The Irish postal service has never been busier.

For a service that some feared would become extinct as emails replaced the old-fashioned act of sending letters, it has become rejuvenated by the nation’s favourite pastime: shopping online.

However, as of 1 January 2021, when the UK exited the EU, shopping online has become more costly and complicated for consumers.

Many of the high street brands that we are familiar with are UK companies and, as a result, will now charge VAT, handling fees and. in some situations, customs duty.

Taxes and charges

So, how much will it cost the consumer? There are now three price brackets that you need to be aware of when buying from a UK retailer.

  • Over €22: Once you go over €22 then you will have to pay VAT at a rate of 21%. On top of that, the rate of VAT must be added and applied. The Revenue Commissioners levy these charges but An Post or a courier company calculates and collects them on their behalf. There is a charge for this service and while An Post charges a fee of 1% of the value of the package (up to a maximum of €10), courier companies can charge €10 or €15 or even more.
  • Over €150: Once you go over €150 you are into another league. Now you must pay customs duty on top of VAT and handling charges. This varies depending on the goods you purchase. For example, the duty on clothes is different to a bicycle and different again when buying books. You can check the exact amount of customs duty on the Revenue website
  • The real price your pay

    So how does that translate into real money? Let’s take a jumper you see online for €50. It looks lovely so you add it to your shopping basket. You are about to check out when you see that there is a delivery charge of €10, bringing the cost up to €60. We are used to paying for delivery charges so you agree and proceed with your transaction.

    However, because the cost of your item has exceeded the magic €22 mark, you now have to pay VAT at a rate of 21%. This 21% applies to the item and the delivery charge (€60), which is €12.60. Now you’re looking at €72.60. And don’t forget that the courier company is going to charge you an extra €10 for their service in calculating and applying this VAT, bringing the sum total of that jumper to €82.60.

    If you are buying an item that costs €155 then you then need to apply customs duty, so don’t be surprised if you see an extra €80 or €90 being added. That means that €155 coat you saw online could cost you €235.

    Consumer confusion

    Who is charging what?

    What makes the situation even more complicated is that it’s hard to know which retailers are UK based and which retailers have European operations. Grainne Griffin, director of communications with the CCPC, says the onus is on consumers to do their research.

    “Just seeing .ie in the domain name of the website isn’t enough. Even if you see euro prices and a giant Irish flag at the top of the screen, it doesn’t mean it is an Irish website. You need to go to the terms and conditions and see where the business is located. If it is a UK address, you could be paying these extra charges.”

    Not only that but, in its research, Irish Country Living found that some retailers are collecting these VAT and custom charges at the point of sale so you know when you checkout what the actual amount is. However, others are not and so consumers are getting surprise texts – days and sometimes, weeks after their order is placed – requesting they pay the extra VAT or their item will not be delivered. We have heard of consumers facing this situation when ordering from Currys, PC World and Clarks in the last number of weeks.

    Other retailers, however, have been able to bypass all this hassle. Next, for example, has set up an Irish operation so your items are not subject to these charges and are being dispatched from Ireland. ASOS is another UK company that is diverting their operations through a European depot. Perhaps more and more of the UK retailers that do big business in Ireland and mainland Europe will follow suit but for the moment shop with care.