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I'm relocating to France soon from the U.S. I have a lot of used but pretty expensive things (laptop, cameras) I want to ship over to my address in France. Do I have to pay import taxes? How does that work? I've shipped tons of stuff back to the U.S. before with no issue, but wanted to see if this would be a problem going the other way.

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My wife and I both relocated from North America to the United Kingdom recently. I used a recognised international relocation company. They used a special form for EU residents returning to the EU after a stay of more than one year. On the form I had to specify what I had acquired in the last N months. I had not acquired anything and I did not have to pay anything.

My wife used a local shipping company in a small city in the mid-western United States. She did tell them that it was her own stuff and that she was relocating, but evidently they did not use the right forms. Upon arrival, she had to pay considerable import fees, even if it was her own stuff, including some that she already took from the EU to the USA. Clearly the right forms were not attached.

So in a nutshell: use a reputable company specialised in international relocation. They will know the right kind of forms to attach that apply to your situation. Specific rules on what you do and do not have to pay tax on depend on your circumstances, but it is important that it is clear to customs that those are unaccompanied personal goods, and not stuff you are shipping to another person.

  • Thanks for the advice. I'm actually not using a company for relocation, and am already overseas (and won't be returning to the US anytime soon). This would just be my relative sending me a box of stuff via USPS. I will inquire of the relocation services. – bevanb Aug 4 '15 at 15:45
  • If your relative is sending you a box of stuff, you have a very high risk that customs will ask for import duties / VAT. – gerrit Aug 4 '15 at 16:06
  • I've looked into it, and the import taxes and VAT look manageable in this case. In fact I'll have to pay them because I'm not changing my primary address in this move, so there'd be no chance of waiving the import taxes anyway. Thanks again for your input. – bevanb Aug 5 '15 at 11:13
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Moved from USA to EU 2 years ago. The Co. That receives your goods in EU is the Co. That would advise you on which customs declaration to complete in order to avoid import taxes. US shipping Co. Is not the one to ask about regulations abroad. Ask their destination partner.

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    Thanks for the info. I'm actually not using a company, as I just have a single box of stuff a relative will be sending me, but I'll look relocation companies and ask their EU branches. – bevanb Aug 4 '15 at 15:46

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