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"Sorry not buying from the US again" Topic

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2,635 hits since 11 Nov 2009
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doublesix6611 Nov 2009 4:17 a.m. PST

This is a bit of a rant not of USA retailers but our our postal service/inland revenue.

Just received an card through the post to collect my parcel from the Post Office due to customs charges that need paying on the item I'd ordered.

I got there and it the Parcel was from Rebel Minis and the order was for approx £20.00 GBP inc shipping whats the customs charge you say, £11.15, as usual nearly all of it was customs RM £8.00 GBP handling I wouldn't mind but they didn't even bother to open the bloody parcel.

So instead of the minis working out at 30p each they now come to 46p each.

So no more orders unless they are tiny which is a pity for the Likes of Rebel Minis etc as they supply such a great service.

I've not even bothered to check them out yet I'm so peeved and I was in an good mood this morning (got the dentist tomorrow just to add to the fun).

Sorry Rant over

Personal logo Doms Decals Sponsoring Member of TMP Inactive Member11 Nov 2009 4:30 a.m. PST

At risk of sounding patronising, it's a good plan to read the rules before you order from outside of the EU…. The threshhold for import VAT is £18, so make sure that (a) your order value is just under that, and (b) you instruct the seller "please ensure you use the correct value of £xx.xx" to make sure they put the value excluding postage on the customs form, not the total cost of the order.

(If you're *very* close to the £18.00 GBP mark, this also prevents you getting stiffed by currency fluctuations – a $30 USD order might be £17.90 GBP when you order it but £18.05 GBP when it reaches customs – if so you *really* want the form to say £17.90 GBP not $30.00….)


Personal logo Doms Decals Sponsoring Member of TMP Inactive Member11 Nov 2009 4:31 a.m. PST

(Alternatively just send a whacking great order; you'll be paying 15% VAT, but the £8.00 GBP handling charge becomes an irrelevance in percentage terms – a £20.00 GBP order is pretty much as expensive as you can possibly make it unfortunately….)

Privateer4hire Inactive Member11 Nov 2009 5:04 a.m. PST

I can sympathize.

While not a customs issue, many of the mfr's I would like to order from charge a large percentage for shipping to US. Some easily charge 20% or more. If I'm buying $100 USD worth of stuff, I don't want to pay $20-$40 on top of that esp. if the stuff is relatively lightweight.

14th Brooklyn Inactive Member11 Nov 2009 5:05 a.m. PST

To add insult to injury… you can also blame the UK government for retaining the Pound. By EU law the treshhold is higher for those countries that adopted the Euro!

Otherwise I can only second Dom.



Cerdic Supporting Member of TMP11 Nov 2009 5:31 a.m. PST

Not convinced about the 'retaining the pound' bit. Deleted by Moderator

Deleted by Moderator!

Vicshere Inactive Member11 Nov 2009 5:35 a.m. PST


We have Deleted by Moderator

Personal logo Doms Decals Sponsoring Member of TMP Inactive Member11 Nov 2009 5:36 a.m. PST

Oddly enough, no he can't Cerdic– the VAT threshhold is set by EU agreement – the Pound and Euro limits were basically equal when the agreement was signed, but currency fluctuation has made them different, not any government policy. I *think* they reset every year or two to maintain some sort of parity, but can't be arsed to check…. (Besides which, the difference is peanuts – 22 Euros versus £18.00 GBP currently.)

streetline Inactive Member11 Nov 2009 5:44 a.m. PST

And this is why US retailers should consider an EU agent. I know it's not their problem, but it's potentially the customers problem….

Personal logo Doms Decals Sponsoring Member of TMP Inactive Member11 Nov 2009 5:46 a.m. PST

Yes and no, as the EU agent will definitely have to pay the VAT (and therefore pass that on in a higher ticket price), making them likely more expensive on small orders, albeit avoiding the customer having to contend with the £8.00 GBP handling on larger ones.

Tarleton Inactive Member11 Nov 2009 5:52 a.m. PST

If you look you'll see that the handling charge is charged by the post office. They take the £8.00 GBP

Nearly all imported parcels are now dealt with by the post office who charge you for the priviledge!

Parmenion Inactive Member11 Nov 2009 6:24 a.m. PST

Be grateful it wasn't handled by Parcelforce, their handling charge for customs fees is £13.50.

Personal logo Doms Decals Sponsoring Member of TMP Inactive Member11 Nov 2009 6:29 a.m. PST

Yep, and a lot of courier firms are worse….

