I bought a rucksack from online marketplace Wardow as a present for my husband. It came to £217 and I was surprised to be notified that the package was being held by customs and I needed to pay a release fee of £55.29.
I did not realise the goods would be dispatched from Germany because all the prices were in pounds sterling. The £55.29 invoice from Parcelforce is for £10.88 customs duty, £32.41 import VAT and £12 clearance fee.
Wardow said there should not have been any charges because they are VAT registered in the UK. The £217 total included £36.17 tax.
It advised me to pay the fee and reclaim it from HMRC by filling in a BOR286 form. It also gave a 10% refund as a goodwill gesture.
I paid the fees and submitted the form, but HMRC says that as the value of my purchase was more than £135, the charges were correct. Who is right?
Before Brexit, UK consumers were free to buy items from anywhere in the EU without incurring import duties and other charges. Now, for online orders worth £135 or less, VAT is included in the price by the retailer and then paid to HMRC.
Above this, no VAT should be charged by the retailer. You should expect to pay the delivery company which will include customs duty as well as its admin charge.
The information you were given by Wardow was not accurate given the value of your order. Its website says “all orders with shipping in the UK are dispatched taxed without exception” and there may be “additional customs fees”. It did not respond to a request for a comment.
You got some money back from the company but would not have made the purchase had you realised the extra costs.
HMRC urges shoppers to “check the guidance to ensure they fully understand when and how charges are incurred”.
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