Folksy Ltd

Is it Illegal to mark a Customs Sticker as 'Gift'?


(Maggie Gee Needlework Studio) #1

Something really interesting has just cropped up on another Forum…A person asked if it was illegal to mark an item you had sold as a ‘gift’ rather than a commercial item…

I innocently said I always mark my labels ‘Gift’ and that the ladies at my PO knew I was a Business (indeed they give me handfuls if stickers to fill in from home) and they had never queried it when I sent my items…Imagine my surprise when I got a load of over zealous Americans quoting me huge fines and lecturing me on single handidly bringing down the fall of free health care in some countries!!!

I suggested that as a UK seller things are different within the EU but wondered if infact I WAS breaking the law?..Can someone clarify for me so that I can defend myself if necessary! Lol! …I’m clearly now branded as fronting some International Customs Fraud Network!!! LOL! Mxx


(Christine E.) #2

I always mark mine as a “gift” too- I can’t remember who advised me to do it, but I sometimes wonder if it’s right. I’ve never been told off by anyone! I would be interested if anyone has a definitive answer to this question…


(Maggie Gee Needlework Studio) #3

I’ve been told that it IS illegal and can be subject to fines. Just like you, I’m pretty sure someone ‘suggested’ I do it along the way so it has certainly NOT been an intentional ruse to defraud HMCR…I’ve been totally embarrassed by the Etsy Forum (although I’ve taken it well!)…shan’t be going there again! Lol!


(Eileens Craft Studio) #4

Yes you are breaking the law.

If I sell something from my shop and the customer is abroad I have to declare that it’s merchandise not a gift as I’m exporting to another country.

You need to look up importing and exporting as a seller. You can get yourself into trouble if you mislabel your merchandise.

I know when I import an item from another country I will have to pay my VAT on it and any other importing fees including handling charges by whatever means it arrives at my door by ie royal mail, fedex other courier service. Royal mail handling charge is the cheapest at only £8.00

If you are caught trying to forego the Taxes owned to HMRC when you buy from abroad ie importing you are liable to some hefty fines. Avoiding paying your taxes in the UK beware because you will in the end get caught.

Never ask someone to break the laws in their own country or your own as both seller and buyer when caught can be in for some very nastie suprizes.


(Bojanglies) #5

I’ve never chanced it, though I don’t put my business name on the envelope (I don’t want to risk them going astray with jewellery on the package!) and I don’t enclose and invoice, rather just a card and a thank you note…
I think the risk you run is if someone official does open the packet and finds a business invoice, they can see it’s not a gift and you open yourself to hideous problems.
Buuuuuutttt… what if it’s something someone has bought as a gift for someone, and you’re sending it direct to them? Is that then a gift? (Or even what if they’ve bought it as a gift for themselves?! oh, now I’ve confused myself!)

I did ship a consignment load off to Canada. One batch they recommended putting gift on the label - the second time I think they’d been advised against it, so said put “sample”. I don’t think I ticked it though…


(Maggie Gee Needlework Studio) #6

Yes, Eileen…if ever I have anything from the US I always have to pay £8 to the Post Office…so I guess it makes total sense that recipients of mail from our country have to do the same!

I will certainly change where I tick from now onwards. Had it not been for the Forum I may never have known so am grateful for your clarification.


(Eileens Craft Studio) #7

It’s not a gift sorry and can’t be classified as one if you as the seller send to your customers friend/family member.

It can only be labeled as a gift from the person who owns ie your customer.

The item no longer belongs to you once your customer as paid for it. The customer once they receive the item from yourself are than legally able to send the item on as a gift as they are not requiring a payment from the person they are giving the item to.

Gift is an item given free to another person.

If you send a free gift to a customer as a thank you for buying from me in the past then yes that is a gift and may be labeled as such as you are giving it away not requiring the receiver to pay you for it.

You have to decide do you wish to trade legally or take a chance and trade illegally.

I take the stance that if a business is going to risk trading illegally then they are a rogue trader and therefore will not give proper and good customer service. I wouldn’t touch them with a barge pole.


(Maggie Gee Needlework Studio) #8

Now…That was MY next question!!!.. What defines ‘Gift’?..I think we can assume it is the divide between commercial and non commercial post being sent from a country.


(Amanda Robins) #9

Yep, definitely against the rules and regs. I tick ‘Other’ and in the description I write ‘earrings’, ‘ring’, etc.

If someone buys a product from you and asks you to ship it directly to someone as a gift from them then it shouldn’t be marked ‘gift’ as you are the sender and it’s not a gift from you.

I think writing ‘sample’ in the description would be inadequate and probably lead to the package being opened by customs.

Customs in all countries are really clamping down big style lately.


(Maggie Gee Needlework Studio) #10

Brilliantly put - you are so knowledgeable! …and I won’t take the chance now I know what’s what!!!


(Maggie Gee Needlework Studio) #11

Thank you Amanda! Another great point! I’m always very transparent over my descriptions - and my business name is on the package too, so I’ve only ever gone with a bit of well meant but very ill judged advice. I’m sure I’m not the only one so I hope others get to see this too.


(Eileens Craft Studio) #12

yep sample is just that a sample of something ie like if someone wanted a custom order and wanted a free sample of two materials before deciding which they wanted their item in.

or like with my father in law when he was developing products for unilever he had to send some ‘samples’ via the post to a company in the Netherlands’ as no money was involved as he had to label them as samples

Samples are just examples of something that a company/seller may send out to a potential customer that the potential customer doesn’t pay for, but the seller/company sends so the customer can decide which materials they want their end product to use.

Or a small item and seller/company may send out that is a completed item but as free sample So the Customer can decide if they want to place a order or not.


(Eileens Craft Studio) #13

Thanks you Maggie just I’ve worked in a couple of very large international companies so had to keep up import/export regulations. I had to make sure the relevant paperwork was in order.


(Maggie Gee Needlework Studio) #14

Eileen, you sound like you are apologising for your wonderful knowledge!!! DON’T!!! I am SO grateful for your clarity and follow so much of your advice on other subjects! My Hero! xxxx…and thanks for not making me out to be a total criminal!!! xxx


(Eileens Craft Studio) #15

Thank you so much Maggie. I would hate for someone to fall foul of regulations just because they didn’t know or were given false information.

I do worry sometimes that I might come over all wrong and upset someone as I’d not want to do that.


(Maggie Gee Needlework Studio) #16

Totally understood. I think you get a feel for people here and everyone seems genuinely nice and very keen on each other’s success. I know what you mean though ; I’m not averse to calling a Spade a Spade and can come across a bit brash at times if I’m not careful in real life! Being on a PC is even harder! Lol!x


(Christine Shephard) #17

I always tick ‘other’ and always show the actual value (buyers sometimes ask you to show a lower value, but I won’t). If you’re selling and state it’s a ‘gift’ you’re effectively trying to avoid import duties for the buyer, so definitely on the wrong side of the law. That said, I bet a huge number of sellers do it!


(Claire Davis) #18

I always tick ‘other’ as well, and write, earrings, bracelet etc. I have noticed that a lot of parcels that come from China have the form pre printed onto the envelope with ‘gift’ already ticked!


(Diane Keeble) #19

I tick “other” and usually write accessories as that covers jewellery, bag charms etc - not that I get many overseas orders x


(Christine E.) #20

I have to send a cuff bracelet to America this morning so I’ll have to change my habits (I’ll probably forget at the last moment)! I always write handmade craft item, avoiding any mention of jewellery, not that mine is made from precious metal or anything. I sometimes put ornament. Thanks for the info, Eileen!