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UPS Delivery Partner Invests To Tackle Christmas Gifts Stuck At 'Customs Sheds'

By Roger Aitken / www.forbes.com / December 4th, 2015

Last Christmas failure to pay correct duties on parcels sent beyond the European Union (EU) to the US and other countries caused an average delay of over eleven days at Customs. This season more than 10% of such deliveries could miss arriving for Xmas day. And, its clearly that investment by the industry needs to be shipshape to handle the logistics and the surge. But could they do more?

International courier operator ParcelHero, which partners with with DHL and UPS, points out that 12% of all gifts shipped beyond the EU missed arriving in time for Christmas last year, simply because they had not been properly described in the Custom’s invoice form or the correct import duty and taxes had been paid.

Specifically, over a quarter (27%) of parcels sent from the UK to the US were late by four days last Christmas. So, it’s an issue that needs addressing.

ParcelHero, which has invested significantly on its website during 2015 to ensure that customers are fully informed of final shipping dates and duties and taxes to beat the Christmas delays, is now also urging international delivery companies to give senders more information and help ensure gifts don’t get stalled at Customs this year. 

French President’s former partner Valerie Trierweiler distributes toys as gifts for Parisian children, during a Christmas toys distribution held by the French charity organisation ‘Secours Populaire’ in Paris on December 21, 2014. (Photo: Dominique Faget/AFP/Getty Images).

David Jinks, a ParcelHero spokesman, commenting says: “No one wants their presents to arrive late for Christmas. Our industry needs to take more steps to ensure that our customers’ gifts to friends and family overseas are sitting safely under the tree – not in a Customs shed on Christmas day.”

He adds: “Our quality delivery partners such as DHL and UPS have continued to invest considerable sums to develop their infrastructure throughout the year, to meet the challenge of the hugely busy period from Black Friday through to Christmas.”

One really important aspect to consider in the run up to the Xmas season is that people need to declare the contents and value on a parcel if they want their gifts to arrive in time for Christmas day. And, if ParcelHero’s own figures and research from tracking deliveries is anything to go by a whopping 49% of gifts were held-up at Customs last Christmas.

The operator stresses that shippers need to understand that when sending presents outside the EU, they “must be sure to specify what is inside the Customs’ documentation.” On average parcels labelled simply ‘gift’ or ‘present’ were held 20% longer in Customs last Christmas.

Many people only send a parcel outside the EU at Christmas, and they need the Customs clearance times and tax exemption limits on gifts to be “better explained”, Jinks contends.

“It’s vitally important that they know the final mailing dates including Customs clearance,” he says. “This is why ParcelHero has launched a new ‘stress-busting’ Christmas mailing page to help people avoid these pointless delays by being aware of final shipping dates and a guide to tax exemption limits on gifts for different countries.”

As a nation, the UK spends a significant amount of money on Christmas presents that are sent abroad. Australia is the number one destination in the top 10 for Brits sending presents, followed by the US and Canada in second and third place, respectively.

Thereafter, Germany ranks fourth, France is at number five, Ireland at sixth, Spain in seventh, New Zealand (8th), Hong Kong (9th) and Japan (10th). The average value for a gift parcel delivered through ParcelHero overseas last Christmas was £109 (c.US$165).” And, the top three destinations that Brits send Christmas decorations to are Australia, the US and Spain.

While that does at least illustrate how much the Brits care about loved ones overseas, it also means according to Jinks  that channeling “a little bit of that care into ensuring that the presents arrive on time.” Equally the industry should do all it can to help avoid delays.

Import Duty and Tax: Australia to US

Shipping beyond the EU, shippers must be made aware that they may have to pay import duty and tax, even on gifts. Different countries will have their own duties and taxes. However, there are many countries that have quite generous exemption levels on gifts, or have quite a high standard threshold before duties and taxes are imposed.

Customers need to know the facts. Australia, for example, will not charge duties or taxes on any items below A$1,000 (c.£485/$735). And, the US does not impose charges on gifts below US$100 (c.£65). India meanwhile levies such fees on any gift above just 1,000 Rupees (c.£10/$15), while for South Africa it is above 400 Rand (c.£18.50/US$28).

Customs Delays

ParcelHero is one firm that actively tracks parcels and intervenes on the sender’s behalf. But any Customs delay is concerning at this time of year, especially if it is avoidable.

Jinks says: “Global delivery companies and couriers need to give senders as much information as possible. There are some destinations that are known to experience regular delays and senders need to allow extra time and take care to fully describe items.” For example, 85% of all shipments to China and 78% to South Africa were four or more days late last Christmas. 

Extra Duties: Paid By Receiver

It is also important that senders are made aware by the industry makes that any extra duties to be paid will have to be paid by the receiver. And, that also means the recipient will be informed what the item is, thereby spoiling the surprise.

There are three simple steps to ensuring successful deliveries, namely:

1. Check the item(s) you are sending is/are allowed into the country in question. For example, some countries have strict alcohol regulations.

2. Check you can send the gift via a courier. For example, most couriers have rules surrounding perishable food shipments.

3. Look up the value threshold of gifts.

Paying all duties in advance might be the safest choice, which an option that is available through companies like ParcelHero.

For people sending gifts outside the EU – perhaps just once a year – sending parcels abroad shouldn’t be a minefield. Having launched their new Christmas page with last mailing dates and gift duty exemption guides for non-EU countries, ParcelHero’s Jinks is “urging all their fellow couriers and delivery companies to take similar steps.”

For those in doubt, the UK government has issued a document with recommended last dates of Christmas 2015 posting for letters (air and surface) from the Ascensions to the US, latest recommended posting dates for posting world parcels as well as letters to Santa Claus/Father Christmas (c/o Santa’s Grotto Reindeer Land XM4 5HQ). The latter has Saturday 5 December 2015 slated as the latest date for letters to arrive in time. Better get posting.

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