/ Money

Have you been stung by customs and VAT charges?

If you’ve recently ordered from a European retailer, you might have been stung with additional customs and VAT charges. We want to hear your experiences.

Since 1 January, when the Brexit transition period ended, some people have faced additional fees on items coming from the EU, as well as delays on orders due to customs checks.

We want to hear your experiences and make sure you’re not being overcharged.

Have you been hit with a hefty import fee?

Some are reporting being hit with unexpected charges.

Perhaps it wasn’t made clear to you that you’d be charged when you placed your order, or you might not have even realised you were ordering from a European retailer.

You might also be questioning the amount you were asked to pay.

VAT, in most cases, is charged at 20%, and should be applied to gifts worth more than £39. Goods costing more than £135 could be hit with customs duties too, which can range from 0% to 25%.

Delivery ‘handling fees’

On top of VAT charges and custom duties, some delivery firms are also adding handling fees to deliveries from the EU to the UK, and vice versa.

DPD has a EU Clearance Fee of £3.50 (PDF file attached), which it says ‘covers Customs Clearance, handling, and processing costs to export parcels to EU destinations from Great Britain’.

Royal Mail is charging an £8 fee, though some people have claimed to have paid more.


It’s worth checking how much you should be paying on the delivery firm’s website. We want to hear if you’ve been overcharged.

Will the new rules change how you shop?

Some may now think twice before shopping with European stores to avoid the steep fees, and some retailers have stopped selling to the UK due to VAT changes too.

Let us know if any of the retailers you shop with have stopped selling to the UK, or if you notice any additional ‘handling fees’ retailers might be introducing to cover extra customs checks and admin.

Have you experienced delays or import costs?

Tell us who delivered your parcel, how much you were charged, and if you had to wait longer than usual for your delivery.


Why are consumers are being asked to pay VAT or duty on any packages with a value under £135? Section 2.3 of HMRC’s Notice 143 states very clearly “£0.01 to £135 No Customs Duty No Import VAT“. Is it because the sender is failing to attach a green customs label stating that the value of the goods is less than £135?

As I understand it there is a difference between between the treatment of goods brought with them into the country by travelling individuals ( up to £135), gifts sent to individuals (up to £39) and other such as online purchases (above£15). Products personally imported will be subject to UK vat ( not sure whether the £15 threshold applies; it did once which is why ink cartridges sent from the CI arrived in multiple consignments). This is quite right; we should not escape VAT just because we import it rather than buy in the UK.

Duty is normally very low, but the added cost, as importing from anywhere, is the charge required by the carrier to collect and remit this, and vat, to HMRC.

Malcolm, you are changing the topic to accompanied goods. This topic is about unaccompanied good ordered online, for which the consumer is charged VAT and duty upon delivery. Can you explain, after reading section 2.3 of the link I posted above, why UK consumers are being charged VAT and duty when receiving orders below £135?

I was simply looking at what I believed were all goods NFH, with my understanding of both accompanied and posted consignments. I do not know the basis of the link but I am surprised that it says £135 can be imported vat free. That could put UK traders at a real disadvantage. Perhaps someone can elucidate.

How does it “put UK traders at a real disadvantage”? While the UK was part of the EU single market, an online retailer in Luxembourg, when selling to a UK resident, charged only 17% Luxembourg VAT, but now has to charge 20% UK VAT.

I should add that the EU is moving towards distance selling with VAT charged at the consumer’s local rate, rather than at the seller’s local rate, which will be similar to the US system. The UK has jumped the gun on this forthcoming arrangement.

I was assuming the argument made was that we could order goods from the EU up to £135 and not pay UK vat. It seems wrong that local vat could be charged when that disadvantages the UK tax take. That could also make those goods cheaper than buying from a UK source but, apart from that, buying from overseas goods that could be bought in the UK would disadvantage UK traders. I would like to see a movement to support the UK economy.

Malcolm, you seem to be looking at only one side of the coin, rather than looking at the overall picture. In a free trade agreement, the advantage is bilateral. While it indeed allows EU traders to compete against UK traders when selling to UK consumers, it also allows UK traders to compete against EU traders when selling to EU consumers. Don’t forget that British exports are being hindered signficantly by Boris’s very thin trade deal, in which he even forgot to include financial services, which account for 1 in 14 jobs in the UK.

Whether he forgot or not is just semantics. The point is that he neglected to secure a trade deal covering financial services before the UK left the EU single market at the end of 2020. That was a failure. If he was unable to secure such a trade deal in time, then he should have extended the transition period to allow him enough time to do so. It was negligent not to do so, and he disgracefully put political goals ahead of the economy.

Your link about online purchases confirms what I wrote above.

The situation is not entirely clear, due to the last minute panic to secure an EU deal. HMRC interpretations of the law and regulations are still being updated.

My current understanding – for UK consumers, not businesses – is as follows:

VAT is due on ALL imported purchases at the same rate as UK purchases. The is no exemption just because it is an import, whether from the EU or elsewhere. We’ll cover what is meant by “import VAT” and the £135 threshold in a minute.

