This is how you avoid new import duties and delivery fees when buying from the EU (2023)

Like many others in lockdown, Victoria Farrar decided to treat herself to an online sale.

The 34-year-old actress paid £250 for a gown by French luxury brand Sundress on Jan. 12.

But she was shocked by the order for an extra £99 in tax when it was handed over days later.

Brexit invoices: Unexpected customs fees, administrative fees and VAT invoices are wreaking havoc among shoppers ordering from EU stores

When she asked what would happen if she declined the item, she was told she would be refunded the cost of the dress, less the £99 tax. Now she's stuck with an expensive dress that's too big.


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Miss Farrar is one of tens of thousands of internet shoppers who have faced shocking accusations from EU retailers since Brexit.

Unexpected customs fees, administrative fees and VAT bills are wreaking havoc among customers, while some companies have suspended shipments until issues are resolved.

Here Money Mail explains the additional costs and how to avoid them. . .

Spain in progress!

Stephen Burnby ordered cases of wine and spirits direct from Spain

(Video) A step by step guide to import goods into the UK | Customs-Declarations.UK

For many years, Stephen Burnby and his wife enjoyed cases of European wines and spirits delivered at bargain prices.

Stephen, from Brighouse, West Yorkshire, ordered £15 bottles of cognac from online supermarket Your Spanish Corner at retail price in Spain.

But last week the pensioner was disappointed to discover that the company's deliveries to the UK had stopped.

Meanwhile, his other favorite retailer, Portugal Vineyards, has told customers that one of its best-selling wines in the UK, the Vidigal Porta 6, which cost around £4.70 before Brexit, would now cost between £7 and £7. 8.

Stephen, 70, says he will now think twice about buying from them as the deals are no better than at the local supermarket.

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Has VAT changed?

New rules, introduced on 1 January, are changing the way VAT is charged on purchases in the EU.

For customers over £135, tax is now charged at the point of delivery rather than the point of sale.

Previously, VAT would have been included in the online checkout, but now customers are being asked to pay it at their door – which can be an unexpected burden.

For goods under £135, the changes will affect EU retailers with UK stores worth less than £70,000 a year. These businesses used to pay VAT in their own country, but now they have to register for VAT in the UK.

However, some companies are still unaware of the rules and buyers have reported being asked to pay VAT twice, at the point of sale and on delivery. HMRC insists these claims were made by the post office in error.

Online marketplaces like Amazon or eBay deal with VAT.

The government says the new rules will ensure that EU and non-EU products are "treated equally" and that UK businesses "are not disadvantaged by competition from VAT-free imports".

VAT change: For purchases over £135, VAT is now charged at the point of delivery rather than the point of sale

And the tariffs?

Before Brexit, goods could move freely between the UK and the EU without import duties.

(Video) How To Calculate VAT and Customs Duty When Importing From China | Amazon FBA UK

Goods costing more than £135 can now incur customs duties, which can range from 0% to 25%.

And any extras?

Post offices began charging buyers additional "handling fees" to cover administrative costs and additional customs checks.

For example, Royal Mail charges an £8 fee. DHL charges 2.5% of the amount paid for customs clearance with a minimum charge of £11.

Your rights at a glance

VonFRENCH ADAM, specialist in consumer rights in what?

  • Online retailers must make it clear whether they are based in the EU or import their products from the EU and whether they charge VAT as part of the price. You may need to consult the T&Cs to be sure or contact them to double check.
  • You can also check your receipt to see if it shows the price of the item plus VAT.
  • If you can prove that you have already paid VAT and the delivery company asks you to pay again, you can refuse the order. You should not be asked to pay VAT twice.
  • You are subject to the Consumer Contracts Regulations and should be entitled to a refund if you purchased from a UK or EU retailer, even if you refuse to receive the package.

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Mastercard is also charging a fivefold increase in fees for Britons who shop at EU retailers with a credit or debit card.

It is likely to increase the price of anything purchased online, from a pair of Italian shoes to vacation expenses such as hotel stays or car rentals and theme park tickets.