Baggy Sausage Inactive Member11 Nov 2009 6:38 a.m. PST

That's OK, more for us. Now you know how we feel ordering the other way.

Personal logo 20thmaine Supporting Member of TMP11 Nov 2009 6:41 a.m. PST

Something to look forward to then when this lot, or the next lot (isn't choice great ?), make the Royal Post Office into just another private courier firm….

ethasgonehome Inactive Member11 Nov 2009 6:59 a.m. PST

The threshhold for import VAT is £18, so make sure that (a) your order value is just under that

Actually, VAT is charged on the total of the contents' value plus the shipping costs. So you need to make sure the total order value (figures plus delivery) is under £18, and that the customs declaration form shows only the value of the figures – whoever calculates the duty will use the printed postage on a package and the declared value and description of the contents to work out any taxes that are due.

VAT on the delivery charge is based on the VAT rate applicable to the contents. VAT is therefore levied on the total of delivery and contents to avoid people unduly weighting the value of a package towards the postage to escape paying duty.


Personal logo Doms Decals Sponsoring Member of TMP Inactive Member11 Nov 2009 7:12 a.m. PST

No – VAT is charged on the shipping *if* it's charged at all, but the threshold value to decide if *any* VAT is due is based on the contents alone ("For example, goods purchased over the internet with an **intrinsic** value not exceeding £18…." – Quote from HMRC website, my asterisks, obviously.) This has also been confirmed previously by a customs officer.

So £17.99 GBP worth of goods is VAT-free, even if the shipping is £100, but £18.01 GBP worth of goods with £100.00 GBP shipping would be charged VAT on £118.01….

doublesix6611 Nov 2009 8:03 a.m. PST

Okay I've calmed down a bit now ;)

I understood the £18/£36 limit but what gets me is that you are charged for the full amount not just the amount over £18.00 GBP Its the £8.00 GBP charge for handling that really gets me as I have to go and collect it from the sorting office as well as pay.

I will order from the US again but next time I order from Rebel I'll just order the Sahadeen or the scourge on there own rather than together its more in shipping but much less than the Handling charge.

Chortle Fezian Inactive Member11 Nov 2009 8:15 a.m. PST

The setup in the UK is very annoying. Other countries have a better time. There is zero import duty and taxes in the US, which is pretty incredible. Great for free trade!

Personal logo Doms Decals Sponsoring Member of TMP Inactive Member11 Nov 2009 8:29 a.m. PST

Unless they decide to make an exception – hello Chinese tyres….

ethasgonehome Inactive Member11 Nov 2009 8:31 a.m. PST


I guess that's the trouble with all the info on the HMRC site about the six methods of determining transaction value, which include delivery as a consideration but omit a clear statement in those methods about the intrinsic value at which vat initially becomes payable (which is on the separate page you quoted). :-) You'd think they'd put the lot together…

Also, you'd have a hard job convincing a customs officer that an item with a declared intrinsic value of £17.99 GBP cost 100 quid to ship – they might look closely at that one because it would look like tax avoidance.

Personal logo Doms Decals Sponsoring Member of TMP Inactive Member11 Nov 2009 8:39 a.m. PST

Except that (a) that was just an extreme example to illustrate a point, and (b) as you stated yourself, you don't declare the shipping cost at all – they read it off of the postage label…. Of course if you really *did* have a parcel that cost £17.99 GBP and £100.00 GBP postage on it, that'd be a nailed-on certainty for inspection.

ethasgonehome Inactive Member11 Nov 2009 9:03 a.m. PST

So don't use extreme examples to make a point. Use believable ones. :-)

The lesson is that if a customs officer believes the intrinsic value is more than £18, it doesn't matter what's on the customs declaration. Even if it's accurate. :-)

aecurtis Fezian Inactive Member11 Nov 2009 9:20 a.m. PST

I believe Dom's point is that the declared value is a trigger for further examination. Don't trip the trigger with the declared value, and you'll avoid the compounding of charges.

We've been over this quite often in the last three or four years. I have used Dom's guidance frequently when shipping to the UK, and I don't believe any of the recipients have had any problems.


Personal logo Doms Decals Sponsoring Member of TMP Inactive Member11 Nov 2009 9:36 a.m. PST

The lesson is that if a customs officer believes the intrinsic value is more than £18, it doesn't matter what's on the customs declaration. Even if it's accurate. :-)

- Except that the customs officer must have grounds for that belief – as long as the value really *is* under £18.00 GBP all's well…. If it isn't you deserve whatever you get, returning me to my point of "keep your order under £18.00 GBP if you want to avoid getting stung"….

