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Rhys
08-19-2004, 12:19 PM
I notice people making comparisons between the prices in America and the prices here by making simple currency conversions. This is, IMO a little too simplistic and is rather misleading.

The general rule of thumb is that the retail price of a camera in Britain is the same in pounds as the retail price is in dollars in America. Thus... A camera costing 200 in Britain will cost $200 in America.

This leads people to assume that it's cheaper to order from America and have it at American prices. Sadly we have an evil bunch of extortionists called "Customs and Excise". These will add VAT onto any item costing over 18. And on top of the VAT, if the total has reached 50 they will add duty. This duty will not be calculated on the actual price paid but on what they think the item will be worth on the British market. This can make a bargain turn out to be far more expensive than if one had bought it in Britain.

There is a way around this, however and that is to fly over and bring the item back in person. It's safe to post the packaging home - they can't tax packaging. This means that if one buys a camera costing 5000 which costs in America $5000 one can get a bargain price on the camera plus a free holiday plus save some money too.

D70FAN
08-19-2004, 01:01 PM
Thanks for that explaination Rys. We here in the colonies don't realize that other countries (especially UK) tax bricks, for just being bricks.

Hence "The Taxman" by the Beatles, and why they (Beatles) all moved their residences to New York, Florida, Spain, and the South of France.

judge9847
08-19-2004, 05:33 PM
The general rule of thumb is that the retail price of a camera in Britain is the same in pounds as the retail price is in dollars in America. Thus... A camera costing 200 in Britain will cost $200 in America.

This leads people to assume that it's cheaper to order from America and have it at American prices. Sadly we have an evil bunch of extortionists called "Customs and Excise". These will add VAT onto any item costing over 18. And on top of the VAT, if the total has reached 50 they will add duty. This duty will not be calculated on the actual price paid but on what they think the item will be worth on the British market. This can make a bargain turn out to be far more expensive than if one had bought it in Britain.

I don't want to appear pedantic about what Rhys says but it's not quite the whole picture. As far as I'm aware there is no lower limit before an item becomes subject to duty. If I've got it right, there is a schedule that Customs work too and if an item is in that list, duty is applied automatically. And he doesn't mention exchange rates which are an important factor in the calculations.

I've done some research and as of a few moments back this is what I found. The first price quoted is what it can be bought for HERE in the UK at Warehouse Express, a very reliable and established company. The second is the average price I found across a number of US outlets (courtesy of Steve's Digicams) and the third figure is the /$ conversion at current estimated exchange rate of 1 = $1.83

Canon S1 IS : 340, $400 = 220
Pana FZ10 : 380, $600 = 330
Canon 10D : 1100, $1400 = 765
Canon A85 : 190, $280 = 155
Kodak DX6490 : 250, $380 = 210

I chose those cameras because they get a lot of mentions here on this board. There is clearly a saving buying from the US. But as Rhys points out, the import duty must now be added and from my own experience over quite a period of time that's where the problems start.


This duty will not be calculated on the actual price paid but on what they think the item will be worth on the British market.

That's not true. If there is an invoice on the package that contains the goods, Customs (actually it's ParcelForce acting on their behalf) will almost certainly use the values contained in that. They will only refer to such things as manufacturer's recommended retail prices if they have to open the box and find out what's inside. It happened like that with the items I was importing many, many times over. Once you realise that, it can make life a lot cheaper!

So given the numbers for the A85, the $280 on the invoice gets converted to 155. The duty according to a massive schedule of some 40,000+ items, each with it's own Commodity Code, is then added but from what I can see around the place, I think you'll find that quite amazingly on digital cameras, there is none. But that was a while back now and things may have changed.

However, for this illustration, I'll say the 155 stays as the base figure. To that is added the cost of the postage from wherever so let's say that's the equivalent of 20. Then there's ParcelForce's costs to be added and when I was involved in it, 15 was about the norm.

Finally, VAT at 17.5% is added to the recalulated value of the goods (190) which is 33.25. The extra cost is now 20 postage, 15 ParcelForce and 33.25 VAT, a total of 68.25.

So the 155 equivalent US price becomes 223.25, some 30+ over the Warehouse Express price - not a good deal! Stick with the retailers.


There is a way around this, however and that is to fly over and bring the item back in person. It's safe to post the packaging home - they can't tax packaging. This means that if one buys a camera costing 5000 which costs in America $5000 one can get a bargain price on the camera plus a free holiday plus save some money too.

It's not really for me to say but I'm almost certain that if anyone takes that action and is caught, there are considerable fines to pay and it's very likely the goods involved will be confiscated in any case. Doing what is suggested is actually a crime in this country and whoever advocates that could be seen - by some - as being an accessory to the crime. Beware.

It is of course entirely up to you but I'd advise caution about saying things like that on a public forum: you NEVER know who is reading it or what connections they may have to that "evil bunch of extortionists called Customs and Excise". And did you know that C&E have far wider permanent powers than the police?

For everyone's information, legal limits for import in this way are goods (including for gifts) to the TOTAL value of 145 before UK duty is payable. Over that and you are legally bound to declare it when you return to the UK. Whether you do or not is of course up to you. There is a PDF file available for download that explains all of that but I can't attach it to this post because there's quite a small limit on PDF file sizes.

If I should find that I've got any of the above wrong, I'll make a further post to this thread.

Rhys
08-20-2004, 02:18 AM
Seeing as Customs and Extortion never replied to my enquiry about import duty despite being reminded, I am forced to use information given to me by C&E some 5 years ago, when I last enquired about importing a camera.