VAT would normally be assessed at 20%, but there are certain exceptions that would apply equally to imports, e.g. children’s clothing and some publications are 0% rated.

Duty is assessed on total consignments worth over £135 (premised on the basis that it is not worth collecting on low value shipments.) Make sure several lower value items are shipped separately, if P&P is less than duty payable on a single shipment worth £135 or more.

For most items worth less than £135, you will pay an additional 20%. Items worth over £135, you will pay import duties, if applicable, plus 20% VAT on the total value.

For example, on most items of adult clothing over £135, you will pay 12% import duty, plus 20% VAT. In the example above, a £200 coat would have duty of £24.00, VAT of £44.00, plus any additional charges raised by the carrier to deal with the paperwork – £8.00 in the case of Royal Mail.

The various documents linked to above are for VAT-registered businesses, and relate to when VAT is due to HMRC. In the normal course of business, a retailer might buy a lady’s coat for £50 from a UK manufacturer. The manufacturer will charge the retailer VAT on the wholesale price of £10. This is the cost of the retailer’s stockholding that has to be covered by loans, shares or out of past profits.

The retailer later sells the coat to a customer for £200 + VAT. VAT of £40 becomes payable at “point of sale”. However, the manufacturer has already paid HMRC £10, so the retailer only pays the extra £30 – the tax on the “value add” or markup.

The term Import VAT is to do with *when* VAT is due on imports, not *whether* it is due. VAT may be due when the goods cross the UK border. Normally the VAT registered wholesaler or retailer will pay this to HMRC when the value of the imported consignment exceeds £135. However, for small value consignments (less than £135), HMRC is prepared to wait until “point of sale” to the consumer to collect the whole amount owing.

To further complicate things, there was a relief known as Low Value Consignment Relief (LVCR) for VAT imports of £15 or less, but that is being abolished, both here and in the EU. You will see that on the Royal Mail custom fees tariff at the moment.

The only exception to VAT and duty is when the item imported is a “gift”. In that case, VAT is due in the normal way on gifts worth £39 or more (a child’s coat would still be exempt). Duty and VAT (where due) would be payable on a gift worth £135 or more.

If I go to buy a car in mainland great britain to use back in Northern Ireland (still part of the UK) apprently I will have a 20% vat bill on any profit from the sale to pay, also the number of supplier based within mainland GB who will no longer supply goods into northern ireland seems to be growing by the day, I’ve tried obtaining online various gardening products also items within the Debenhams sale only to receive unfortunately due to brexit we are no longer able to accept orders from Northen Ireland. Thanks for that one Boris and the negotiating team.

Patrick Taylor says:
23 January 2021

At least in NI the chances of rejoining the EU are significantly better than the rest of the UK so when sterling crashes and prices rise the forming of an All-Ireland federation [ there is precedent with both Australia and Canada] you may well have a brighter future.

However for the present NI is certainly proving that politicians promises are meaningless in the UK. You have my sympathy.

To be clear on the VAT aspect.

An EU VAT-registered business does NOT need to charge VAT on exports to Great Britain. They are able to reclaim the value of VAT on exports on their VAT returns. Whether they wish to go to the trouble of handling the addition paperwork for GB customers is another matter entirely. Not everyone operates the Retail Export Scheme (the “Duty Free” sales sticker you may see in some large retail stores). Not everyone is VAT registered, so they cannot reclaim their VAT inputs or pass on those savings to their export customers, even if they wanted to.

So goods entering Great Britain are now ASSUMED to be [EU] VAT-free, even if VAT has in fact been charged by the EU retailer or is simply not reclaimable by them. HOWEVER, the UK government is still imposing its own rates of VAT, entirely separate from the EU tax, in the same way as goods that have been imported from a non-EU source.

Import duty is another matter entirely.

Additional handling fees charged by carrier, another matter entirely.

Personal import allowances, another matter entirely.

Any Brexiteers out there? Next time you are given the opportunity to make a decision by a government that abrogates its responsibility – and let’s hope not since you can’t be trusted any more than the government – THINK before you vote for something you don’t understand!

Prior to Brexit, I saved many £1000s by importing goods directly from EU countries for my home. I ordered wardrobes from a German retailer, saving £100s of the price charged by Furniture Village. I am sitting at a Danish dining table £2,000 cheaper than the UK importer, by ordering it through a Paris retailer. I also ordered a new car through a French dealer, again saving £1000s.

What you have done is put UK consumers firmly back in the grip of rip-off Britain retailers. If there is going to be a “Brexit dividend” it will have to be enormous to compensate.

Em, you are absolutely right when you say “THINK before you vote for something you don’t understand“. Every time I speak to a Brexit supporter about Brexit, they have insufficient subject matter knowledge to discuss the subject. It is clear that most of them did not have sufficient knowledge to make an informed decision either to vote for Brexit or to continue supporting it.