Stuart MM Inactive Member11 Nov 2009 10:07 a.m. PST

Hello there

I've commented on this in an old post, I'm a Customs Officer in the UK.

OK lets confirm the basics;

Import VAT (currently 15%) will be due where the intrinsic value of a package is less than £18, by intrinsic this means without postage and packaging, insurance and so on, so just the goods themselves.

Import duty could also be due on large orders but for the most part you won't really see it as it is waived where the amount of duty is calculated to be less than £7.00 GBP

Where an package has an intrinsic value in excess of £18.00 GBP then import VAT will be due based on what is known as the CIF value, tht is; total cost inclusive of insurance and freight, i.e. VAT based on the total value of the package not just what's inside.

A further note on VAT;

The above calculation for VAT is based on the shipping to the EC border (usually Heathrow) and therefore you will also be chrged VAT on the service the courier company or Royal Mail does in declaring your package to HMRC on your behalf, this will be included in their service charge to you and is often listed seperately prompting many to consider that they have been charged twice for VAT.

The Gift allowance.

The above £18.00 GBP is doubled to £36.00 GBP where the goods are sent by one private individual to another as a gift, family members, friends and so on. Asking the sender to mark the goods as a gift is not reccomended, they're easy to spot.
Furthermore if we suspect an item has been undervalued whether a gift or not we'll value it for you.

Clearence Fees

You can get around the clearence fee (which I must add is a charge by the carrier and not HMRC) by declaring the goods yourself and collecting them yourself (that means going to Heathrow). Assuming you got the declaration right the whole process would take……about 2-5 days at the very best. It's generally not worth it unless you've made a large order, live near Heathrow or are exceptionally principled – it's a lot of effort to save £8.00 GBP


There are 6 valuation methods as described in public notice 252 but for over 90% of imports valuation method 1 is used. Valuation is not even a consideration unless in the first instance you are declaring goods yourself and even then only where there are extenuating circumstances.

I hope that helps, it can be a bit of a minefield but it's always easier for HMRC to help you before you do something. If you are unsure about anything at all ring us preferably before you wish to send / order something, contact details are on the HMRC website.

Or you can ask me!!!! but i'm not on here every day.

ethasgonehome Inactive Member11 Nov 2009 10:38 a.m. PST

Or you can ask me!!!! but i'm not on here every day.

As Dom appears to have a wasp up his bum today, perhaps I'd better. :-)

Personal logo Doms Decals Sponsoring Member of TMP Inactive Member11 Nov 2009 10:39 a.m. PST

Fair enough, I'll Bleeped text off then.

TheDreadnought Inactive Member11 Nov 2009 10:54 a.m. PST

Yeah, you guys in the UK really get screwed on taxes. Deleted by Moderator

Maybe we could secede and form our own country of gamers! When the government sends in the military to arrest us all. . . just think about how many tanks we could deploy along the border! The fact that they'd be in 15mm or 30mm scale would just make them that much harder to hit!

Personal logo Bobgnar Supporting Member of TMP11 Nov 2009 10:54 a.m. PST

FOllowing on Vicshere comment, Euro community folks should just wait until the dollar tanks and you can get US goods dirt cheap. I expect in 6 months, I will not be getting anything from UK. Stock up now, or wait until after 2012 (if there are elections then)

aecurtis Fezian Inactive Member11 Nov 2009 11:05 a.m. PST

"Import VAT (currently 15%) will be due where the intrinsic value of a package is less than £18…"

Less than?


Will you guys please knock off the political crap?


Phil1965 Inactive Member11 Nov 2009 11:32 a.m. PST

How does sending figures off to be painted factor into this, say I send £30.00 GBP worth of figures to be painted at £1.00 GBP each to Sri Lanka, am I charged on the £30.00 GBP or a £60.00 GBP value?

Top Gun Ace Inactive Member11 Nov 2009 11:33 a.m. PST

Sounds like you might want to have a little Tea Party to protest the high taxation……

Worked out reasonably well for us.

Given the huge climb in tax rates recently, they are seeing a resurgence in popularity again here.

Stuart MM Inactive Member11 Nov 2009 1:27 p.m. PST


So long as the goods are properly declared for export and re-import tax would be calculated on the processing costs plus the cost of the return shipping to the UK.

This procedure is known as Outward Processing Relief (OPR) and you'll find more information in public notice 235;


The key is to ensure you retain evidence of export and that the goods are properly declared, in fact, that is what it hinges upon so make sure you get a decent courier and you brief the painter abroad as to how they should fill in their postal declaration to return the goods to you.

