Buy Amateur Radio from USA - Ship To UK - VAT Pitfalls

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This short guide is to detail the potential pitfalls in buying new Amateur Radio equipment from overseas and importing in to the United Kingdom.
Please note, that at no time am I criticising the seller I did business with.


I purchased a slightly used Icom IC-7000 from a business trading in the USA.
I paid by Paypal, all fine. Sent by Fedex to the UK. I tracked the progress of the consignment and then it got stuck at Stanstead customs.

I rang Fedex who put me in touch with their Customs guy at Stanstead who informed me that there was VAT to be paid on the radio. 'Uh oh'.

I explained that Amateur radio kit is exempt from duty payments. The man at Fedex agreed with this, but because the radio was sold by a dealer VAT would have to be paid.

The radio cost to me was about £600. The VAT for importing it into the UK was £110. OUCH! I couldn't budge Fedex one bit. Either I pay the £110 or I don't get my radio. So I stumped up the cash to Fedex to release my radio.

So here's the warning. If you're buying from a dealer, you could be landed with a VAT charge which will significantly bump up the total price of your nice cheap radio. You may find buying in the UK not much more expensive than buying from overseas, and much less hassle.

The seller is totally genuine and makes no claims with regard to duty/VAT on their Ebay adverts. I'm not saying DON'T BUY from overseas, just be aware that a £600 radio can end up with a hidden extra cost of over £100 when brought in to the country. Maybe things are different if bought from Europe, or if they're from a private seller.

IMHO, if the radio had been shipped by a different carrier other than FEDEX, I feel it may have gone through without any hassle. FEDEX have their own Customs department and staff at Stanstead and everything gets checked. Sent by cheaper means I reckon I'd have avoided paying duty, as this is the first time I've ever had this happen to me on Ebay.

Of course the up side to using FEDEX is being virtually guaranteed of delivery of the item.

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