Arrival by Post

Customs law applies to goods arriving by post. Postal authorities must hand over suspicious packages to the Revenue. Items may be searched and seized.

A postal service must designate depots to deal with mail from outside the EU. They must be approved by Revenue. Importations of non-EU mail must be declared in its broad description

Non-EU mail is to be moved to an approved depot without delay. There must be arrangements to ensure that no diversion or interference can take place.

Non-EU mails is subject to external or internal examination of goods and documents. A part may be checked to verify the accuracy of the declared contents. This is done on the basis of profiling and risk management. Parcels are opened only where there is a reasonable suspicion based on profiling, that they contain prohibited or restricted goods, or that false declaration has been made in respect of them.

Goods sent by letter form non- EU states require a customs declaration in Form CN22 or a Form CN23 label.

Importation by post from outside the EU

A customs declaration is required for packages received from outside the EU.  This is usually completed by the sender. It includes a description of the goods, their value and whether they are gifts or commercial items.

A simplified form is used for packages under 2 kilograms or valued at less than €300.  A separate form is used for packages valued in excess of €300.  It is usually attached to the outside package, using a plastic wallet provided at post offices.

A Single Administrative Document is required for importations of declared value of over €650 (now €1,000).  Notice of arrival is sent by Revenue at the postal depot to the addressee asking to clear the goods by completing a SAD. A customs clearance agent may be used.

Import goods may be charged with any one or more of customs duty, excise duty and /or VAT. Antidumping or countervailing duties may apply.  A Post charges a handling fee of €5.  An Post requires payment of the duty before releasing the package.


Consignments of value less than €150 may be imported without payment of customs duty.Consignments of value less than €22 may be imported without payment of VAT.

There is no relief for importations of tobacco, alcohol, perfume or toilet water irrespective of value.

Gifts valued up to €45 correctly declared from a private person outside the EU to a private person within the EU, with no commercial intent or of an occasional nature such as birthday, anniversary gifts etc. are relieved.

Gift consignments of alcohol, tobacco, perfume and toilet waters are allowed relief below relatively low levels.   They approximate to 50 cigarettes, 10 cigars, one litre of distilled beverages, two litres of wine, 50 grams of perfume or 0.25 litres of toilet water.

Goods which are entirely prohibited may not be imported.  Goods requiring license may only the imported in accordance with a licence. Goods may be reclaimed by producing the relevant licence and paying duty.

A person aggrieved by a decision of Revenue may appeal within 30 days.

Customs Acts and Postal Importation

The Customs Acts are applied to goods imported in parcels.  Revenue may make regulations in relation to the customs treatment of parcels.  The Foreign Parcels Customs Warrant as amended requires customs treatment and a declaration to be presented where designated by Revenue.

Revenue has powers under the Postal and Telecommunications Services Acts and the Post Office Acts, to open suspected contraband postal packages and deliver them to Revenue.

Postal depots are approved for the arrival of third-country mails.  Imports of non-Community mail are to be reported on the import manifest with a brief description, eg., bags of mail, parcel.  All non-EU mail is to be collected by the postal authority or its authorised carriers and brought to the approved designated depot.

Checking of Incoming Mail

Parcel bills and letter bills are to be delivered to Revenue on arrival at the depot. Bills which denote the quantity of mailbags in each consignment, country of origin, flight or ship details may be used to maintain a record of the source of third-country mail.

Occasionally third mails are required to be produced to the Revenue to identify risk areas and profile and for other relevant Revenue offices such as drug enforcement

All non-Community mail arriving is to be subjected to an external examination or an internal examination of the goods and documents. As a check on the accuracy of declared contents, a proportion of the parcels are to be examined having regard to the volume of work and the risk.  Profiling should be done in respect of countries of origin, specific traders and commodities to give a detailed picture and risk analysis.

Parcels may be opened and examined by Revenue where there is a reasonable suspicion based on profiling, that they contain prohibited or restricted goods. The opening and closing of packages may be carried out by an officer of customs under the Post Office Parcels Act 1882 or by an official of the postal authority under the Foreign Parcels Customs Warrant Act and the Post Office (Amendment) Act 1951.

Customs Declarations

Customs declarations are required for

  • goods of value of more than €1,000;
  • goods subject to inward processing or processing under customs control;
  • goods designated for end use or community warehousing;
  • tobacco products from outside EU;
  • goods subject to assay

Packages of goods of less than €1,000 value may be assessed by reference to the declaration submitted or if   necessary by inspection of the contents and supporting documentation.

The amount of customs duty, excise duty, CAP charges, VAT and postal authority’s fees are drawn on the charge labels.

Vat and other Charges

If the VAT payable is €6 or less it will not be collected.

VAT is not to be charged on the postal importation of taxable goods by a VAT registered person for the purpose of his business where the value is €260 or less.  The importer’s VAT number must be quoted. A declaration and VAT due must be entered in the VAT 3 form.  Customs duty is to be paid unless the package qualifies under the below provisions.

Where a SAD is not obligatory, and there is no reason to detain the goods, charges including excise, VAT and CAP charges are to be assessed and recorded in a suitable electronic form.  At the end of each month, a summary of import duty is to be prepared and send to the Accountant General’s Office.  An post is the send the charges collected to the Revenue’s accountant.

Detention and Seizure of Goods I

Goods are to be detained if

  • a SAD is required.
  • further information is required for assessment
  • an import licence or permit is required
  • a certificate of origin is required
  • proof of exportation is required for re-imported foods
  • fraud is suspected
  • an analysis of contents which are not readily identified is required.

A notice of arrival is dispatched to the addressee indicating that parcel has arrived and specifying what requirements must be produced by way of licence or otherwise.Detention

Detention and Seizure of Goods II

Goods imported by post are liable to seizure

  • if they contain contraband [Post Office Act 1908]
  • goods are undeclared or incorrectly declared
  • the import of the goods is prohibited or restricted save under licence where the licence is not forthcoming

Where an officer suspects that a recording, DVD or publication is indecent or obscene, he may  determine whether or not it contains indecent or obscene materials. It may be seized if it contains such materials.  The investigation and prosecution division is notified in the case of paedophile material.

The Commission for Communications Regulation may authorize persons to provide postal services.  Postal service providers must draw up a code covering consumer complaints and redress. They must the essential requirements including security of mail protection.  Postal service authorised providers are subject to the same legislation as An Post.


Seizures of narcotics and firearms are to be immediately advised to the central intelligence and drug law branch to arrange for disposal.

Articles of gold, silver and platinum imported through the post from outside the EU must be entered to the warehouse and not delivered until duty has been paid, and until each item has been assayed as required by law.

Excisable products are to be dealt with in the same manner and duty is to be paid at the applicable rate

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