The publication above is by no means easy reading so if you do want to consider this i reccommend contacting HMRC's advice service.

Ron W DuBray Inactive Member11 Nov 2009 3:13 p.m. PST

you think your VAT is bad, just wait till Deleted by Moderator

RudyNelson11 Nov 2009 5:25 p.m. PST

I feel the same about Uk and Europe buying. So much postage charge and tariffs. I used to try to import UK/European products (i=Italy-Spain) but the shipping increased the cost that I paid per casting from 35% minimum to 50% with some companies. That type of increase is hard to pass on to customers who do not understand import difficulties and expect the price to be the same as advertised in Europe. Just no way.

Tacitus11 Nov 2009 7:23 p.m. PST

Don't forget to carry the 1

Stuart MM Inactive Member12 Nov 2009 12:44 a.m. PST


it's happened before……


Stuart MM Inactive Member12 Nov 2009 12:47 a.m. PST

Phew it's all got a bit political! I think it will be a long stretch of the imagination before lead soldiers are specifically targeted so i'd say we're pretty safe.

raylev312 Nov 2009 7:20 a.m. PST

Heck…quit the EU and join NAFTA with your American and Canadian brothers! The EU is just a Germany/France dominated political entity. What they couldn't get thru conquest….. :-)

Pierce Inverarity Inactive Member12 Nov 2009 9:54 a.m. PST

Stuart, a question.

Let's assume, for argument's sake, that there's this clueless fool. He lives in the US and sent a bunch of unpainted minis to a painting service in the UK.

On the customs declaration he ticked the "Other" box and declared the value to be US$100. He described the minis as "pewter miniatures, to be returned after painting."

Did the fool do the right thing, what if any charges might he be incurring, and what should he do next time around?

Stuart MM Inactive Member12 Nov 2009 10:47 a.m. PST


Lead and plastic figures attract import duty of 4.7% and import VAT currently at 15% (rising to 17.5% on 01/01/10)

If you send $100 USD (£60)worth of figures the import duty due would be £2.83 GBP which would be waived as it is less than £7.00 GBP and the import VAT would be £9.02, in fact, the import VAT would be higher than that as it would be based on the total cost inclusive of shipping but that figure gives you a rough idea. You would then have the clearence fee levied by the carrier, these vary.

If the goods are declared as per your example the carrier may contact the recipient to query the status of the import and then enter the goods to simplified IPR (Inward Processing Relief) this allows the taxes to be either suspended or paid and refunded on the proviso that the goods will be re-exported after process.

Note the 'may'. Postal carriers clear tens of thousands of packages a day and it's easy for this not be picked up and the goods simply cleared as a normal import attracting the above duties.

The correct method to follow would be for the UK recipient to arrange the carriage and collection this side so that the courier he has employed knows from the start that these goods are IPR goods, therefore negating the need for you to state anything on your declaration as it's already in hand. there's no charge for this from HMRC although most couriers may charge a fee for this service.

The important thing with IPR is to ensure that the goods are declared properly for import and crucially, re-export.

Ultimately you'll need to weigh up the potential duties payable against the cost a courier would charge to carry out the above procedure.

Hope that helps and sorry it's not straightforward !


Pierce Inverarity Inactive Member12 Nov 2009 12:13 p.m. PST

That does help, thanks. It's complicated but not as I thought dramatic. I just want the little dudes to get there and back again, without sitting at Heathrow for six weeks on route.

Stuart MM Inactive Member12 Nov 2009 12:30 p.m. PST


No probs

IPR is generally geared for large commercial importers and assumes that they will make the import entry themself.

Doing it the way I mentioned above will minimise any mishaps, you and the recipient could come to an arrangement on the courier costs to make it more worthwhile.


Personal logo Cardinal Hawkwood Supporting Member of TMP12 Nov 2009 4:32 p.m. PST

Australia is magic, a study showed that is wasn't cost effective in collecting the duty if it was less tha a 1,000 AUD in value

Covert Walrus02 May 2010 9:25 p.m. PST

That is very interesting Cardinal . . . I got rejected from bidding on an eBay item for the reason of hassles over customs, and yet our government doesn't apply it's GST sales tax to any items ordered through international sources by private citizens either. Despite the fact that it applies it to EVERY OTHER kind of goods in this country, at EVERY level ( Importer, ssupplier, and retailer all add 12.5% to the cost at each stage ).

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