Brexit: Christmas chaos for expats in Spain as ‘hidden’ import taxes on presents laid bare

Mum of disabled children on struggling to afford Christmas presents

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With the festive season in full swing, British expats across the EU are likely awaiting last-minute Christmas presents from their family and friends in the UK. The UK left the 27-member trading bloc on January 31, 2020 – before the Brexit transition period ended on December 31. Important changes have since taken effect relating to how gifts and other goods are imported from the UK into the EU.

British expat Bill Anderson, a councillor on Spain’s Costa del Sol in the town of Mijas, warned of post-Brexit issues now facing British expats in the country.

The representative for Spain’s PP party, who moved to Spain almost 20 years ago, told that “hidden” import duties may sting the pockets of expats in the run-up to Christmas.

Mr Anderson said Brexit has meant that British businesses in Spain have had to “pass import costs on to the consumer”.

He added: “And I’m sure this has happened to a lot of businesses.

“People that were buying hardware-type goods from the UK to sell them here, import costs, people getting Christmas presents, or birthday presents from the UK and having to pay import duties.

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“These were the things that I would call the hidden cost of Brexit that nobody really thought about.”

Consumer organisation Which? revealed that during the last 12 months, gifts being sent from the UK to the EU have also been racked by other issues, as well as charges.

The company said a third of its members who sent gifts to the EU experienced delays.

One in 10 reported that their gift had gone missing, while three in 10 were hit by so-called “hidden” charges.

A raft of new customs paperwork mandated by the EU has also created headaches for consumers and delivery firms.

People in the UK, apart from Northern Ireland, now need to include customs declaration forms when sending gifts and other goods abroad, including to EU countries, to show what is in the package and its origin.

Research from Which? showed that of 1,000 people surveyed, one in six were planning on sending presents abroad this Christmas.

However, half of those intent on shipping gifts to the EU, were completely unaware of new post-Brexit rules slapped on gifts from the UK.

Under the new rules, items worth €22 (£18.67) or less that are sent from the UK to EU addresses are now no longer exempt from VAT.

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However, gifts – items sent between two people where no money is exchanged – that enter the EU from the UK are unaffected by VAT charges, as long as their value is under €45 (£38.18).

As well as the effect of EU rules on gifts ahead of Christmas, Mr Anderson also explained how the EU’s food import restrictions have recently impacted local supermarket supplies in Spain.

He said: “I don’t think anybody realised that meat and dairy products would not be allowed to be brought from the UK to Europe.

“There are a couple of shops just here in Mijas and there are probably more in other parts, like Iceland and Tesco.

“There was a spell where the shelves were emptying, and they just weren’t refilling.

“They seem to have managed to get around that by buying, for example Irish, products.

“Whether it be sausages or cheeses, or anything containing dairy.”

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