Tuesday 17 November 2020

Changes to Import VAT regulations from 1 January 2021

From 1 January 2021 the United Kingdom government will introduce a new model for the VAT

treatment of goods arriving into Great Britain from outside of the UK. This will ensure that goods from EU and non-EU countries are treated in the same way and that UK businesses are not disadvantaged by competition from VAT free imports.  

From the Gov.uk website (http://tiny.cc/qgv4tz):

For imports of goods from outside the UK in consignments not exceeding £135 in value (which aligns with the threshold for customs duty liability), we will be moving the point at which VAT is collected from the point of importation to the point of sale. This will mean that UK supply VAT, rather than import VAT, will be due on these consignments.

The new arrangements will also involve the abolition of Low Value Consignment Relief, which relieves import VAT on consignments of goods valued at £15 or less.

Online marketplaces (OMPs), where they are involved in facilitating the sale, will be responsible for collecting and accounting for the VAT.

For goods sent from overseas and sold directly to UK consumers without OMP involvement, the overseas seller will be required to register and account for the VAT to HMRC.


This appears to imply that if you are in the UK and you buy from a non-UK seller on eBay or Delcampe they, as Online Market Places, will add VAT to the agreed price (and carriage).  However, the devil is in the detail, as a blanket system will not work, and it is difficult to see how any (OMP) could possibly establish systems in the next six weeks.

Sales by non-business sellers to non-business buyers will not be included, and there is some question as to whether (for example) ebay and Delcampe are OMPs for these purposes, reading the detail of 'What an OMP is'.

But it does mean that business sellers, ie dealers, outside the UK will have to register with HM Revenue & Customs and account for and remit UK VAT.  Which means that if you buy low value stamps (ie under the current de minimis levels) consigned through the post, the dealer will charge VAT.  But he will also need to know what rate to charge at, and set up appropriate systems and paperwork, AND know which addresses are counted as Great Britain - and probably Northern Ireland in time although this paper does not cover Northern Ireland. 

We (in the UK) all know that the standard rate is 20% and the rate on books (eg catalogues) is zero - but stamps are NOT 20%, see my 2019 post.

I'm sure this will be debated widely, although there is little time for the philatelic magazines to pick up the story, and get advice.  It will be interesting to see what eBay and Delcampe decide - and how easy it is to contact them to tell them they haven't quite got it right!  Their lawyers will be working on it now, I'm sure!


  1. Australia tried something like this with gst(it's version of vat) , there's a big section on Stampboards about this. Apparently they were going to make ebay liable for any gst that was not remitted to them by overseas sellers -end result ebay blocked overseas purchases into Australia.

    1. There is a long thread on Stampboards but if you read right to the end of it you will see that eBay did not block purchases into Australia and do indeed collect GST for both Australia and New Zealand. See my post on that thread of 30 March this year.

      This started with the ATO removing the lower limit of A$1000 on imports chargeable and instead of catching everything in the postal system they get Online Market Places to do the collection for them.


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