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UK VAT on Item Ordered in Person; Delivered to U.S.

UK VAT on Item Ordered in Person; Delivered to U.S.

Old Jan 31st, 2013, 08:35 AM
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UK VAT on Item Ordered in Person; Delivered to U.S.

Hello, this is my first post here.
Last fall, we visited London and found ourselves in a chain bridal shop shortly after my daughter's engagement was announced. She fell in love with a dress there and ordered it in her size to be shipped at our expense to our home in California.

Bridal gowns have to be ordered and paid in full when ordering; they're almost never ready to wear. The bridal shop charged us VAT and said we could get a refund when the dress was sent to us. The shop is now telling us they have no idea how we get the VAT refund. The VAT is a substantial amount, over $500 U.S. for all the goods with the dress.
Can anyone advise how we should proceed?
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Old Jan 31st, 2013, 08:41 AM
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AFAIK it is the shop's responsibility. They should take the VAT off the top - you shouldn't have to claim it.

I have bought many things in person in the UK and had them shipped to my home in the States. The merchant has always deducted the VAT from the purchase price there and then.
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Old Jan 31st, 2013, 09:04 AM
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This is the website for HM Customs and Revenue

http://www.hmrc.gov.uk/vat/sectors/c...s-visitors.htm

Seems the shop must be a member of the VAT Retail Export Scheme and they will complete paperwork for you when you leave the UK with the goods. If the bridal shop isn't member of the scheme then it appears you can't reclaim the VAT.

I think you need to contact the shop and clarify who said what and why.
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Old Jan 31st, 2013, 09:08 AM
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http://www.hmrc.gov.uk/vat/sectors/c...s-visitors.htm

Here's the form to email an enquiry about VAT to HMRC, or you can telephone on 0044 2920 501 261
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Old Jan 31st, 2013, 09:13 AM
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Sorry, forgot the URL for the email form:

http://tinyurl.com/a3l6k69
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Old Jan 31st, 2013, 09:18 AM
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Yes, the shop should not have charged the VAT if they were shipping it to you. I bought a carpet in London and, while the clerk apparently hadn't done it before and had to make a phone call, they did take it off, the correct thing to do. Which doesn't help you now, I know.

Failing a positive outcome with HM's government you might want to pursue the shop for it as they likely don't need to turn over the funds when they ship out of country and, despite what they tell you, likely just kept it. If you paid by credit card you can contest the extra charge. The merchant will be charged back for the whole transaction while it's being decided and may be more cooperative.
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Old Jan 31st, 2013, 09:52 AM
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Ooh, excellent suggestions. Thank you so much.

And I especially want to thank you for the kind way everyone responded. Nice people make me feel welcome and makes me want to participate here more often. I'm from the San Francisco area, so I'll head over to that forum and see if I can help anyone else out in return.

I'll contact the seller's HQ first. The cc dispute suggestion is a good one; there's no way they'll want a chargeback for such a large amount of money.
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Old Jan 31st, 2013, 10:19 AM
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Welcome: Just one clarification >>Seems the shop must be a member of the VAT Retail Export Scheme and they will complete paperwork for you when you leave the UK with the goods.
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Old Jan 31st, 2013, 10:46 AM
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While I'm sure janisj's experiences of tax free shopping are correct my understanding from HMRC is, at the time of purchase the buyer and seller must complete the relevant forms. The buyer has to provide evidence of eligibility (passport), which is documented by the seller who must be a member of the Retail Export Scheme. It's not clear from the OP if this took place when the goods were purchased, or if the shop was simply sweet-talking the customer to make the sale.
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Old Jan 31st, 2013, 11:04 AM
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"!While I'm sure janisj's experiences of tax free shopping are correct my understanding from HMRC is, at the time of purchase the buyer and seller must complete the relevant forms."

Not true. And inapplicable in this case.

ALL VAT-registered business (which, at £1500 per dress, means all wedding dress shops selling over 30 dresses a year) are required to charge the pre-VAT price when exporting direct (which is what happened here).

They've either stolen the £300 from you, or were so poorly trained they made a mistake. Either way, they need to send the buyer the £300. If it's a mistake and they've submitted their VAT return for the quarter, they make the £300 adjustment on their next quarter's VAT (which is slightly messy, because it's over the "painless" limit for mistakes, but they just need to phone their VAT office and explain). If they've stolen the money, it's a criminal offence.

The retail export scheme is quite irrelevant to this problem: it matters only when the customer leaves the shop with the goods. Every business person ought to know knows about direct exports - and personally I can't believe a dress shop central enough for a visitor to find it hasn't exported a wedding dress before.

However, criminality vs stupidity isn't the point. VAT shouldn't have been charged, and it's the shopkeeper's job to sort this out.

If contesting the credit card charge concentrates their attention, fine. But, on the basis of the info tooterturtle's given, the shop's lying.
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