Reclaiming VAT and Import Duty on Militaria image

Reclaiming VAT and Import Duty on Militaria

All historical items are eligible for reduced VAT, and are exempt from Import Duty. Learn how to reclaim any duties you may have overpaid when importing militaria into the UK.

At one time or another in their collecting career, every UK-based US militaria collector has received one of the dreaded Parcelforce charge notifications. These letters explain that the importer (or recipient) is required to pay additional taxes and duty on the item that they have received. All goods that arrive in the UK from abroad are liable for VAT and in some cases, Import Duty as well. Typically, VAT is charged at the current rate (20% at the time of writing), and Import Duty varies depending upon the goods contained within the parcel.

Generally, parcels marked with a value (including postage costs) of less than £15 are not subject to VAT or import duty. Parcels with a value between £15 and £135 are subject to VAT (at 20%), but no import duty. Any parcel that is valued over £135 is liable for both VAT and Import Duty. In the latter instance, the Import Duty may be waived if the payable duty is less than £9. Parcels marked as gifts may have a value up to £35 before they become liable for VAT and Import Duty.

In addition to the charges applied by HMRC, Parcelforce (and Royal Mail, depending upon the service) also levy a handling fee against the item for handling the payment of the charges. This fee is £8.00 for items that are on an Express48 service, and £13.00 for items despatched with an Express24 service (or £25 for items that enter the UK with a declared of £1,000 or more). 

All of these charges can add unexpected costs to militaria, and make the item very expensive once everything has been paid. Luckily, there’s some good news for militaria collectors.Items that fall under certain categories are exempt from Import Duty and are eligible for VAT at a reduced rate. Thankfully, militaria falls under one of these categories, and as a result, it is possible for the recipient to reclaim some of the money if the charges have been incorrectly levied by the HMRC staff. Militaria items fall under the following International Tariff Code:

TARIC Code: 9705290090 Collections and collectors’ pieces of zoological, botanical, mineralogical, anatomical, historical, archeological, paleontological, ethnographic or numismatic interest; other collectibles.

Good that fall into this category are exempt from import duty, and also eligible for a reduced rate of VAT (5% at the time of writing).

It is possible for the recipient to reclaim overcharged taxes, even if the details entered on the original Customs Declaration Form (CN22) do not mention the contents as being WWII military collectibles. I will now outline the reclaim process.

  1. BOR 286: First of all, it is necessary to download a blank BOR 286 Form. This can be downloaded (and printed) from the HMRC website by visiting the following URL:
  2. Enter all details in the form, and be sure to accurately describe the item under the ‘Details of Customs Duty or import VAT incorrectly charged’ section.
  3. In addition, you will also need to provide the following items and information along with the completed BOR 286 form:
    • Customs black and white charge label (stuck to the outside of your parcel and shows the breakdown of the charges.
    • Customs declaration form (also stuck to the outside of your parcel and filled in by the sender)
    • invoice / receipt or other evidence of value (such as eBay page or PayPal receipt) of the goods.
    Generally, I also include photographic evidence of any markings or labels that might be present on the item to show its age, and to act as proof for the comments I added to the completed form.
  4. Return all material to the following address:
    Border Force
    Coventry International Hub
    Siskin Parkway West
    CV3 4HX

Once all documents have been received by HMRC, they will then begin to assess the case. This is usually a lengthy process, and all of the cases that I have filed generally take between 2 and 3 months to complete. After that period, you will receive a letter from HMRC with their final decision, or alternatively asking for further information. If the decision has been found in your favour, the HMRC will issue a refund in the form of a bank transfer or personal cheque. It will generally be received between 7 and 14 working days from the decision letter.

Note to sellers:

When completing the CN22 Customs Declaration Form, it is worthwhile to mention ‘WW2’, 1940s, or the phrase ‘collectible militaria’, since these are the so-called ‘buzz words’ that HMRC will (hopefully) look out for when assessing an item for levy codes.

We hope that the above information will be of use to our readers and fellow collectors. Please feel free to share it with others.

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