I got a customs import and VAT bill for a delivery of parts from Europe. Is this right?

I purchased some window seals for my historic Mercedes recently. I was shocked to receive a customs import and VAT bill before delivery could be made. It's roughly 30% of the value of the window seals - £170 for the parts plus the duty of £47. I thought car parts were exempt if imported from Europe.

Asked on 10 February 2021 by Kurt

Answered by Georgia Petrie
Nope, those charges sound about right. This is a growing issue and will continue as long as the UK is not in the EU because it's Brexit-related. Before Brexit, UK consumers were free to buy items from anywhere in the EU without incurring import duties and other charges, but that changed on 1 January 2021. Online orders up to £135 are now supposed to have the UK’s VAT rate added at the point of sale by the EU retailer, which has to have registered with HM Revenue & Customs. Lots of smaller EU-based retailers have decided that the paperwork of collecting UK VAT is not worth the hassle and as a result will no longer supply UK consumers.

Other EU retailers appear to have carried on as before and have been sending out orders without having deducted the VAT. This has led to UK couriers turning up on doorsteps asking the buyer to pay the VAT owed. The rate will be up to 20%.

Items costing less than £135 bought through big online retailers - like Amazon - will have had UK VAT added and therefore can be delivered in the UK with no extra charges. For orders above £135, it's more complicated as they also attract import duty, which can range from 0% to 25% of the item’s value depending on its declared value. There are thousands of different rates of duty and the system is difficult to navigate. The couriers also add their admin charge to clear customs.
Tags: brexit
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