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Importing Japanese knives into the UK


Importing knives into the UK from Japan
VAT, import duty and handling fees

Until January 1st, 2021 all of the information below (under the asterisks) was accurate for all UK-based purchases from Knife Japan. Now it only applies to purchases over £135. Purchases under that figure are treated differently under the new UK VAT regime. 

You are probably aware that overseas online sellers shipping items to UK buyers are now required to charge UK VAT at point of sale on orders under £135.

We'll be honest. We're not at all interested in collecting VAT for the UK tax authorities. Especially when it means spending on accounting solutions to facilitate that tax collection, and remittance costs to pay it. We don't even know what happens in the event of currency movements - do we score at your expense if the yen moves our way in the ensuing quarter? Do we pay more if the pound advances?

We have nothing against taxes, but really, we don't want to be made responsible for paying those of your country.

What to do, what to do. The thing is, we don't want to stop offering these great products to customers based in the UK. 

It seems there are two options available to us. The first is to request that UK purchases placed with Knife Japan should only be those over the £135 threshold. In that case VAT is paid upon import, and not at point of sale. We're in the clear.

The second option is for you, the UK customer, to provide your VAT number so that we may note on the invoice “reverse charge: customer to account for VAT to HMRC.” More research is needed to ensure this is doable and guess what, no-one is answering the phone.

We'll update this advice if and when we know more. We'll state here that should we receive a purchase order with a UK delivery address for under £135 then we will be in touch and we may issue a full and prompt refund with apologies. Please use the contact form below if you'd like to share your thoughts, offer advice, complain or ask for clarification.

Lastly, a big shout out to Bruce for putting us on the right track with this stuff. We had it wrong!


All chef's knives imported into the UK from Japan via the international postal system or by courier delivery are subject to tax and carrier fees, so if you’re resident in the UK it’s important to know that you’ll pay an additional sum to receive a knife sent from Knife Japan.

Upon arrival in the United Kingdom your delivery will be assessed for VAT by HM Revenue and Customs. If sent by Japan Post this amount is paid by Parcelforce Worldwide before they deliver, if we ship with DHL then DHL will prepay VAT. Either carrier will ask you to repay this amount plus a handling/admin fee before the knife is delivered to you. 

Tax, duty and fees vary according to:

- the value of the purchase
- the postal or courier service we use

One way to reduce your tax liability would be to lie about the value of your purchase on your documentation, but we’d like to stress that’s not something we do. Doing so would risk confiscation of your parcel and void the insurance we arrange on your order. 

What will you be required to pay once your order reaches the UK?

First is VAT of 20%, which is the tax to be paid on the total amount you have paid to us.

Second, carriers charge a processing and handling fee for parcels that we send to you. Parcelforce Worldwide charges £8.00 on ordinary mail or £13.50 on high-value (£1000+) purchases and express postal services. DHL charges a minimum fee of £11.00, or 2.5% of the customs value.

We've been using DHL for many destinations to get around pandemic-related disruptions to postal services. For many countries we don't have a choice, but we do for parcels headed for the UK. You can choose which shipping service and therefore which fee is payable. 

There's also customs duty to think about. Things are changing with customs duty on items imported from Japan thanks to a new trade agreement with the EU, which also applies to the UK. The previous applicable duty rate of 8.5% (on items values over £135.00) will reduce to zero over the coming five years. In 2020 the rate on kitchen knives has been reduced to 5.7%.

Year of Agreement  2020 2021 2022 2023 2024
Applicable rate of customs duty   5.7%     4.3%     2.8%     1.4%     -  

Please refer to Agreement between the European Union and Japan for an Economic Partnership. Do a page search for '8211', the harmonized tariff code for kitchen knives. 

Free shipping

Shipping with Knife Japan is free for all orders and all destinations, for our UK customers thanks to duty, fees and tax that doesn't equal free delivery. 

Your choice

Before we ship your order we will ask you if you would like us to use EMS Express Post, Registered Airmail or DHL Express. Here's a quick rundown of the main differences between the three shipping choices:

Japan Post EMS: Items are fully insured against damage or loss. In normal times EMS is a signed delivery, this may be different right now due to coronavirus-related protocols. Delivery from Japan is usually around 7 days, some delays might be anticipated due to coronavirus disruptions. Fully tracked delivery.

Registered Airmail: Insurance cover tops out at around £45.00. There are some delays at the time of writing (January 2021) due to coronavirus but it's not too bad. Expect delivery in 10-20 days. It's worth noting that these parcels sometimes arrive as a normal mail item with no tax, duty or carriers fees. Tracked delivery.

DHL Express: Fast. We've had items arrive in the UK on Monday after sending them Friday. Insurance is available but we'd ask you to cover the insurance fee if it's important to you (we will bear the additional shipping charges to maintain our free shipping policy). We pack items well so damage is highly unlikely. No items have gone missing so far. Fully tracked delivery. 

As a UK resident your overseas online purchases are subject to VAT and UK carrier handling fees when they arrive. Please note that imports valued at over £135 are subject to customs duty.

By choosing the carrier we use you have some influence over the final amount you pay upon import.

If you have any questions about our products or how we can deliver them to you in the UK, please drop us a line using the form below.

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