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Importing knives into the UK

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

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 and
- how we itemise your invoice

This guide will explain how we can legally minimise taxes and duty on your purchase.

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 fee of £11.00.

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 £134.00) will reduce to zero over the coming five years. In 2020, the first year the new agreement is in effect, the rate on kitchen knives has been reduced to 7.1%.

Year of Agreement  2020 2021 2022 2023 2024
Applicable rate of customs duty   7.1%     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. However we have learned that itemising our invoice and indicating separate values for products and postage/shipping fees will ensure you're not overcharged VAT when your order is delivered, and in some cases obviate the customs duty.

Example 1: a knife that is purchased for £100.00 with free shipping.

If we send include an invoice stating £100 with free shipping, HMRC will add the value of postage paid to the purchase value and apply VAT to that higher amount. It makes no sense! But we have to take the policy into account when we send your order.

In this case the invoice we issue might list your knife as £90.00 and postage as £10.00. VAT applies on the transaction value of £100.00, so £20.00 will be payable in VAT. The carrier will pay that figure to HMRC and then recoup it from you before delivery, with the addition of an administration / handling fee.

Example 2: a knife that is purchased for £160.00 with free shipping.

This one's easy. We'll include an invoice that shows the item value at £130.00 and shipping of £30.00. Why? The knife will be under the £134 threshold for paying customs duty, and your VAT will only be applied to the amount you have paid.

Example 3:  a knife that is purchased for £250.00 with free shipping.

This one's not so easy. We'll max out on the itemised shipping and handling on your invoice - say, £50.00, and you'll pay customs duty of 7.1% on the knife value, in this case shown on the invoice as £200.00.

So, in this example VAT will be applied to the total of £264.20, which is £200.00 (knife) + £14.20 (duty) + £50.00 (shipping/insurance).

VAT of 20% on the total comes to £92.84. So you pay £14.20 duty and £92.84 tax, plus the admin fee.

If you order more than one item it can sometimes be of benefit to split your order. 

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, as of August 2020 deliveries are taking about ten days. Fully tracked delivery.

Registered Airmail: Insurance cover tops out at around £45.00. There are some delays at the time of writing (August 2020) 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 over £15 are subject to VAT and UK carrier handling fees when they arrive. Items valued at over £134 are subject to additional customs duty.

By adjusting your invoice we can ensure your VAT assessment is correct and in some cases (legally) sidestep 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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