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  • Tax/duty free question

    I'm sure I've read about this before somewhere but can't remember the answer.

    I'll be at T3 Heathrow on Thursday and I'm sure there's a Watches of Switzerland. Am I right in thinking that it's about 20% of a Rolex and it's the equivalent of not paying the Vat, but they don't call it that?

    Am I also right in thinking that it's fine to fly to the US with it and return and there's no import issues back at Heathrow?

    I'm guessing that if the above is accurate that's it pot luck what's there on the day, but unlikely to be sports watches et al

  • #2
    Originally posted by Vivalas View Post
    I'm sure I've read about this before somewhere but can't remember the answer.

    I'll be at T3 Heathrow on Thursday and I'm sure there's a Watches of Switzerland. Am I right in thinking that it's about 20% of a Rolex and it's the equivalent of not paying the Vat, but they don't call it that?

    Am I also right in thinking that it's fine to fly to the US with it and return and there's no import issues back at Heathrow?

    I'm guessing that if the above is accurate that's it pot luck what's there on the day, but unlikely to be sports watches et al

    Hi Vivalas ,
    I think it's a ' Mappin & Webb shop' , I was @T3 about 3 weeks ago .
    I didn't think the prices were that great & any sports models they had were either two tone steel & gold or all solid gold ones .
    It would be better I would have thought to buy your Rolex out in the USA ,not only will it be cheaper because the pound is pretty high against the dollar but if you hold a non USA passport then it may be possible to get the local vat & duty back but you will have to take your passport into the shop and ask them for the appropriate paperwork .
    When you come back to the UK , I think if you wear the watch into the country & it is for your own use ( ie not for sale or trade ) then there should be no tax to pay . I would phone the HMRC up and ask them what their stance was on such practice .
    I have heard of people do this .
    Good luck and do let us know what happens .

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    • #3

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      • #4
        Originally posted by Rolexelor View Post
        When you come back to the UK , I think if you wear the watch into the country & it is for your own use ( ie not for sale or trade ) then there should be no tax to pay.
        Absolutely wrong!

        Tax/duty is payable, as Classics has said.

        The people you have heard of buying watches abroad and wearing them into the UK but not declaring them are defrauding HMRC.

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        • #5
          Removing VAT from an item is not simply taking 20% off. If you did, you would be discounting the VAT rate as well. There's a handy on-line calculator that is excellent at this link. VAT calculator

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          • #6
            Originally posted by Uncle AJ View Post
            Removing VAT from an item is not simply taking 20% off. If you did, you would be discounting the VAT rate as well. There's a handy on-line calculator that is excellent at this link. VAT calculator
            Divide by 1.2 and you can use any calculator.

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            • #7
              Originally posted by swatch View Post
              Divide by 1.2 and you can use any calculator.
              Good tip.

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              • #8
                Originally posted by harb View Post
                Absolutely wrong!

                Tax/duty is payable, as Classics has said.

                The people you have heard of buying watches abroad and wearing them into the UK but not declaring them are defrauding HMRC.
                Would that mean you need to pay both the duty and vat on the purchase then or just the duty ?
                What if you went abroad and a friend "gave " you a Rolex as a present , would you still need to tell the HMRC and pay duty/ vat etc ?

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                • #9
                  Originally posted by Rolexelor View Post
                  Would that mean you need to pay both the duty and vat on the purchase then or just the duty ?
                  What if you went abroad and a friend "gave " you a Rolex as a present , would you still need to tell the HMRC and pay duty/ vat etc ?
                  It depends on the value of the goods and is only applicable when travelling from a country outside of the EU.

                  If you have owned an item for a reasonable time and import it, customs and VAT may be waived. When I returned from Saudi Arabia after working there for 38 years, I had several items on me that I'd claimed the VAT back on before taking them to Saudi. I declared them when I was repatriated and as I'd owned them outside of the EU for several years, there was nothing to pay.

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                  • #10
                    Thanks for the info Uncle AJ .
                    I think a telephone call to HMRC is the best way to go before anyone decides to make a purchase while away on holiday .

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                    • #11
                      I'm aware that any purchase like a Rolex has to be declared, what I wasn't sure about is the buying of it from Heathrow and it being okay to bring it back in. I'm sure i've read somewhere about the discount being about the same having the vat taken off, though if there isn't much in the way of availability and the discount isn't much them I won't be considering it anyway.

