Recently (since Brexit?) the UK tax law has been changed to require foreign online retailers like AliExpress to charge UK VAT @ 20% at the point of sale.

If an order is placed for > £135 then as well as having to pay VAT, import duty must also be paid, based on the trade tariff/commodity code of the specific product.

Is anything stopping someone from placing lots of orders for £134 each, thereby not requiring the payment of import duty? I.E. is this legal?

The UK tax office, HMRC, states that they’re unable to advise about legality.

Gov guidance

  • 1
    @DannyBeckett What you are suggesting could come across as a metaphorical thumbing your nose at the authorities. "See, I'm not paying your import duty and what I'm doing is legal, nyah, nyah, nyah!!!". I'd imagine it would be OK doing so once or twice, but if you are a commercial entity who is structuring prices in order to avoid import duty, then you would be opening yourself up to a lot of pointed questions by those same authorities as soon as attention is drawn to your scheme.
    – Peter M
    Sep 18, 2023 at 15:11
  • On the one hand it is lawful for Alice to make one order at £134 and therefore not pay import duty. On the other hand the authorities might perceive duty/tax evasion if Alice places "lots of orders" at £134 each. Incidentally VAT is calculated from the price and the duty (if any). If this is for a business, consider investing in professional tax advice.
    – Lag
    Sep 18, 2023 at 17:47
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    A similar issue arises in US law: there's a requirement for a bank to file a report on any transaction in currency (i.e. physical paper money or coins) of over $10,000. It doesn't incur any kind of tax. However, suppose you have $16,000 in currency to deposit, all legitimately obtained, but you find the reporting requirement to be an annoyance. You might think it's not a big deal to break it into two transactions of $8000 each, to avoid the report. But in fact, you would be guilty of structuring under 31 USC 5324, punishable by up to 5 years in prison. Sep 21, 2023 at 22:00
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    I don't know about UK law specifically, but generally, legislators and government regulators are not idiots. If there would be an obvious loophole like this, it's a good bet that there is already a provision of law making it illegal. Sep 21, 2023 at 22:02


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