HMRC warns import taxes could make your Christmas more costly
Christmas shoppers hoping for a bargain have been warned by HM Revenue & Customs (HMRC) about the extra tax costs of buying presents from countries outside the European Union.
Items bought from certain countries require extra fees, such as customs duty or import VAT, and there are also limits of the amount you can order or bring back into the UK.
Import tax and VAT
Buying Christmas presents online is quick, easy and will often save you money compared to getting gifts on the high street. But if you're buying these from a non-EU country and you don't pay the necessary charges, the goods could be seized at customs.
HMRC has sent out an alert to warn people of the extra costs involved and the risks of buying items which don't comply with UK laws.
It says shoppers should be especially aware of retailers advertising designer goods at low prices or those which offer to undervalue items to avoid VAT fees.
Items bought over the internet from outside the EU which cost more than £15 will require a VAT payment. This includes presents bought from the Channel Islands, such as DVDs or CDs from Play.com, after the law was changed in April last year.
Import VAT needs to be paid on gifts sent from outside the EU if they are worth more than £36. If the price of a single item is more than £135 customs duty may also be required.
If you arrive in the country by sea or air transport from a non-EU country you can bring in items for personal use to the value of £390, excluding alcohol and tobacco.
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Alcohol and tobacco
There are special rules set up for buying alcohol and tobacco and you'll always need to pay excise duty when shopping online.
If you're planning a booze cruise to fill up for Christmas, there are no formal limits on the amount you bring back if you're buying it from an EU country, as long as the items are for your own use. However, if you bring in more than a certain amount, such as 110 litres of beer and 90 litres of wine, you may be asked some questions at customs.
Countries outside of the EU have tighter rules. You're only allowed to bring in one litre of spirits (of more than 22% volume) or two litres of fortified wine of less than 22% volume. On top of this you're also allowed 16 litres of beer and four litres of still wine.
For cigarettes you're allowed one of the following (or a combination of the allowance); 200 cigarettes, 100 cigarillos, 50 cigars or 250g tobacco.
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Saving money on your Christmas shopping
There are many different ways to save money on your Christmas shopping. Being organised and buying in advance is the first step.
Our article Ways to spread the cost of Christmas is stacked full of helpful hints on cutting the costs of the festive season.