Christmas shoppers looking for bargains overseas have been warned by HM Revenue and Customs (HMRC) not to get hit by unexpected charges.

Shoppers buying goods online from non-European Union (EU) countries, or travellers going abroad to do Christmas shopping, are advised to check how much they can buy before customs duty or import VAT are due.

HMRC’s Head of Customs Policy, Angela Shephard, said:

“We know many people like to go abroad at this time to buy their Christmas gifts, or buy online from non-EU countries, and think that the ‘cheaper’ price they see is always the price they finally pay.  We want to remind everyone how much they can actually bring back from abroad or buy from an online overseas seller without having to pay customs duty or import VAT. 

“Shoppers must always be cautious with websites that say they will undervalue your goods so you won’t pay VAT or offer famous ‘brand’ names at very low prices. HMRC knows about these sites and people who think they’ve found a bargain may actually end up paying more or having goods seized.”