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Shipping and VAT to customers in the U.K.


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Hi All;

Thought maybe someone can help me with the VAT when shipping to retail customers in the U.K. The post office here is unsure and the UK post site is confusing.

It appears as though we have to charge our customers the additional 20% on top of the price of the book/item and shipping. Then on a quarterly basis send this collected tax BACK to the U.K. government. Does this sound right? Does this even make sense?

If this is the case and our dollar "falls" we could be XXXX out of luck on this one and be spending any/all profit on VAT!

Options include: Not shipping at all to the U.K. which is not 'right' OR shipping all retail orders to one wholesale location for 'local' purchase.

Anyone have comments, suggestions, ideas on this? Very confusing, I just want to sell books! Geez!

Judy Crandall

Eagle Editions Ltd. 

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12 minutes ago, EagleEds said:

RAF4EVER; wow, so it is true. Guess I may have to suspend shipping to the UK. The costs are way too high and paperwork too much hassle!

Thanks for the heads up!


I'm no expert, Judy, but I'm sure in my mind that books are exempt from UK vat, along with food and children's clothes, and Health & Safety clothes and shoes. 

I don't think any brit government has had the gall to try and apply it to books. If they have, they've been extremely sly about it. 


Kits and modelling supplies are a different story, of course 

Edited by rob Lyttle
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44 minutes ago, rob Lyttle said:

I'm no expert, Judy, but I'm sure in my mind that books are exempt from UK vat, along with food and children's clothes, and Health & Safety clothes and shoes. 

I don't think any brit government has had the gall to try and apply it to books. If they have, they've been extremely sly about it. 


Kits and modelling supplies are a different story, of course 

Not quite true.

There are 4 VAT categories for goods and services

   Standard rate - currently 20%

   Reduced rate - currently 5%

   Zero rated - as implied 0%      and

   Exempt goods/services


Whilst the overall effect to the consumer for the last two is the same they are not the same from the sellers aspect. Businesses who only sell exempt goods do not need to register for VAT, those who sell zero rated goods do.


Printed matter  i.e. Books fall into the zero rated goods category.


This probably does not help @EagleEds but in the past when using the UK post office to send documents abroad it used to be no more difficult than sending within the UK the only complication was that a 'printed mater' label was placed on the package. Carriers e.g. UPS all had the means to carry document without the need for customs declarations.

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1 hour ago, EagleEds said:

Okay, thanks, Printed matter would also then apply to our EagleCals as well.

Here is how the 'official' statement reads:


Strange tax rule when you think about it, makes zero sense,




Unfortunately it appears not, if you search the guidance for 'transfers' (term most used in the UK for decals - don't you just love a common language) you'll find they attract standard (20%) rate VAT ,even though produced by printing.


Tariff code for books looks to be 4901990000, for Transfers (decalcomanias) 4908900000


Whilst this is my best interpretation of the UK trade tariff, HM Customs are the only people that can make a final ruling. Judge, Jury & Executioner.



Edited by Circloy
Note on customs rulings
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Not only are books zero rated but the service of arranging their arrival in the UK is also zero rated (sorry I don’t have a copy of Schedule 8 to the VAT Act 1994 to hand for reference but you should be able to find a copy on the gov.uk website).  Where a package contains a mixture of standard rated and zero rated items the “handling fee” should be apportioned, usually based on the respective production costs of the contents.  It’s not something I’d expect the average Royal Snail Customs clearance agent to be aware of, so if you’re shipping to the UK make sure your agent is aware of the package contents and the appropriate legislation.

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Basically the UK has implemented the EU plans for changing the way import VAT will be handled early. Things are soon going to get worse because on the 1st July this year essentially the same rules will apply to all countries in the EU. Don’t know if this will also include Norway, Iceland, Switzerland, Greenland etc. Small businesses can avoid the registration and processing if they sell through an online market place, e.g., Ebay, Amazon, as they are deemed to be the supplier and so they have to deal with VAT.