I have found two tangible (non-ideological) benefits of Brexit for UK residents so far:
1. UK residents can now buy 4 litres of >22% spirits at duty-free prices in EU airports’ duty-free shops (as opposed to at duty-paid prices for intra-EU flights previously) and bring them back to the UK.
2. Fines from EU speed cameras can no longer be enforced on UK residents’ vehicles.
When I challenge Brexit supporters to cite more tangible benefits either for UK residents or for British citizens, they are unable to do so.

When I ask them why they support Brexit, most refuse to answer the question. Therefore I can conclude that it is driven only by factors to which they are not comfortable admitting, most likely xenophobia, nativism and British supremacism.

Unfortunately this argument disparaging voters can be applied to both sides. However it is now of no value, no more than telling people why they should have voted for one political party instead of the other. We have now left the EU and should drop the negativity and concentrate on making the best of it.

Agreed, Malcolm.

I don’t see anything wrong with ideological arguments against remaining in the EU. Life is not all about money and personal advantage.

Malcolm, I disagre with your comment that “We have now left the EU and should drop the negativity and concentrate on making the best of it“. Those who advocated Brexit, supported Brexit and voted for Brexit must now be held to account for the current economic damage that Brexit has created. Those who voted for it are collectively to blame, and they must now justify what they so foolishly did.

You can learn from the past, you can also speculate about the future, but you can’t live in either as it’s always the present. The only constructive way forward is to first accept this reality and then deal with the status quo, as it presents itself in the here and now.

No use crying over spilt milk or wishing upon a star since both are mere concepts in the mind that have their roots in an indelible dissatisfaction with life as it exists in the never ending present moment.

PS I voted to remain in the EU.

Why should, after a democratic decision, all those who voted one way be held to account simply because others disagree with them? That seems to insult the intelligence of a very large number of people. Exactly how will penance be extracted? Is that what should happen after a general election as well? The danger with this approach is perpetuating division. We are one nation and simply need to get on with making the best of the position we are now in.

However I don’t think this relates much to customs duty and vat. Perhaps there is another Convo more suited to discussing the ramifications of Brexit.

John, down thumb has reappeared. I do hope we lose it. I have reversed yours. It seemed a reasonable point to make about life.

John Ward says: “Life is not all about money and personal advantage.” You are absolutely correct!!!

So in what just society or political system can a minority of citizens vote away the rights of fellow citizens to freedom of movement, residency, health care, labour, economic activity and legal protections over employment, discrimination and misuse of personal data, amongst other things?

But that is exactly what has happened here. British citizens are no longer EU citizens – a status we were all granted on joining the EU, or at birth, and have now had stripped away by those that voted in favour of Brexit. I don’t see anything to replace that.

In terms of personal advantage, I am applying to become an EU citizen through my British grandfather who was born in Ireland. But for the majority of British citizens, including those that were born in this country with EU citizenship, there is no option.

Malcolm, a democratic decision is not necessarily the right decision or a good decision. Neither the UK’s referendum of 23th June 2016 nor the German federal election of 6th November 1932 was a good decision. Both were influenced heavily by xenophobia, nativism and supremacism.

All those who voted for Brexit are responsible for the customs and VAT charges that are currently being suffered by UK online shoppers. This chaos, which is not teething problems but baked into Boris’s thin trade deal, was predicted in 2016, but misleadingly dismissed by the leave campaign as “project fear“. It was not project fear, but project truth. Furthermore, HMRC is publishing conflicting advice, because the government neglected to end the Brexit transition period after a sufficient period following the announcement of the new rules.

No, it may prove not to be. But a majority voted for Brexit and the result is accepted in a democracy. Would you want some “elite” who are “right” to decide and disenfranchise the rest.

Personally, customs duty and vat on personal imports is not top of my list of Brexit issues.

Malcolm, it was not a democratic decision in any case. Only 37.44% of the electorate voted for Brexit. In other referendums, for example two held in Lithuania in 2019, 50% of the electorate must vote for a change in order for it to be enacted. The European Union Referendum Act 2015 did not specify a threshold, either as a proportion of votes or a proportion of the electorate, yet many hailed the result as sufficient to enact Brexit. Furthermore, approximately 3 million UK-resident EU27 nationals were undemocratically denied a vote in the referendum, despite being significant stakeholders and despite EU27 nationals having been included in the prior Scottish referendum. So please don’t preach that the referendum was democractic.

Did those who voted for Brexit understand the consequences for VAT and customs duty for online purchases? Did they take this into account? Or did they focus mostly on removing free movement of labour, including from their compatriot British citizens?

The majority argument has been thrashed to death. It is the way our democracy works, as in elections.

Those who are entitled to vote but do not could be regarded has having no opinion either way so, if they were to be included in the count, you could only split them 50/50 and that would not affect the result. However, as voting here does not work that way it is irrelevant.

I wonder how many understood the full consequences of remaining or leaving such a complex arrangement. Those who claim to have a better appreciation had plenty of time to put the cases together for both sides of the argument.

