Revenue crackdown on US ‘shopping flights’

REVENUE is to crack down on shoppers returning from the US in the weeks leading up to Christmas.

It is deploying extra resources at customs checkpoints at Dublin and Shannon airports to monitor what the Revenue termed the “shopping flights”. One of the main reasons for doing this, according to the Revenue, is to ensure Irish traders are not disadvantaged by people evading duty.

As the US is outside the EU’s jurisdiction, Irish shoppers are only allowed a duty-free limit of €175 before they are legally obliged to pay 21% VAT and import duties of about 8%.

“Our monitoring of these flights, like all activities we undertake, is based on a risk assessment and, although we check flights throughout the year, the resources deployed naturally reflect the increase in traffic at busy times,” said Revenue spokesman Dave Coleman.

Despite the recession, thousands of shoppers are expected to make the trip stateside this year. Reports from New York’s hotels, and airlines confirm Irish shoppers are still arriving in their droves in search of bargains.

The New York tourist board confirmed that Irish shoppers were the biggest spending of all leisure visitors last year, with Irish tourists spending an average of $400 (€270) per day.

Director of Continental Airlines, Bob Schumacher, said Irish bookings in the run-up to Christmas are similar to last year’s despite the economic slowdown.

“New York will always be a strong draw for Irish travellers and the dollar-euro exchange rate means the USA is still a great value destination,” he said.

Last year 290,000 Irish tourists visited New York, 7% more than in 2006.

The Revenue said people need to make themselves aware of regulations before travelling. “The best advice we can give is for people to check their allowances before they go, declare anything over the limit and if they’re in any doubt enter the red channel. That way they’ll avoid any potential trouble,” said Mr Coleman.

In the year to September 2008, the Revenue raked in almost €60,000 in VAT and duty collected at Dublin, Shannon and Cork airports.

In the run-up to last Christmas, custom officials inspected the baggage of close to 5,000 passengers

One passenger at Shannon was found carrying 45 iPhones worth €10,000, on which he had to pay €3,460 in VAT and import tax.


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