VAT changes will be for all goods imported into Great Britain, England, Scotland and Wales with value not exceeding £135. Under the new UK model, it will treat all goods from the European Union and non-EU countries the same way. Northern Ireland will have special status in regard to VAT for it to continue trade with Ireland. The government made known UK businesses will not be disadvantaged by competition from VAT-free imports. In addition, the new changes will target the problem of overseas sellers failing to pay the right amount of VAT on sales of goods that are already in the UK at the point of sale. 


The following changes will apply on imports of a value below £135 from January 1, 2021:


The time VAT is due to be paid will move from the point of importation to the point of sale.

Online marketplaces involved in facilitating the sale will now be responsible for collecting and accounting for the VAT (in this scenario, the online marketplaces will become the deemed supplier, so the overseas supplier will not have to register and account for UK VAT).

Goods sent from overseas and sold directly to UK consumers, without online marketplace involvement, will be required to register and account for the VAT to HMRC.

Where business-to-business sales are made to a UK VAT registered trader, if the business customer is VAT registered in the UK and provides its valid VAT registration number to the seller, the VAT will be accounted for by the customer by means of a reverse charge.


Imports of a value above £135:


Businesses can opt to use ‘postponed VAT accounting’ to account for import VAT on their VAT return for goods imported from anywhere in the world

This is as opposed to having to pay VAT upfront and recover it later (assuming the VAT is fully recoverable).

EU July 2021 e-commerce VAT Package.


On 1 July 2021, The European Union (EU) will introduce new reforms to the VAT obligations for B2C e-commerce sellers and marketplaces. The EU changes are very similar to the UK changes. They include the major changes:


Launching the One-Stop-Shop EU VAT return.

Ending low-value import VAT exemption and new IOSS return

Making marketplaces deemed supplier VAT


The existing ‘Distance Selling Thresholds’ simplifications will be withdrawn once the reforms come into place. The single EU VAT return, One Stop Shop (‘OSS’) will then be implemented. Which means sellers shipping goods from their home country to customers across the EU will have the opportunity to opt in to use OSS to report all their pan-EU sales. Currently the requirement is VAT being registered in each country once the seller has passed the relevant country distance selling threshold. This reform is made into an extension of the 2015 Mini One-Stop-Shop (‘MOSS’).

The €22 VAT exemption on small parcels being imported into the EU for delivery to consumers will end. Sellers have continued to take advantage of the exemption by purposely under-declaring the import values of goods to avoid VAT. With this new reform VAT will have to be charged at the point-of-sale for consignments not exceeding €150. The ‘Import One Stop Shop’ (IOSS) will have VAT to be declared and paid via this new submission. Import One Stop Shop will hope to establish a more efficient, quick and easy custom clearance.

 This reform will end the disadvantaged EU sellers from non- EU sellers by having VAT on all imported goods. IOSS will make non-EU sellers have to register in one EU state to declare VAT on imports below €150. If any seller chooses not to use the IOSS, the customer will have to pay the delivery or customs agent to access their goods.

 Part of the July 2021 reform will require marketplaces which facilitate cross-border sales to consumers via third parties to become the ‘deemed seller’ in certain cases. The new deemed supplier rule will apply in two use cases when the marketplace is facilitating a B2C sale:

imports not exceeding €150; and distance selling cross-border or domestic transactions of any value for non-EU sellers. After July 2021 charging and collecting VAT on deemed seller transactions will become the responsibility of Marketplaces. For imports not exceeding €150, instead of import VAT, the marketplace will charge the customer VAT at the point-of-sale and declare it instead of the seller. Both EU and non-EU sellers will benefit from reduced VAT obligations and may be able to deregister in some EU states.





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The above probably only serves to confuse the OP further especially as it referencing the EU through out where as the OP enquired about the UK specifically. Whilst the roots of the new legislation are the same the implementation, and possible enforcement may differ. For instance the IOSS only works within the EU states and as the UK is no longer part of the EU it is not applicable to, nor has any mention within the UK legislation.


The OP also specifically references books which are zero rated for which the above adds no clarity. As said the only place that can give advice worth taking is HM Revenue & Customs.


It rather brings the discussion in line with other threads on the new VAT/importation rules of which this is the only one currently running and may be time to close this one too




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Please limit comments here to help the poster with their original question, and not a discussion on the subject. There is a thread for this, even though its been done to death by now.



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