There has been a huge amount of general discussion about Brexit in past Convos. I don’t intend to join in a revival. I will watch, now we have Brexit, how it evolves.

I’d really rather suggestions of “preaching” were left out of a friendly conversation 🙂

If you don’t want to resurrect the argument about whether the referendum was democratic, then you need to avoid stating that it was democratic.

But nobody voted to impose VAT and customs duty on online purchases, did they? So it wasn’t democratic.

At this early stage I don’t consider it very fair to start apportioning blame for the present customs and VAT charges when the whole country’s economy and
trading practices are in a state of irresolution and uncertainty, owing the crippling and paralysing effects of a global pandemic and neither is it appropriate to start using Brexit as an excuse for the current state of affairs.

I have on many occasions pointed out the need for all retail and online outlets to state the country of origin on all services and goods to enable consumers to decide whether to buy British or foreign, in order to ensure goods are both of a safe and satisfactory quality and come with a reliable returns policy.

Let’s look at the positives. We were warned there would be obstacles to overcome but who could predict a virus would have such a devastating effect at a time when we were just about to start a new chapter in our lives, free from the confines of EU limitations and restrictions and where we were gradually slipping further down the list as one the worlds most prosperous trading economies while Germany
and France continued to prosper.

Japanese car manufacturers have just confirmed they will be keeping their UK factory’s up and running with continuing focus on the production of electric vehicles, all as a result of the long and arduous negotiations by UK government representatives and legislators to secure a fair European free trade agreement.

Let’s get this virus out of our systems first when the economy will start to pick up and return to normal and when we can focus on rebuilding our manufacturing industries our infrastructure and our perhaps, more importantly, our confidence, our determination and a
unified team spirit.

Patrick Taylor says:
23 January 2021

Seeems to me that the virus is not an adequate excuse for the general uselessness of the systems that exporters and importers use. But then I guess not everyone reads the same articles and some people will not want to read of the hoops that the current system creates.

There is an article, subsequently picked up by the Guardian, of an English wine merchant who runs through the problems with a system that was problematic even before Brexit was voted for. So much so that firms paid serious money for a programme that would interface with it. So a sytem like that was hugely unlikely to be a success once new fields had to be completed. And a non-reply query system does not help exporters and importers.

These are symptoms of deep-rooted and known problems which were unaddressed before 2020.

@Hannah Downes – In your lead article you wrote:

“VAT, in most cases, is charged at 20%, and should be applied to items worth more than £39.”

As I have explained in an earlier response, my understand is that your article should read: “VAT, in most cases, is charged at 20%, regardless of item value.”

The £39 you refer to is a VAT exemption only for gifts up to that value. If the consumer has paid for the item, VAT is due on the entire amount at the standard rate for the item. So if I order an item worth £5 from Germany (or China), that would carry 20% VAT in the UK, then £1 will be added to the cost, if the retailer is UK-registered for VAT, or in customs fees due on delivery, if not.

Patrick Taylor says:
23 January 2021

Given the education of consumers remit the comprehension of why the current situation is chaotic in the UK should surely be subject for comment.

Whilst it is easy to say “we are were we are” and feel that is sufficient to close a subject my take is you have to understand the problems, what caused them, and then the solutions that may help.

I think it is quite fundamental that the UK is woefully under-prepared for the split. Over 40 years of simplified trading within a bloc cannot be replaced instantly and this should have been obvious a year ago at least for sysstems to be stress-tested.

There is unlikely to be a change of Government any time soon so perhaps the simplest solution is that people do not buy from abroad on a whim. Obviously a major problem is that it is not clear that sites are not in the UK, or that the goods are shipped from abroad. This would seem to be an area to attack.

A requirement that sites specifically give this information and that if you as Joe Public buy from a non-UK merchant then it is your responsibility to pay duty etc. You might see politically it is perhaps unsavoury for a Govt. to say stop buying from abroad but really it needs to be done. Especially as the situation is as clear as mud currently.

My issue is related. I just tried to order a product (some insoles) from Sidas.com which is a French company. When it came to filling in the delivery address data, the country selection options included every other country but not the UK, GB or England. They have obviously decided not to supply to the UK – probably because of the post Brexit regs.

And the Brexit dividend keeps rolling in:-https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/business-55786974

I expect there will be the opportunity to blame all of the problems on coronavirus. 🙁

Maybe we should stop looking for something to blame and think constructively. “We are where we are” is simply facing the reality of the new situation. We cannot turn the clock back – even if we wanted to – so can either complain or start looking at how to make the best of it.

It will be interesting to look back in 12 months and see where we have got to.

No, Malcolm. We do need to blame those responsible, particularly the 37.44% of the electorate who voted for this stupidity and the 47% of voters who voted in the last general election for pro-Brexit parties. To a greater extent, we need to blame the politicians who influenced voters with falsehoods (e.g. that Turkey was joining the EU) and misleadingly dismissed the many warnings in 2016 as “project fear“. Current events demonstrate that it was project truth, not project fear.

