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Customs outrage

Two questions:My long delayed shipment of US belongings finally arrived in the UK where it got stuck in Customs, bad luck of the drawer, the shipper says. The shipper then drives it to me, here in Provence. Bizarre, but the cost started off excellent then hiked and hiked when they had my belongings. Has anyone had simliar experience with shippers (blackmail) changing prices when they have your items, and has anyone been able to challenge them successfully?.
Meanwhile UK customs is hitting me with a $700 bill, for my own items! They say it's the VAT for a "second home"...Does anyone know: if you have a house in your own country but don't live it it (I rent out mine) is your Expat house considered your second home? thanks! Jude ---seething in Provence.

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