As I raised the original question, I feel it might help to share experiences and some of the ideas gained in the last few months, either for your amusement, or ideally to help others.
Our suppliers in the EU send goods to us using GLS, which is a partner of Parcelforce. We have no relationship with Parcelforce, we don’t use them, we don’t have an account with them, deliveries (boxes) just turn up at our warehouse on their vans.
When Parcelforce receive a parcel from GLS for a UK customer, they can act in one of two ways:
- Ask UK customer for payment of import duty and import VAT, before shipping
- Ship, then later ask UK customer for payment.
For us, they seemed to pick which approach to take at random. Worse, they sent us no notification what they were doing until 13th August (by which time we had wasted hundreds of hours trying to work out what was going on), then they sent us a letter apologising for the delay in producing invoices since 1st Jan 2021.
On 4th September we received an invoice dated 30th August from Parcelforce, with a due amount over £10k, on 3 day terms (to be paid by 2nd September). The attached ‘details’ has taken many, many more hours to decipher, and to try to match back to actual deliveries. It does include tracking numbers, but many of these had expired on the Parcelforce website, as they are only retained for about 4 months. The records had some clear errors, as we have barely imported £10k of goods during that period.
Parcelforce also seemed to randomly take different approaches to VAT:
- HMRC issue a green C79 certificate if Parcelforce pay HMRC the import VAT (then get it back from you)
- Postponed VAT statement is if Parcelforce notify HMRC of a VAT liability but don’t pay it
These then become an accounting challenge, to get the right figures in the right boxes on the VAT return (which is made more fun by MTD removing any ability to … manually correct figures).
Key lessons learnt:
- If you have a lorry and driver, and are moving goods across borders, you need a customs agent. If you use a courier or postal service, they are effectively acting as a customs agent for you.
- Get your suppliers to deliver DDP (Delivered Duty Paid). This means your supplier accepts all liability for all costs including import VAT and duty. You can then ignore all this fun and games; though it’s worth checking they are doing it right as ultimately you will be paying by higher prices, and it would be a shame if your supplier was paying lots of unnecessary duty or VAT.
- Your supplier should sort out ‘country of origin’. If the goods are mainly manufactured in the EU, and all appropriate boxes are ticked, import duty shouldn’t be charged. However, we have yet to see that happen.
- Take photos of the labels on the outside of boxes when they arrive. That way you capture the tracking number, and the photo date of when it arrived.
- It’s worth checking the paperwork, particularly if duty or VAT looks high, as the error rate seems massive.
I had an active discussion with 27 posts; last posted 2 months ago, titled:
"Who is bringing in the goods, me, my supplier, or the courier?"
Please can you explain why this entire thread is no longer available?
I wanted to provide this forum with an update on my findings to date.
Sorry, no real answers, but have a bunch of sympathy - I can't understand why almost everyone in the UK isn't screaming for help!
I've registered on the PWC run gov grant for help scheme, but this has just sat in review for a couple of weeks now, so no help there.
I think each courier/import company must be taking its own approach; they just want the parcels gone ASAP is my guess.
If you tell your supplier your EORI number and they put this on the paperwork... something different might happen.
If anyone works out what we should be doing, please share!
The VAT return has some EU/EC specific boxes; specifically boxes 2, 8 & 9. How can I be sure I'm putting the right figures in these little boxes? For example, I'm still recording total value of EC purchases (ex VAT) in box 9. Is this correct? https://www.gov.uk/guidance/how-to-fill-in-and-submit-your-vat-return-vat-notice-70012 Above notice shows details for completing box 9 before 1-1-21; then details for after 1-1-21; but little seems to have changed; 'You must include the value of supplies such as: acquisitions made within the return period in which the tax point occurs'. - Link removed by HMRC Admin - Above post however (top link on google for 'VAT return post-brexit') states: "From 1 January 2021, only acquisitions of goods from an EU Member State into NI will be entered in box 9." We've shrunk our business to only sell to GB addresses post-brexit until we can get clarity of any overheads involved in shipping to EU or NI; so we don't import or export to NI. Therefore, should box 9 be zero; or should it continue to list all imports from EC into UK?! Any advice/guidance/guesses or sympathy much appreciated. Tried to contact HMRC via the VAT webchat helpline; but after days of not even getting into a queue gave up on that. Thanks.
OK, so our main supplier sends goods using GLS (a subsidiary of royal mail); which arrive at us via Parcelforce (also a subsidiary of royal mail). Neither of these companies appear on the list of fast parcel couriers (or customs agents) listed on the gov website.
We were not asked to pay any duty or VAT, the goods just arrived. It did not have any documentation attached.
How do I know if I need to complete additional declarations / pay anything?
Is it as simple as 'everything must pay duty/VAT; if you haven't been charged it, you must declare and pay it'?!
As the OP, I was hoping for help, but at least I am getting reassurance I'm not the only person confused.
I think each courier has probably come up with it's own ways of working.
We receive a number of deliveries via Parcelforce.
We have told our suppliers our EORI number, which I believe they include on the paperwork, so perhaps Parcelforce then know our EORI number, they treat us as a business customer, and don't chase us for duty or VAT, as we are expected to submit this ...separately.
We sell children's clothing, which is largely zero rated for VAT, but it's complex (eg. 12 year old is 0% VAT, 13 year old is 20% VAT; what about height 152cm or shoe size 36?). Our suppliers shouldn't need to understand UK VAT rules, so we hope we can do the VAT calculation, but who knows?! So much complexity, so little clarity. My hunch is nobody really knows what all the interested parties are currently doing, or indeed what they should actually be doing. Feel free to prove me wrong!
I've tried to sign up for a days consultancy/help; funded by the government grant, but I don't know if this will happen, or indeed whether it will answer any of our questions.
In Sticky note 'New rules for trading with the EU', HMRC state:
Your business will be affected if you:
• buy goods from an EU seller and bring them into the UK
We place an order with an EU supplier, they do mystery things and arrange a courier to deliver the goods to our warehouse.
We don't bring goods into the UK, the courier does.
We don't arrange delivery into the UK, the supplier does.
We don't complete any paperwork, or even see the paperwork.
So, are we affected?
Please can you clarify if we really have to either
- spend thousands on software, or
- spend a fee for each order we place for a 3rd party to do the paperwork for us?
Why is there no web interface or free software to allow micro-businesses like ours to avoid this madness?
I thought the government was trying to support small businesses; not force them out of business.