Summer is over, which means Christmas is round the corner. But if your Christmas shopping plans involve importing the best Europe has to offer, think again.
Shoppers have been warned against getting caught out by unexpected post-Brexit charges when buying gifts from the EU.
Changes introduced on 1 January mean some UK consumers buying presents for family and friends from EU businesses may need to pay customs charges when their goods are delivered. Before Brexit, Brits were free to buy items from anywhere in the EU without incurring import duties and other charges
Stocking fillers and other small items will not attract charges but HM Revenue and Customs warned that people buying excise goods – tobacco or alcohol – or ordering luxury items or presents in consignments worth more than £135 will be affected.
VAT will still apply on purchases made in consignments worth less than £135 but should be charged by the seller at the point of sale. Anyone buying a more expensive product from abroad may need to pay import VAT, customs duty and excise duty when they receive their order.
Go to Paris! It’s cheaper
Let’s say you wanted to be your better half a £250 coat from a store in Paris. The coat could attract a 12 per cent customs duty – that’s £30. VAT at 20 per cent is then applied to the new total of £280 – that’s a VAT bill of £56.
Once the courier has added a £11.50 admin fee, you’ve had £97.50 added to the cost of your lovely French coat – that’s nearly 40 per cent of its original price.
Guess what? It’s actually cheaper to hop on the Eurostar and visit the Parisian store yourself.
If, for example, you were to jump on the train on 14 December – classic Christmas shopping time – it would currently cost you £89 for a day return. Cheaper, by £8.50, than waiting for your coat to be delivered to you in the UK.
Read the fine print
Consumer rights groups are warning Brits to be vigilant as they begin their Christmas shopping sprees.
Which? consumer rights spokesman Adam French said: “Which? research found that many shoppers experienced issues when ordering online from the EU after the end of the transition period – with some facing additional delivery or handling fees of up to £300.
“We have previously called on the Government to be more upfront about the new delivery charges people will face when shopping from the EU so we are pleased to see HMRC take this advice on board in time for the festive season. Businesses should also be clear about any extra charges so people can continue to shop across borders without any unnecessary complications.
“If you’re ordering presents from the EU or abroad this Christmas, make sure to check if you will be charged extra fees and read the fine print on the return policies.”
MoneySavingExpert has an invaluable rundown of the permutations and charges which now face British shoppers eager to sample the best the continent has to offer.