a deferment processing fee. Do you think I can do the same with that charge that I never agreed to?

  141. Hi,
    A friend in Hong Kong sent some face masks to my kids via FedEx Express.
    The invoice did mention “ Personal Use, No commercial value”.
    The declared value for the package was only HK$313 (= £31 )
    I have checked with HM Revenue & Customs, a gift under the value of £ 39 do NOT liable to import tax.

    FedEx has kept asking me for £25.41 for tax and their admin charges. They said the sender is from a company address (not residential address) so it is not a gift. They have now used a debt collector and inflated the charges to £40.41 and threaten to pass this case to their Litigation Department .
    Please kindly advise what should I do.
    Many thanks

    1. Hi Annie,
      In all honesty you need to contact a legal person to advise. If they’ve engaged a debt collection agency then they believe that you owe them money and it could affect your credit report if you don’t tackle it.
      The chances are good that your home contents insurance has a legal advice line, so check that.

  142. Hi Karl,

    Tnank you for your sharing.
    In my case, I’m an international student in UK, I went back China during lockdown in March and came back in September, as I don’t have enough baggage allowance, I used FedEx through a transit company to sent my baggage back. All the items inside are my used clothes and part of them were actually bought from UK.. Now they are charging me £92, including £25.82 for import duty, £53.29 for import tax and £12 for advancement fee which is really incredible! I can’t see why I need to pay import tax again as I already paid when I bought from UK! and the price is higher than the true value of my baggage. I sent emails to customer service but they just keeping asking if I was return from a holiday and am I a permanent resident in UK or EC? what’s the relevance between these question and my taxes? Should I just pay the tax and send a claim to wherever charging the tax, or is there any way I can eliminate the tax?(I’m sorry my case is quite different from yours)
    Thank you in advance for your kind help.

    All the Best

    1. Hi Xiaoxu, sorry to say that I can’t help. I don’t know what the law says about non-UK citizens and having to pay import duty. Neither would I like to try and take a guess. Sorry to be so unhelpful. Regards, Karl

  143. Has anyone ever tried making a complaint to Trading standards / HMRC / any other body regarding this practice? I find it unbelievable that it is still happening today despite years of commentary around this unfair process.

    It still remains as clear as mud to me as to how I can avoid it in the future aside from waiting for the bill to arrive and then fighting it. I’d rather do whatever possible to avoid that bill ever coming. I recently made the mistake of paying it due to fear of consequences as they had been ignoring me asking for an explanation and time had run out. It’s simply daylight robbery.

    For the record, I see people referring to it as being £12 but for me it was £20, with VAT added on – i.e. £24! My total bill ended up at £31 which was more than the value of the product! (which by the way, was a sample, and shouldn’t have even been subject to VAT let alone FedEx fees). I later called up and they told me that the DPC (deferment processing charge) was based on the value (they couldn’t/wouldn’t tell me specifically how), but that it was a minimum of £20 pre-VAT, for shipping to be cleared for import taxes.

    Any advice on how to avoid the bill ever appearing would be fantastic. Good luck to you all.

    1. Hi Sam, thanks for getting in touch. The only recommendation I can make is to dispute the clearance charge, as per the post. The best avenue, I can think of, regarding the VAT is to apply for a refund from HMRC. Sadly, I can’t help with how you’d go about doing that though.
      Good luck and please let us know how you get on.
      Regards, Karl

  144. I bought items from America which was sent to myus.com and consolidated for shipping. The value of the total order is incorrect as they wrote the shop prices rather than the sale prices.
    The total order is $625 but I actually spent $519.21 and most of it is children’s clothes which you don’t pay VAT on. So I was going to pay the VAT and duty then inform HMRC later about the inaccuracy of the bill with my receipts etc after collection to prevent delays.
    I also paid over $100 in postage already!

    I get an bill from FedEx for £241!
    Import tax £48.46
    Import vat £113.67

    Other taxes £47.62
    Direct processing free £32

    HMRC clearly states import duty and vat but I don’t know what these ‘other taxes’ are and a processing fee of £32 is simply ridiculous! The bill has a space between the top 2 and second 2 items which makes me think this other taxes are an add on by FedEx not HMRC!

    I have emailed them with your template but I am so upset as these were Christmas presents that won’t be delivered in time for Christmas and now I’m being extorted by FedEx.

  145. Stumbled across this post after finding a new wrinkle to this. Post-Brexit, sellers outside the EU are supposed to collect VAT at the time of purchase. I recently bought an item from eBay where they did just that. Unfortunately, FedEx is still demanding I pay taxes + their charges, as “Our Terms and Conditions are such that the recipient or importer will be invoiced for Duty and Tax charges unless the sender selects the ‘bill sender’ or ‘bill 3rd party’ option on the FedEx International Air Waybill. Unfortunately, neither of these options has been selected on this occasion, therefore FedEx have invoiced you, the recipient, correctly.” Has anyone had any luck in resolving this sort of situation?

    1. Hi James, you can either dispute this with FedEx or pay their fees and try to reclaim the money from HMRC. Were I in your shoes, (and, remember, this is not legal advice), I would dispute the charges with FedEx.
      Good luck and keep us posted.

  146. I have had something similar with DHL.
    However I have now informed them not to deliver any future parcels packages etc that require duties to be paid without my prior express consent..
    Does anyone know if this would still make me liable for the disbursement charge as I’ve now instructed them not to deliver before receiving consent.

    1. Hi Jon, you’re obliged to pay duty. Sadly, it’s tax and it’s the law. However, admin/processing/disbursement fees aren’t (strictly) legal without giving you prior notice. Imagine Amazon sending your parcel and then sending a bill for ‘admin fees’, it just doesn’t wash.

