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Why have I been charged Duty & VAT for samples?

If you have received a charge on your shipment containing samples, it may be due to the sample not meeting HMRC’s definition of a commercial sample.  A commercial sample is a small part of a product intended to show what the whole item is like and is of no resale value (e.g. mutilated, single gloves etc.) Samples are sent to gain further orders for similar goods.

In the UK samples of goods can be imported free from Duty and VAT only if:

  • The importer has an EORI number
  • The product can only be used in order to demonstrate the characteristics of the goods
  • Are of a negligible value
  • Are imported solely with the intention to obtain future orders for the type of goods that they represent
  • Of a limited quantity
  • Are torn, perforated, slashed, defaced or marked in indelible marking as a "Sample"
  • Are declared as a sample on the Air Waybill and/or Commercial Invoice

You cannot get relief from Excise Duty under the above but alternative reliefs may be available such as samples for examination, analysis, testing or trade show giveaways.

If you believe that your shipment has been Customs cleared incorrectly please send an email to detailing your amendment request and evidence your shipment meets HMRC’s guidelines. Please ensure you include your affected AWB tracking numbers, as the email will be printed and utilised as evidence when the entry amendment is submitted to Customs.

Please note an amendment fee of £53+ VAT will be levied for an entry amendment as this is not deemed a FedEx error.

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This Q&A is provided for information only and the answers do not have a contractual value. For additional information, you can refer to FedEx Conditions of Carriage for EMEA available at

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