Rebecca wants to know about the costs of importing magic tricks into the UK.
'I've been looking at magic shops online and notice that many US magic shops seem a lot cheaper than UK shops. I like to buy my magic from The Merchant of Magic as the service is great, but some tricks are only available in other countries. As you order magic tricks internationally, could you give me some advice, please?'
Buying magic tricks from magic shops outside the UK can look like an amazing deal. Sometimes the items appear to be a lot cheaper, or simply are not available in UK magic shops. Let's look at the process and give you some tips for ordering magic from magic shops outside of the UK.
The ordering process.
Most websites are pretty much the same, although there are design differences which can make the shopping experience different. However, essentially, you browse the site, add items into your shopping cart and fill in a shipping section and payment section.
The main differences will be that the prices are not shown in UK Currency, and measurements may be different.
If you purchase an item using your card outside the UK, you will be performing a transaction in the currency of the country the shop is based within. Paypal, Visa, Mastercard make this very easy, but it's important to understand that you are also performing a currency conversion when you make the transaction.
Your bank/card company will convert the payment into UK currency and change you a fee. Each bank charges a different fee for international transactions, this can be around 2-3% of the transaction, so it's wise to check with your bank to see exactly how much the international payment will cost you.
International magic shops don't show sales tax for the UK as this is payable later. Unlike shops in the UK, you won't be shown the full cost of the order including tax. This is because the UK tax is added to the value of the order once it arrives in the UK and Customs and Excise value the order and add the UK VAT element. When looking at prices of magic tricks in magic shops outside of the UK, you need to add an additional 20% to the price as this is the current VAT charge in the UK (correct as of 2013).
The UK government doesn't like its citizens sending their money to another country. That's a fair point as it weakens the UK economy and builds up the coffers of the other country. To help balance this, the government charges an import duty fee. This is added to the total of the order after the VAT is added so you pay import duty on the value of the goods, the shipping cost and the VAT. Import duty in 2013 for magic tricks is currently 2.7%.
The import duty tax rate for importing Magic tricks into United Kingdom is 2.7%, the import VAT is 20%, when classified under Toys & Games → Other Toys & Games → Playing Cards with HS commodity code 9504.40.0000
Customs Clearance fees.
When your order arrives to the UK, it passes through customs and the VAT and Import Duty tax are added. The courier that will deliver the package pays this tax in advance for you, then will either write to you or phone you, to ask you to pay the tax fees, before they can deliver the package to you. They will also charge you a fee for the customs clearance process. This ranges from £10 – £25 per shipment.
International shipping is much more expensive than domestic shipping, so check that the shipping fees shown on the magic website are fixed and cover delivery to your country. If the dealer offers free international shipping, double check that you will be getting all the goods as some dealers will remove the packaging, DVD boxes and additional bonus items to reduce the shipping weight. Make sure you will be getting exactly the same item or items as a customer from the websites own country, and if not, that you are made fully aware of this.
Some dealers will contact you after you place the order and ask for additional shipping due to the final weight of the order, or they may tell you that the order will have to ship by a different method that can take a few days or even a few weeks longer to arrive. Make sure you check this in advance, so there are surprises
Importing internationally will result in a much longer delivery time. The items have to travel a huge distance, then pass through the customs process. Once this is done, your import fees and taxes need to be paid, so there is a delay whist you are contacted to arrange this payment. It's important to remember this when you look at projected delivery times given by international magic shops. They have no control over the time it takes to clear customs, or routing delays, so allow extra time for this process to take place.
Damage in Transit.
Your goods will be traveling a long distance, often by plane or ship. It's vital that you make sure that additional care is taken to package the goods for a rough journey. Damage in transit will be hard to address if something goes wrong. It will cost you a great deal to return items internationally if that is possible at all. Your UK consumer rights probably won't cover you for transactions outside of the UK, so you will be relying on the trust and goodwill of the magic shop you are ordering from.
Sometimes things go wrong, DVD's arrive broken or don't play, tricks are misdescribed or not useable in the UK. You will not have the same consumer rights that you do when buying magic tricks from a UK shop. Returning goods can be expensive and often will be at your cost. Good magic shops will try to look after you, but there are no guarantees. Make sure the shop you use is an established reputable magic dealer with good customer service reviews, and check on their returns policy before you purchase. If you use a credit card, rather than a debit card you may have some limited protection, but it's worth checking with your bank first.
Be sure to only use established magic shops you trust. Anyone can set up a website in a few hours, and by placing an order you are giving them full access to your card details. Ensure that the site has a secure checkout, ideally run by a third party, trusted payment gateway.
Summary of costs.
Prices and import laws change all the time, but currently you should expect to pay the following costs in addition to the prices shown on international magic shop websites:
|Currency Conversion Fee||2.5%|
|Customs Clearance Fee||£15|
So for example, imagine you placed an order for $100 worth of magic tricks
US$100 = £65 (as of 15/8/13 google currency conversion)
|Currency Conversion Fee 2.5%||£1.62|
|Import Duty 2.7% of goods and VAT||£2.10|
Total additional import costs £31.72
Sneaking through the system.
Sometimes packages that have a small order value will get through the system without charges. However, it's your legal duty to report any import to customs and pay the duty. Failing to declare imports, and paying incorrect import duty and VAT on imports could be regarded as smuggling, and tax avoidance.
It can still be a good idea.
Ordering magic tricks from magic shops outside of the UK can still be a great idea. If a magic trick is not available in the UK, and you fully understand the extra costs and delays, you can find some amazing items and rare tricks being sold all over the world. You don't need to be scared of ordering magic tricks internationally, just make sure you find out the full costs, so you can be delighted when the package arrives rather than shocked by the hidden costs.