Of those who are to blame, the politicians need to undo their mess, and the electorate should demand a referendum, which could be on a number of questions – the type of EU/UK trade deal desired, whether to resume free movement of labour, whether to rejoin the EEA (on which there was never a referendum), whether to rejoin the EU customs union (like non-EU Turkey) or even whether to rejoin the EU.

I see two people have voted this down but without an explanation, which I think is a pity. I disagree with it as well for reasons I have already given but don’t give thumbs downs.

It was not me, but I believe we have a Convo for discussing the website.

I disagree with NFH on this because I think insulting any part of the electorate is unjustified and will do nothing to help unify the country. I can fully understand why people “voted for this stupidity”. They might not have been fully informed and their reasons might have been perverse but when they had the chance they expressed their opinions which, under the rules applicable in our imperfect democracy, prevailed. Our job now, as Malcolm says, is to make the best of it.

Patrick Taylor says:
24 January 2021

I thought insulting the electorate was what the politicians did by knowingly lying. Assisted of course by a media owned by people living offshore and unfriendly governments.

It is an interesting thought that if you are deliberately mislead and end up with a very bad deal you should lump it. Seems the opposite of what natural justice would suggest. BTW I am not clear at all how the suggestion of “lumping it” will ever unify the country anyway. A suggestion that now we see the harsh reality of what this entails and take another vote might actually mean everyone voting has a true understanding of what Brexit really entails.

Anyway, having sympathy for those who have subsequently changed their minds as reality came home to roost must be the foremost emotion. There is the very sad case of a major Brixham fish dealer who has shipped no fish to Europe since Jan 1st and sees the collapse of his firm.

On a US PBS programme in 2018 he is verbatim :

Brixham Market has Britain’s biggest fish sales. Ian Perkes, who exports to Europe, is reaping the benefits of the Brexit vote. Since then, sterling, the British currency, has weakened by 12 percent.

Perkes buys fish in British pounds and sells in euros. But there have been dire warnings that if Britain leaves the tariff-free European Union without a deal in a so-called hard Brexit, fish will end up rotting on the dockside.

Ian Perkes: “A load of old tosh. There is never going to be any fish left on the dock. Every fish here for the last 30 years is sold. Nothing is ever left. There’ll be no fish left rotting on the dock, I can assure you of that. I think business will continue, and we will thrive, which is why I voted out. ”

2021 His view now

I am responsible for the 2nd down vote, for the following reasons……..

One of the great fundamentals truths:

You can please some of the people all of the time
You can please all of the people some of the time
But you can’t please all of the people all of the time

John Lydgate

Playing the blame game is undemocratic and unrepresentative of the people and I would question the political motivation behind any strong inability/refusal to accept the democratic vote of the electorate. Democracy has been fought hard for and we are in danger of losing it if the whims and foibles of an unelected partisan take precedence over the democratic will of the people.

Accepting the democratic vote is one thing. But that should not make us blind to the fact that the Emperor is not wearing any clothes.

Most Emperors (Heads of State) in a true democracy have to remain politically neutral, they have no political powers.

The biggest threat to any democracy is when the Emperor takes on a dualistic role as Head of State and Commander in Chief and Prime Minister, as we have just witnessed in the US.

The US Constitution theoretically ensures a far greater separation of powers between the legislature, the judiciary and the executive than the arrangements in the UK, but, in the hands of a megalomaniac, any system is open to corruption, misuse or authority, and abuse of power.

Patrick Taylor says:
25 January 2021

Beryl – I think you are wrong in your assertion about Heads of State but then you do say in a true democracy. I was curious where there is a true democracy. My favourites for this are Swizerland and Uruguay !

I am assuming the Queen as our Head of State, is unelected and politically neutral. In the US the President is an elected Head of State (Commander in Chief) who maintains a huge amount of influence in all things of a political nature, and therefore cannot be considered as entirely politically neutral.,

Switzerland’ is not a member of the EU or the EEA but it is part of the single market. Its President is not elected by its people but by its parliament and, as his presidency is so short lived (1 year only), as I understand it, there is no Head of State. I can’t comment on Uruguay but I don’t think it’s relevant to the debate.

It wouldn’t surprise me if Mr Trumps next move is similar to that of his friend Mr Farage and a new Trump Party is about to emerge in the US any time soon, when we can expect sparks will fly, or should I say trumpets will blow 🙂


I’ve just bought a 40 x50cm bathroom mirror from Heals. The delivery was supposed to be free for orders over £50 (which this was) but they’ve added a £25 ‘Shipping & Handling’ fee – there wasn’t much information except a banner which referred to ‘fragile’ items. Really unacceptable and it’s going to take 4-5 weeks too.

I suggest you cancel the order if you are not happy with the conditions. I see that some of their products are made to order, which could account for the delay. The additional charge seems rather steep.

Heals’ website lists three delivery costs, one of which is courier, £25 if the product costs less than £500. It states the delivery type is given on the particular product page. When selecting a mirror to buy this is the only delivery option that appears, from what I see.