                      As an aside, on cruise critic (the trip advisor for cruise ships), there was a thread about tax which got very heated. Most of the cruise lines have a high end shop selling diamonds to watches. Never seen Rolex, but nearly always Tag and Omega plus a few others (Chopard used to be on Cunard). Anyway it turns out that the cruise lines HAVE to declare any major purchases to customs in Miami/FL. One guy spent $10,000 on a watch and the customs officer asked him if he had anything to declare. He said no, so the guy asked him again. He said no, so the guy gave him a clue and said 'have you bought anything like a watch?'. Upshot was the cruise company give them a list of big buys onboard. Fortunately he only had to pay $150 tax which was 1.5%. On the thread it turns out that some of the shops in St Thomas etc do the same.

                      The same thread then descended into an arguement of 'morals', 'tax evasion', 'fraud' etc etc which got quite nasty as the OP seemed to genuinely not know, which was why he asked.

                      What I do know from personal experience is that buying a new watch from a UK AD seems to be the best bet nowadays in many ways, price being one sometimes.

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                      • #12
                        I looked at mappin webb in t5 when I was in the market for a sub. They told me the discount was with them and not just a VAT reduction and therefore I could buy at the reduced rate even if flying within Europe. But, they don't do any ss sports models as Rolex wont let them discount them, so its all tt or higher. This is what I was told a year or so back and I am not saying is correct, just what I was told at the time.

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                        • #13
                          Originally posted by Vivalas View Post
                          I'm aware that any purchase like a Rolex has to be declared, what I wasn't sure about is the buying of it from Heathrow and it being okay to bring it back in. I'm sure i've read somewhere about the discount being about the same having the vat taken off, though if there isn't much in the way of availability and the discount isn't much them I won't be considering it anyway.

                          As an aside, on cruise critic (the trip advisor for cruise ships), there was a thread about tax which got very heated. Most of the cruise lines have a high end shop selling diamonds to watches. Never seen Rolex, but nearly always Tag and Omega plus a few others (Chopard used to be on Cunard). Anyway it turns out that the cruise lines HAVE to declare any major purchases to customs in Miami/FL. One guy spent $10,000 on a watch and the customs officer asked him if he had anything to declare. He said no, so the guy asked him again. He said no, so the guy gave him a clue and said 'have you bought anything like a watch?'. Upshot was the cruise company give them a list of big buys onboard. Fortunately he only had to pay $150 tax which was 1.5%. On the thread it turns out that some of the shops in St Thomas etc do the same.

                          The same thread then descended into an arguement of 'morals', 'tax evasion', 'fraud' etc etc which got quite nasty as the OP seemed to genuinely not know, which was why he asked.

                          What I do know from personal experience is that buying a new watch from a UK AD seems to be the best bet nowadays in many ways, price being one sometimes.
                          When you buy in the Duty Free Shop you are asked for your boarding pass which is scanned with the information of what you have purchased. So there is a record out there that could and probably does go to the Customs Office. The same applies when buying from overseas airports and I'm sure this information goes to the destination officials.

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                          • #14
                            Originally posted by Boxerboy View Post
                            I looked at mappin webb in t5 when I was in the market for a sub. They told me the discount was with them and not just a VAT reduction and therefore I could buy at the reduced rate even if flying within Europe. But, they don't do any ss sports models as Rolex wont let them discount them, so its all tt or higher. This is what I was told a year or so back and I am not saying is correct, just what I was told at the time.
                            When flying within the EU, VAT cannot be taken off a purchase. For instance, even though I had a ticket with KLM to fly to Saudi Arabia from Manchester, I could not get the VAT taken off an item until I reached Amsterdam Airport.

                            When buying duty free in a High Street Shop, you still pay the full price at purchase. When you get to the airport and go through into Departures, you then have to present the goods at the Customs desk. They will then check your ticket to see where you are going before stamping the paperwork that the shop should have filled in. This paperwork is then posted back to the shop and your credit card etc. will then be refunded with the VAT amount. In some cases you can take this paperwork to a VAT refund desk and receive the VAT in cash.

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                            • #15
                              Originally posted by Rolexelor View Post
                              I think a telephone call to HMRC is the best way to go before anyone decides to make a purchase while away on holiday .
                              Unless, of course, you don't want HMRC to know that you're planning on defrauding them...

                              Originally posted by Rolexelor View Post
                              Would that mean you need to pay both the duty and vat on the purchase then or just the duty ?
                              What if you went abroad and a friend "gave " you a Rolex as a present , would you still need to tell the HMRC and pay duty/ vat etc ?
                              It is the responsibility of the importer (even if a private individual) to ensure that UK taxes and import duties have been paid.
                              Although it doesn't happen in practice, Customs are within their rights to ask you to prove this about any item at any time.

                              See this page on the HMRC website for details - http://www.hmrc.gov.uk/customs/post/buying.htm

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