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Buying from China - Do You Pay UK Import Tax & VAT?

how much import tax

A Free Guide - Yes FREE, No Catches!

Thinking of Buying from eBay traders in China or Hong Kong?

Update April 2012 - watch out for the traders in the Eastern Blocks of the 'new EU countries' - there is some dodgy stuff going on here too i.e. counterfit goods

You have to pay Import Duty & VAT on Laptops & Mobile Phones Bought on eBay from China - Don't You?

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I have received emails from worried eBay buyers who have been told that the cheap Laptop or Mobile phone that they are thinking of buying from an eBay trader in China, will be subject to HUGE amounts of Import Tax and VAT, which they will have to pay before they can receive their goods.

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This is totally misleading and probably a rumour put about by UK traders worried about (and losing business to) the cheap Laptops and Phones being sold by the 1000's on eBay from traders in China & the Far East!


You will not have to pay Import Duty on goods such as Laptop Computers, Touch Screen Tablets or Mobile or Home phones purchased from an eBay trader in China.

You WILL have to pay VAT at 20% on any of those items - IF YOU GET CAUGHT by HM Customs. And, 90% of items (there are now 1000's per week) bought on eBay and shipped in from China pass through Customs without a hitch. Most of the Far East traders will write on the Customs Slip, "Gift", in the hope that UK HM Customs will pass the item through without inspection.

However, if HM Customs open your parcel on a 'Spot Check' and find one of the above items you will have to pay the VAT before you receive the goods. This will delay the delivery by a further 2-3 weeks (and it will have already taken about 3 weeks to reach the UK - if shipped by land and sea. We buy in bulk and ship by air, more expensive, but the goods are received in good condition and in days instead of 3 weeks.

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The Main Reason To Be Careful Is.

Faulty and damaged goods received from China or the Far East in general.

If you receive Faulty Goods or 'Not as Described' or 'Not Fit for Purpose' and even 'Damaged in Transit' due to poor packaging (remember these goods will be man-handled multiple times between the sender and the local Postman) it can be very difficult to get your money back. And, if the delivery has been delayed at HM Customs and been subjected to an 'examination' before being re-packaged by Customs, your chances of receiving any compensation from the seller is probably ZERO.

I would advise two courses of action:

  • Insure the delivery - the extra cost will be worthwhile even if just for your peace of mind

AND a must do,

  • Check the seller's eBay FEEDBACK (Particularly the RED and GREY feedback - just click on the rating number and all will be revealed!) this

    will tell you what issues and problems other buyers have had with this seller. You should always check the full feedback history of all eBay traders - it can make interesting reading!

We have bought items from China, Hong Kong and Malaysia wihout any hic-ups but, we followed the simple buying steps that we always follow to ensure that we should be as safe as you can be when trading on eBay. You just have to be a little bit more careful when trading with the growing number of traders from the Far East, USA and now, some of the lesser known EU and European countries that are appearing on eBay. This also applies to UK sellers who have a potential market in the EU and Europe (also Africa) be extra careful if you intend to send goods outside the UK - we limit our sales to EU only and on a 'signed for' delivery to a PayPal verified address (some EU/European countries are not PayPal verified). We run two eBay shops and have been caught out too many times!

Recent Update!

Beware of the Far East Trader hiding behind a UK eBay Registration

We have been caught out by a Far East trader posing as a UK based stock holder/trader.

The eBay Listing (sorry eBay rules don't allow me to "out the trader" so can't publish the listing) had a Union Jack flag in the main advert and "Same Day Dispatch". I needed the item quickly and the price was right so I bought it.

Mistake One. I didn't check the feedback properly. If I had I would have seen that the trader was actually trading from Hong Kong.

Mistake Two: I should have scrolled down to the bottom of the listing to check the "Business Contact Details" - all eBay traders registered as business traders must supply a full address and contact details in their listing - yes you guessed it: a Chinese Address written in Chinese!!

The item took 27 days to arrive and it was the wrong item. I emailed the trader immediately but I still haven't received a reply and I've now opened a dispute through eBay.

So please learn from my mistake, check very carefully before you buy. This type of trading (hiding behind a UK eBay account) is more prevalent now and many eBayers are falling foul of it.

FREE TOOL to check whether or not you have to pay Import Tax and VAT on your eBay purchases.

I can't provide you with the full web link because eBay policy will not allow me to, but type into your browser: 'www.' then write: 'dutycalculator' and add: '.com' if you have a problem let me know and I'll email the link to you. We use it all the time for importing goods to sell on our eBay shops.

Be safe make the simple checks first before you commit to buy and remember: if it's really cheap then it probably isn't worth your time making the checks in the first place!

I hope this Guide was useful to you - please scroll down and vote, it will only take a minute.

Category: Taxes

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