@malcolm r – Agreed. I was going to post a response along those lines. Heals do sell mirrors costing £100 or more, so £25 is not exactly exorbitant, compared to what we are discussing here. Under each item is a clear link “More Delivery Information” and mirrors are all specialist courier delivery. Free over £500.

Patrick Taylor says:
24 January 2021

Not to particularly stir the pot but to point to information that would be missed by probably 95% of the British population the FT has a major piece on how the negotiations were driven by ideology rather than pragmatic thought. This excerpt:

“Three people actively involved in lobbying ­government on behalf of industry told the Financial Times that chief executives who confronted ministers too overtly found that they were dropped off future conference calls. Shane Brennan, chief executive of the Cold Chain Federation, which ­represents the temperature-controlled haulage and logistics industry, says: “It was pretty clear we had to be complicit in the fallacy that these things could just work, or risk losing any influence we might have.”

This may explain why the UK is where it is currently with trading overseas and particularly the EU.
Solutions will come no doubt but for some businesses it will be far too late.

Overall it seems that belt tightening and not ordering from overseas will be very important rule of thumb for Brits seeking to get value for their money.

Buying from abroad does not help our economy and if something goes wrong with products it could be difficult or impossible to do anything about it. Some of us don’t buy from abroad anyway.

@wavechange – I agree entirely with the truth of your statement, but it doesn’t help to mitigate the reality of the Brexit trade deal with the EU.

What Brexit has changed is the definition of “abroad” and “our economy”. Our economy has shrunk from the European Economic Area to the island of Great Britain. And who knows, maybe Scotland will leave too. I’m sure the “democratic” power of further ill-judged referenda can be turned against England to cause yet more destruction and chaos. Not to mention what will happen in Northern Ireland after so many decades of strife, caused at least in part by economic disadvantage.

Having watched the decline of GB plc over the last 60 years from a manufacturing powerhouse to a service industry (which the EU trade deal has conveniently sidelined), I honestly fear for the future of this country. The French, Dutch, Germans, Spanish, Swedes, Italians and Poles I have met are inventive, intelligent and hard working. I have worked in the EU and went to school in France and Holland, so I think I know what I am talking about.

I honestly believed England was well off economically in the EEA, so I don’t understand this compulsion to literally “bet the farm” on going it alone. Airbus Societas Europaea is one example of what the EU is capable of in challenging the might of American Boeing.

And I say that impartially, as I chose to make England my home many years ago. I still have citizenship options that give me the right to live and work in the EU and North America. So unlike someone unkindly hinted above, my concerns are not about money and personal advantage.

As to “… if something goes wrong with products it could be difficult or impossible to do anything about it. Some of us don’t buy from abroad anyway.” Right again – but that didn’t used to be the case. Brexit has thrown away the legal consumer rights we enjoyed in EU countries. That might not be important to those that never leave these shores. But it was good to know that, even as a tourist, we had some rights and legal remedies in the EU countries we visited to safe food and accommodation, fair pricing for services and purchases that were fit for purpose.

The trade deal was not concluded until the last minute and it’s hardly surprising that it’s not very good for the UK. It’s fairly obvious that being a member of a large organisation has many advantages even though we did not always get our own way as members of the EU. I have a strong interest in environmental issues and hope that the recent ‘temporary’ approval of a neonicotinoid that remains banned for outdoor use in the EU will not be the first example of declining standards. We cannot afford to allow food standards, or water and air quality to decline. I’m very glad that global warming is now in the public eye and will be interested to see whether the UK leads or lags in tackling this and other environmental problems. I look forward to discussing the implications of Brexit on our consumer rights, though that’s one for a different Conversation. I’m certainly interested in your views, Em, not least because of our common interest in scientific issues.

I have guarded enthusiasm for manufacture in the UK because of the need to contain pollution in the confines of our small island. It will have to be done selectively and my first priority is that we become more self-sufficient in food production.

Maybe one day, Scotland will have the opportunity to join the EU. 🙂

Negotiations were concluded at the last minute, as usually happens when two parties set a deadline. However, the details that form part of the negotiation will, I expect, have been ongoing for a long time.

Manufacturing does not automatically imply pollution, any more than food production must involve pollution of our waterways.

We need to eat and as I said it would be useful to be reasonably independent in our food supply. It creates pollution and EU initiatives are in place to help tackle the problem.

You said you voted to remain in the EU, Malcolm, and I assume that everyone involved in this discussion did too. We are where we are, I know, but I think the UK will now have a hard job keeping up, even if there are some benefits in our departure.

