Shoppers warned of online purchase pitfalls

Goods bought over internet from abroad may still be liable to importation duty, says Revenue

Revenue is warning shoppers that if an online offer looks too good to be true, it probably is. In the run up to Christmas, people are being reminded they could be hit with tax and duty on online purchases once the goods arrive.

Some online deals really are just too good to be true, and what looks like an attractive offer can be an expensive or dangerous mistake, according to Revenue. It also said buyers should be wary of counterfeit goods.

All alcohol or tobacco products bought online are liable to tax and duty on arrival, whether they come from inside or outside the EU, Revenue said. If the price of alcohol is low, tax and duty have probably not been paid and it may be seized on arrival.

While a case of wine online at €60 might seem like a great deal, when excise duty and Vat are added it more than doubles the original cost, Revenue said.

There is no relief from customs duty, Vat, or excise duty for purchasing tobacco, tobacco products, alcohol or perfume online regardless of their value, according to Revenue.

All goods from non-EU member states are liable to tax and duty, an additional cost on top of what a customer has already paid.

Last year, Revenue officers in postal depots applied charges to more than 70,000 parcels, adding an average of €33 in tax and duty per parcel.

Consumers should also be aware that if the value of a purchase from outside the EU is worth more than €22, Vat will have to be paid on the full value of the item. Customs duty will also be applied to goods over €150, depending on the type of goods and the country of origin.

Shoppers should also be cautious of websites offering to undervalue goods to avoid import duties as this is illegal, Revenue said.

Some websites may also promise delivery from within the EU to eliminate any import charges, but are in fact shipping their products from outside the EU. In both cases, the buyer is still liable for all tax and duty once the order arrives.

Anyone tempted to buy cheap alcohol, tobacco or consumer goods from a new or unknown supplier should be aware of the possibility they are buying counterfeit goods, Revenue said.

Some people may think the counterfeit product trade is harmless but in reality serious hidden costs and dangers are associated with the market.

Revenue also said there were no health and safety standards in the counterfeit business so fake products were often unsafe and dangerous.

It warned consumers to be aware of fake medicines, alcohol, foods, baby formula, electronics, computer parts, software, car parts, toys, and jewellery.

Vodka is the most counterfeited type of alcohol; counterfeit vodka can contain high quantities of methanol and isopropyl alcohol, commonly found in nail varnish remover. These are dangerous substances that can cause breathing difficulties, liver damage, and blindness, warned Revenue.


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