  147. I ordered an item late last year and was then charged approx £80 by FedEx in import and admin fees. I queried it and they sent me spreadsheet breaking down the cost, although the import tax was extremely high. I asked them to raise it with HMRC and I believe they referred my case to them. I have now received a credit note reducing the fees to approx £20 (tax + admin fee) which is a relief.

    However is it worth a shot asking them to waive the £12 admin fee on this too? Particularly since they gave an incorrect invoice, continued to provide inflated prices in the breakdown and only retreated after HMRC were involved. All of this took 4-5 months as well.

    1. Hi Stephanie, to be honest it’s your call. I’d be inclined to contest the admin fee, especially in light of the fact that they got the tax wrong and the fact that (as best I understand it) it’s still unlawful for them to charge it. That’s what I would do, but it’s entirely up to you. Good luck, Karl

      1. Thank you for answer,
        I’m just customer who bought items from Poland (part of EU) and FedEx sent me invoice to pay with £12 administration fees.
        Is this right?

  148. I recently took delivery of a mobile phone I ordered from Spain. A week later I received an invoice from FedEx for the VAT. The seller did not include VAT in the price, so I now have to pay it. I don’t dispute paying the VAT. The part of the invoice that I found surprising, is that FedEx have also added a “Deferment Processing Fee” of £20 plus another £4 VAT on the processing fee i.e. an additional £24).

    The amount of the VAT is £80.17. An additional £24 seems rather high for sending me an invoice to collect £80.17.

    I even suspect their charge may be wrong, according to their website it looks like the charge should be £12.75 (maybe plus VAT??)

    See item in link under “What is the Disbursement Fee?” :-


    Would I be within my rights telling them I’m happy to pay the VAT, but they have to reduce the disbursement fee to what it says on their website? Could I even refuse to pay their disbursement fee at all?? After all I’ve already paid for shipping, and made no agreement with FedEx. I wasn’t even aware the seller would be using FedEx. All the seller’s website says is “the client shall be responsible of the payment of territorial taxes applicable in each case”.

    Would be grateful for any advice. FedEx want payment by 13th Sept.

  149. **AUGUST 2021 UPDATE & SUCCESS – sharing email templates**

    Thank you for all of the advice on here. I emailed FedEx with the template provided to dispute this clearance / administration fee. They have recently changed their processes so that you cannot make a partial payment either online or over the phone therefore, I amended the original email template appropriately to request they adjust the bill allowing me to settle the remaining VAT charges only.
    I received FedEx’s generic / automatic response shown below:

    “Dear Sir or Madam,
    Thank you for your query regarding the charge on invoice xxxxxxxxx.
    FedEx would like to inform you that the amount billed is an ancillary charge and these are raised on shipments that require a specialised clearance procedure through customs.
    Under certain circumstances additional fees are payable to FedEx for the clearance of goods, for example to cover fees paid to external agencies for border inspections or for non-standard clearances. The charge may also cover all other services not covered by the standard conditions of FedEx.
    The charges raised for this additional service are specifically billed to the consignee / importer rather than the shipper. The charges remain the responsibility of the consignee / importer as they relate to the importation of the goods through customs.
    FedEx trust this concludes the matter, however should you have any further queries please do not hesitate to contact us.
    Yours Faithfully,
    FedEx Invoice Adjustment Team”

    Using all of the advice from this thread, I responded with the below template I thought may be useful for you all:

    Thank you for your response – it however does not resolve this matter.
    Under the Unsolicited Goods and Services Act 1971 (updated in 2000), it is a criminal offence for a company to bill for unordered services in the hope that the recipient will pay due to ignorance. Also, the Consumer Contracts Regulations 2013 (regulations 39 and 40) outline that a company must obtain consent / express agreement from the consumer prior to levying and / or billing for any charges.
    At no point prior to receiving invoice xxxxxxxxx did I receive any communication of this advancement fee from any party. I therefore did not agree to, nor do I accept, these charges.
    To resolve this matter, please remove the sum of £xx.xx for the clearance administration charges from invoice number xxxxxxxxx. I am happy to make payment for the VAT charges of £xx.xx to close the matter at your earliest convenience.
    Kind regards”

    I then received the same generic / automated response again to which I responded:

    “Dear Fedex,
    I have now received this exact same email from you twice.
    I have already replied to this email on [insert date] and await your response.
    Kind regards”

    Finally, they responded appropriately and the admin charges had been cleared from the bill and I was able to settle the VAT only fees online.

    I hope this helps others! Thank you all again!

  150. Thanks for this post, really useful.
    I didn’t have success with this and had the stock response justifying their fee.
    I did however have success contacting the FedEx CEO who then removed the fees and contacted controlaccount to terminate their account also.
    The jokers at the collection agency added £35 of fees on top of the £12 fee.
    Keep fighting it, you’ll get somewhere eventually

    1. Thanks Matt for sharing, glad you got somewhere in the end and I like your approach. Just make sure the collection agency haven’t made a negative entry onto your credit rating (which some do). Cheers, Karl

  151. Hi Karl,

    A thorough very good explanation and I am now in the same situation.

    I just have one question as this isn’t clear to me.
    Did you pay the Duty and VAT fee except the admin fee?
    Do you think it is worth it to send them this message before I pay or after I have paid these two fees? Or should I pay the total amount including the admin fee and ask them to refund me the admin fee.

    I live in the UK and am a little bit annoyed how they didn’t communicate about my sum of £410,- beforehand.

    How many days do they give you to pay the fee?

    I will be paid in 3 weeks and want to pay them by then.

    Kind regards,


    1. Hi Putz,
      in answer to your question: yes I paid the Duty and VAT, you’re legally obliged to.
      The order in which you pay the duty and then send them the message us up to you and I have no idea how long they give you (bear in mind the original post was written some years ago).
      Good luck and let us know how you get on.

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