Without the pandemic we would probably have a clearer idea of the impact Brexit is having. As it is, various restrictions on travel and shop opening has led to an artificial situation whereby the public is behaving differently and shopping differently. Less is being spent on major purchases and fuel for transport. Reports of lorry queues and import/export problems have yet to translate themselves into tangible differences in public life thanks to lock down in the UK. I expect that as the year progresses Brexit will impinge more upon our every day lives and we will get an idea of what has really changed.
The quiet drive to change our way of life has now got some momentum with street closures, traffic restrictions and tolls for going places. This is likely to be far more of an issue (already in London) than Brexit in the short term. Here councils and government are making changes without thinking through the solutions to the problems these are causing. Solving air pollution and restricting travel is laudable in itself but the public don’t like being pushed around like this.

Patrick Taylor says:
25 January 2021

: ) “Solving air pollution and restricting travel is laudable in itself but the public don’t like being pushed around like this.”

Conjured up a vision of thousands of bath chairs being pushed along the roads ! : ) Solve unemployment and pollution at a stroke!

“Let us know if any of the retailers you shop with have stopped selling to the UK …”

I was going to order some QuickClick® replacement gliders for dining chairs, directly from the German manufacturer Wagner System GmbH before Christmas. But I decided to wait for their January promotional discount.

They have now removed the United Kingdom from their web shop. Assuming I can find the right part, it looks like I will have to order via some eBay scammer, 3rd party Amazon seller, or just throw the leg fittings away. There is no British equivalent.

We sometimes buy collectables & vintage items for personal satisfaction, i.e. we are not traders; these would be from private sellers and sometimes from Europe. From 1st January ebay listings started showing 20% VAT would be added to the purchase amount. We didn’t buy anything from abroad after seeing that, so we don’t know if we’d have been clobbered for extra duties & handling fees on top.

The main point I’d like to make is that this VAT is being collected by ebay on items from private sellers to a private purchaser of personal possessions; no trading or business is involved at either end. This has never been vat-able, and would not be vat-able if the same item were purchased from a private seller within the uk, say via private advert or car boot, and it has always been the case that VAT can only be charged and collected by a business registered for VAT with HMRC, so why ebay insist VAT must be paid through them is beyond sense. We initially believed ebay were in error as they have made errors about tax in the past, but we keep being told it is new HMRC rules post-Brexit; but it still makes no sense to have it applied to 2nd hand personal possessions. If it is indeed a correct HMRC rule then it was not publicised to the public and there was no prior warning; not even the BBC mentioned it until later in January.

“Mastercard to push up fees for UK purchases from EU” https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/business-55796426

I wonder what this will mean for UK consumers.

Here’s a view from independent Apple repair expert Louis Rossmann on why he no longer sells to the UK:-https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ar_7Z-MzPv8

Caution: contains strong language.

BTW: “Mr Clinton” is one of his cats.

His usual ramble. His opening gripe was he doesn’t like international shipping anyway because stuff goes missing. So he seems to ship very little overseas. Why is he so upset?

He does very little business in the UK so he says it is not worthwhile registering with us for VAT and remitting from source – why should he? Fair enough. But then he doesn’t register for all of the many USA state taxes except in NY State – because he doesn’t do much business in those either. So he his hardly representing an exporter’s view. I presume he can just ship stuff on request to the UK and vat would be payable upon entry – and why should purchasers escape vat?

What happens of he wants to send stuff to the EU?

This is perhaps an example of where well-run marketplaces might work for him?

As clarification on interstate sales in the USA, it seems that retailers do not have to register with states other than their own, because the liability for sales tax can be transferred to out of state customers.

Richard madin says:
26 January 2021

I ordered som honey from a small independent producer in France. It was “Returned to sender” as it is now a “Prohibited item”. So angry and disappointed in the UK government for pushing through this dreadful “Deal”

Here’s more from the BBC:-https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/business-55752541

Well. It seems I can post in here, but not in the lobby, where repeated attempts resulted in the system failing even to provide the log-in screen.

I am particularly concerned about the impact of Brexit upon online shoppers in Ireland, which is suffering the same problem. This not only impacts consumers in Ireland unfairly, none of whom voted to leave the EU, but also harms UK exports.

In the years pre-Brexit most international brands re-centralised their distribution for UK & Ireland to their UK head offices or ‘master’ distributors. This worked fine while the UK was in the EU but it seems they were woefully underprepared for the difficulties of Brexit. We would normally have deliveries every day of the week from the UK, now it’s basically nothing. Even very large brands are struggling to figure out the paperwork.

The Irish Times – Taxes, delays and brokerage fees: The grim reality of post-Brexit online shopping

How long will it be before scammers start sending false notifications that the recipient has to pay VAT, duty and a handling fee in order to receive a delivery? A large number of people are expecting a package at any one time, and therefore a significant minority will pay, thereby making it profitable for the scammers.

This sort of payment is the norm for many receiving imported goods; it is not a new issue. It will see an increase of course as the EU countries are now added to that list.

Malcolm, being asked to pay these charges when the consumer expected no such charge is very much a new issue. That is what scammers will exploit, not least in view of the widespread media coverage.

Many have posted, particularly about importing from the USA, that theses charges were “unexpected”. There is so much to keep up with that, for some, that is understandable. I don’t know of a way round that if you choose to make a personal import other than checking on the HMTC website. I think many people have heard of import duty and checking that should lead to charges to be expected.

