Can Belgium actually charge VAT and customs on a Nationality Certificate sent by registered post from the UK?
I had to apply for a duplicate UK Nationality Certificate, which I did in August from the official UK government bureau The fee was £250.
Today I received a letter from BPost. It seems that my document has finally arrived, sent as a registered letter. Well, it turns out that BPost actually OPENED the letter addressed to me and is charging €32 for having opened it and wants €68+ VAT -because it was sent from a non-EU country. I realise that no country in the EU is more taxation-mad (taxatoire) than Belgium but this really takes the cake. Opening private mail in order to try to cash in??? They even sent me a scan of the document!!
I have lodged a complaint with BPost and am waiting to hear back. But is there an official ombudsman or somewhere else to turn to if the Belgian finance people decide they are entitled to all that money?
Belgium normally charges VAT on legal documents, you may remember that, when it was introduced a few years ago, it effectively pushed up the notaire's charges for house purchase. Therefore the Belgian Customs are entitled to charge you for this import from a non-EU country and Bpost act as Customs' agents and add their own (published) handling charge. There is no way to avoid this if the item is dispatched by mail or courier services.
Your real complaint should lie with rip-off UK charging you an exorbitant sum for the document when an effective certificate of Belgian nationality is available either free or for a nominal charge at your local commune. A formal complaint to the British Ambassador in Bruxelles might just lead to some alternative procedure being introduced but I wouldn't raise your hopes too high. Remember that the UK thinks that it has done the right thing by "taking back its sovereignty" and that those Brits who choose to live outside the UK only have themselves to blame for any downsides.
'Opening private mail in order to try to cash in.'
This may come as a shock but they open private mail to ensure that what is declared on the outside is what is actually on the inside! People do try to smuggle, for example, drugs by post and can do so by using an, apparently, offical envelope which they hope might not arose suspicion.
On a more serious note, you are under no obligation to pay what they are asking. If you refuse to do so, they are obliged to return the packet to the sender.
In your situation I would contact the sender, explain the situation and ask what they will do if they receive the documents back. Also, ask if there is an alternative way for you to receive the certificate - perhaps via the Brussels embassy.
One of the joys of Brexit. Belgian VAT has to be paid along with customs handling charges on items sent by post. Just pay up. Which you have probably already done.
Good e-commerce shops will now pay the VAT and charges up front and include it in the price you pay. Best to opt for courier delivery to be safe. Or buy locally.
If your document had been delivered to a U.K. address and then sent in a plain envelope to you, it would probably have got through.