Tuesday, 9 March 2010
Last week I got a letter from Parcel Force telling me I had received a package from New Zealand. They were holding it until I paid £28.64 VAT and a £13.50 clearance fee. I had no idea who had sent his package or what was in it so was loathe to hand over £42.14 for what could be something I didn't want. Heck, £40 buys an hour long massage, a hair cut or a week's worth of lunches.
Rob found out that my sister-in-law had sent me a painting for my upcoming birthday and was horrified that I wouldn't just pay to have it delivered. As the item was a gift this riled me even more - surely gifts are VAT exempt? Especially as the painting has no proven value (my sister-in-law has never sold a painting). I emailed customs and got an auto reply which basically said "Pay up or we'll ship it back. If you want to query the VAT you can take it up once you have received the item". As my sister-in-law had paid NZ$70 to post it over it seemed unreasonable to send it back as she'd have to spend the same again to re-ship it with a lower value on the customs declaration.
I was still annoyed about the unfairness of the situation when Rob volunteered to pay up so that the package would be delivered in time. And despite all this drama, I really do love the painting. It'll look great in our house if we ever get around to hanging it up (yes, I know this was a mission a few weeks ago but so far not a single bit of art has made it onto the wall...)
The moral of the story is if you are posting something to another country, don't over inflate the value of the item on the customs declaration, even if it's marked as a gift. (Rob would probably add something about my being ungracious and that I should've just paid without querying it, but that goes against my nature)