The fee is imposed on EU companies and it is up to them to decide how to pass it on. Interchange fees are capped by the EU in member states, but this protection no longer applies to the UK.

this is fair

Consumer experts caution that percentage processing fees rarely reflect overheads. Credit card fees can be excessive, but banks are expected to pocket the increase.

Shoppers are also upset that companies are not upfront about new fees that make purchases unaffordable.

Miss Farrar says: “European companies really need to look after their British customers after Brexit.

"You need to be transparent about the additional costs and not try to hide them in the fine print or the backlash will hurt any future business and hurt the lowly consumer."

and the alcohol

Retailers have warned that a £12 bottle of wine bought in the EU can cost up to £1.50 more.

How have companies reacted?

Some EU specialist retailers have said they will no longer ship to the UK as a result of the changes.

Experts believe the situation will improve in the coming months as more EU retailers register with the tax office.

(Video) Import Duty Fees When Buy Luxury Watches Overseas

Do scammers make money?

ISPs and cell phone providers are warning customers that scammers will take advantage of the confusion. Some buyers have already reported questionable SMS and emails about customs fees.

(Video) VAT Across Europe

Some links in this article may be affiliate links. If you click on it, we may earn a small commission. This helps us fund This Is Money and keep it free to use. We don't write articles to promote products. We do not allow a business relationship to compromise our editorial independence.


Do I have to pay duty on items shipped from Europe to us? ›

What is customs duty? You'll need to pay customs duty (or import tax) on any goods you move across the US border from other countries, though goods from some countries are exempt due to different international trade agreements. The United States Customs and Border Protection (CBP) enforces customs rules.

How do I avoid duty charges when shipping? ›

There is no way to avoid customs duties, customs officers will check all items entering the country and charges will be applied where necessary. If you simply put 'gift' on the customs invoice, this does not mean it will not attract duty as they will still check the value of what is in the box.

How do I waive import duty? ›

Application for an exemption of duty/tax for sub-contract work done overseas can be submitted directly to SMIDEC with a copy sent to the Tax Analysis Division, Ministry of Finance. Applications will be considered by the Ministry after an assessment from SMIDEC.

Do I need to pay VAT on imports from EU to US? ›

For imports, VAT is based on the customs value of your goods. The United States does not currently charge a VAT tax on imports, but you will likely have to pay this tax if you import goods into the European Union.

How much customs duty will I pay from Europe to USA? ›

Duty tax rates are between 0 to 37.5% with the typical rate being 5.63%.

How much can I import to USA without paying duty? ›

Up to $1,600 in goods will be duty-free under your personal exemption if the merchandise is from an IP. Up to $800 in goods will be duty-free if it is from a CBI or Andean country. Any additional amount, up to $1,000, in goods will be dutiable at a flat rate (3%).

Is there a way to avoid import fees? ›

What methods are used to avoid customs fees? Customs duty and tax is based upon the total value of the goods. Declaring a value lower than the true cost of goods value could therefore reduce the customs fees. Some customs authorities have duty and tax reliefs for items sent as gifts.

What happens if I don't pay my import duty? ›

If you don't pay customs charges, parcels will be kept by customs. The parcel(s) will typically be stored in a warehouse that will hold the goods for 30 days.

What items are exempt from import duty? ›

If you receive an imported gift by mail that is worth CAN$60 or less, you will not have to pay duty and/or tax on it.
Items that do not qualify for the CAN$60 gift exemption include the following:
  • tobacco;
  • alcoholic beverages;
  • advertising material; and.
  • items sent by a business.
Aug 13, 2021

Do all international packages go through US customs? ›

The short answer is yes. Customs checks all inbound international packages and mail. During this process, a customs officer in the country you're shipping to will review the package to make sure it meets the country's laws, regulations and policies. They will also determine what duties and taxes might be due.

Do I need to pay money if receiving a parcel from abroad? ›

When your goods arrive at the border, the applicable customs duties, fees or taxes will be assessed and must be paid before your goods can be delivered.

Do you declare duty-free items I to USA? ›

You must declare all items you purchased and are carrying with you upon return to the United States, including gifts for other people as well as items you bought for yourself. This includes duty-free items purchased in foreign countries, as well as any merchandise you intend to sell or use in your business.


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