Options when customs seizes your things

Ask for your things back

You can ask for your things back (make a ‘restoration request’) even if you agree customs was right to take them.

If you think you should get your things back because you didn’t break the rules (eg you brought in alcohol for your own use) you must ask for a court hearing instead of making a restoration request.

If your request is accepted, you can get your things back but you may have to pay a fee and any duty you owe.

You may be offered compensation if your things have already been destroyed or sold.

Making a request

Follow the example letter or write your own.

You must explain why you think you should get your things back, eg you can now provide missing import or export documents.

You must include:

  • the seizure reference number on the notice you got from customs
  • your name and address
  • a list of the things you want back - include details, eg quantities and brands
  • proof of ownership - for a vehicle, this must be proof of purchase, eg a receipt
  • anything else that supports your request to get your things back, eg import documents

Notice 12A gives detailed guidance about making a restoration request and getting compensation.

Where to send it

Send your request to Border Force if it seized your things.

National post seizure unit
Border Force
3rd Floor
West Point
Ebrington Street

If HM Revenue and Customs (HMRC) seized your things, send your request to the address on the notice or letter you got from customs.

Check the notice or letter you got from customs if you don’t know who seized your things. Contact HMRC if you need a copy of the notice.


There’s no deadline for making a restoration request. But your things will usually be destroyed or sold:

  • straight away if they’re perishable, eg food, beer or tobacco
  • 45 days after they’re seized if they’re not perishable, eg spirits and cars

If you send a restoration request, non-perishable things are usually kept until your request is considered.

You can appoint someone to deal with your request for you, eg a solicitor. Send an agent authority form with your request.

If you’re unhappy with the response

You can ask for the response to your request to be reviewed if:

  • you don’t get your things back or get compensation
  • you disagree with the fee for getting your things back

The letter telling you the response will also tell you how to ask for a review.

If you disagree with the review

You can appeal to the tax tribunal if you disagree with the outcome of the review.