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Buyer beware of unexpected Brexit taxes on your doorstep – Brian Wilson

Our friendly local parcel service appeared the other day with a mail-ordered item from Italy – and apologetic request for £43.52 by cash or cheque.

Brian Wilson does not recall the VAT implications of Brexit being advertised on Boris Johnson’s bus (Picture: Stefan Rousseau/PA)
Brian Wilson does not recall the VAT implications of Brexit being advertised on Boris Johnson’s bus (Picture: Stefan Rousseau/PA)

Was it another tax on island living…? Not this time. Investigation revealed the culprit as Brexit. Around the UK, goods bought online are arriving with similar demands – with most being sent straight back.

The breakdown was £33.52 in UK VAT and a £10 “brokerage charge” imposed by UPS, the principal carrier. I do not recall this being advertised on Boris Johnson’s bus, so I asked the Treasury what was going on.

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It replied: “VAT has always been due on goods from the EU. However the way it is accounted for has now changed. Depending on their price and origin, customs duties and tariffs may be due on goods imported from the EU as they would be if they were being imported from non-EU countries.”

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Well, whatever was “always the case”, the certainty is that a, consumers thought they knew the total price when they ordered online and b, delivery firms were not expected to act as cash collectors for HMRC or outfits like UPS.

I suppose true Brexit believers will say it is a jolly good thing if British consumers buy British instead of from pesky Italians. Unfortunately, that’s likely to cut both ways.

How many packages from our own small companies which depend on mail order are now being turned away by outraged customers in France, Germany and Italy? Does anyone care?

Unless and until sense prevails, the only advice I can offer is “caveat emptor”. Buyer beware. Or you’ll end up with a bill on your doorstep.

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