Importing from abroad VAT, Customs & Royal Mail charges

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Okay been meaning to write this for a while so please read this as it's vitally important you're aware of the sneaky way UK customs gets money out of you for buying something outside of Europe and it won't come as a nasty shock when the charges mount up to a large portion of the value of goods bought!

So, first things, pretty much anything you buy from ebay (except cars & other very large licensed purchases) within the EU(see below for full list of EU countries) are exempt from Customs & Excise and VAT duty, obviously things like alcohol & tobacco have limits and so will need declaring if over the limits (Currently 3200 cigarettes, 10 litres of spirits, 90 litres of wine & 110 litres of beer)

Your limits as to the value of goods allowed from outside of the EU have recently changed.

For a personal item classed as a gift you are allowed a £40 limit, in the strictest sense this must be something you have not paid for, though many sellers will not mark a package as a gift, some will. However they must avoid putting business like marks or invoices on the outside of the package as this is a dead giveaway that the item is a business 'commercial' transaction (As in you paid for it) Anything over this value will attract VAT AND the Royal Mail 'handling' charge (plus VAT again) See below for more details

For items from outside the EU that are commercial items (so effectively anything you buy on ebay) it is the generally the buyer who is legally bound to ensure the declaration is marked correctly (This is the CN22 or CN23 sticker that goes on the outside of the package) Though some US sellers reckon it is federal law for them to mark the correct amount this is garbage. A US seller is legally allowed to mark in the customs declaration a ZERO value (which would be stupid of course)  type "123 Customs Forms and Online Shipping Labels" on the  USPS website for more details.

So how much will UK customs charge you?

Well if your item is not exempt then it goes like this.

Your item value PLUS the cost of the postage & packing charge together will be subject to VAT. So If your item is worth £60 and the postage was £15 (The applied value conversion is available for the month/year from HM revenue website but check for a rough guide) then the calculation is thus.

£60+£15=£75 PLUS the Royal Mail handling charge of £8 (flat charge for any item that needs VAT or customs charges adding) so that then becomes £83 for the purposes of VAT which at 20% =£16.60 which you'll have to pay at your collection depot.

Items up to £135 are free of duty and if above £135 the duty is waived if less than £9.

Checkout the HM revenue & Customs website 'A guide for international post users'

NOTE not all European countries are EU countries. These at 09.12.2011 are:Austria, Belgium, Bulgaria, Cyprus (though some parts have restrictions due to non regulatory issues), Czech Republic, Denmark, Estonia, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Hungary, Ireland, Italy, Latvia, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Malta, Netherlands, Poland, Portugal, Romania, Slovakia, Slovenia, Spain, Sweden and the United Kingdom.

Goods imported from these Special Territories’ are free of customs duty, BUT subject to excise duty and import VAT if applicable

  • The Aland Islands (Finland)
  • The Canary Islands (Spain)
  • The Channel Islands
  • The French Overseas Departments of Guadeloupe, French Guiana, Martinique and Reunion
  • Mount Athos also known as Agion Poros (Greece

EVERYWHERE else should/could be stopped and held for assessment of any VAT or Duty/Customs to be paid.

Hope that helps!

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