What would you change to make this better?

A good starting point would be for HMRC to comply with Section 2.3 of its Notice 143 and stop charging VAT and customs duty on imports of under £135, or otherwise update its notices to reflect what is supposed to happen.

Is it right that people could make unlimited imports and avoid the vat that we all have to pay if obtained in the UK? If I’ve understood the situation you describe.

I haven’t fully understood this issue yet but it seems to me that anything bought and sold commercially – i.e. in response to some sort of advertisement or promotion – should bear VAT, and/or duty, otherwise there will be very unfair competition, but person-to-person sales of used and second-hand goods not in the way of trade should be exempt. Perhaps there are fluid crossover points across different types of merchandise where it is difficult to disentangle the two types of selling so there is a price bar below which everything is exempt.

NFH, I think there is a subtle difference between point of sale VAT and import VAT, but the intention is that one or the other but not both should be paid on all imports.


which includes: “For most consignments not exceeding £135 in value, instead of VAT being collected at importation or delivery to the customer, VAT will be accounted for at the point of sale.”

Let’s try a different approach to try and explain import tax and the £135 value threshold.

Suppose I decide it is economic to resurrect the growing of flax in Britain as a raw material for making linen. I start with some seed, land and rainwater. To keep things simple, none of these inputs have VAT on them. But the process of growing and harvesting flax results in a VAT-able product, commodity code 53.01. When I sell it on to another business or consumer, I need to add 20% VAT to my selling price and remit the VAT to HMRC.

But lets say I decide to keep the flax – no VAT payable yet – spin it into linen thread, and weave that into tea towels. We now have commodity code in our warehouse, also VAT-able. Of course, my processing costs are now much higher, so my selling price needs to reflect that, and so does the VAT at 20% I will have to remit to HMRC when I sell it.

I find the process of making linen fabric is profitable, but the cost of growing my own flax is too high and so I investigate sourcing my flax elsewhere.

A GB grower sells me some flax (commodity code 53.01 again) to try, on which I am now charged 20% VAT, which is remitted to HMRC by the grower, exactly as it would have been if I has sold the raw flax myself on to another business. I now resume the manufacturing process from that point. My VAT of 20% is only due on the value add – the difference between the cost of the flax (my inputs) and the finished article (my outputs).

A non-GB grower sends me a free sample of their flax worth less than £39. As it is a gift, no import VAT is due, but if I did go on to make tea towels and sell them, then VAT of 20% is still due on the entire sale value, just as though I had grown the flax myself, because I have no proof of input VAT being paid that I can offset.

Yet another sends me a small order of flax worth less than £135. As a VAT-registered business, I do not need to immediately pay VAT on import, because I will still need to charge VAT of 20% on the entire value of the finished product, and remit that to HMRC when I finally sell it. The small amount of VAT of £27 or less, technically due on all flax imports, is thus deferred but still owed. Again, there is no proof of input VAT that I can use to offset my outputs.

Finally, I place a large order with another non-GB grower. As the consignment is worth more than £135, *Import* VAT of 20% has to be paid, before I can get my hands on the flax and spin it into linen. This puts both me and HMRC in the same financial position as if I had bought the flax from the GB grower. It also reduces the scale of potential VAT fraud, as at least some of the VAT has been captured at a point which is easy to monitor – the border.

As a non VAT-registered purchaser of linen tea towels, you have no opportunity to avoid paying VAT of 20% on the finished product, no matter how far along the process the raw material or finished product enters Britain, because the final sale is always business to consumer. Of course, if someone does happen to send you a gift of flax or tea towels worth less than £39, then no VAT is payable.

Patrick Taylor says:
27 January 2021

Thanks em. Liked it.

My only concern was that covering VAT that logically and simply that perhaps it would be nice to have the complete set — that is tariffs ? and collection costs. I assume tariffs are paid by the buyer in the UK but I know nothing for fact.

Patrick Taylor says:
26 January 2021

Reading the Trustpilot reviews for the gaming PC seller AWD-IT [4.8 stars] I see that there are complaints from France from people who ordered well-before Brexit and now to receive their machines they are having to pay additional tax. In one case 209€.

The suggestion is to buy gaming rigs from Germany !

Patrick Taylor says:
27 January 2021

Here is clarity indeed ona German site bestware

“INFORMATION FOR UK SHOPPERS: Please note that from 1.1.2021 we will not charge VAT on all orders with a delivery address in the UK (excluding Northern Ireland). Delivery will be net and the recipient will have to pay 20 % UK VAT and £17 customs processing charge on delivery.”

Seems that people purchasing across the break-up period have been caught for two VATs and the question is which Govt is going to cough up as a refund . A fine mess it is.

My opinion is the UK govt should do so if proof is provided VAT was paid before Jan 1st by the provider.

For deliveries to Northern Ireland, we will continue to collect 20% VAT and no further charges will apply on delivery.