Tuesday, September 15, 2009

A taxing morning

A few days ago I received a letter from the Inland Revenue (the UK equivalent of the IRS) reminding me that I should pay tax on my bank interest. This caused some hollow laughter, since the amount of interest the banks are paying on savings at the moment is so paltry (0.1% p.a. on some accounts) that the tax on it amounts to almost nothing. However it seems to be a sign of the times that in order to try to fill the massive hole in the public finances caused by falling tax revenues and bailing out the banks, no amount of tax is deemed to be too small to be worth collecting.

A couple of weeks ago I ordered a USB programming cable for the VX-8R from Valley Enterprises in Idaho, via eBay. The cost was $39.95 plus an extremely reasonable $3.96 for USPS First Class International Shipping (total 26.50 British pounds.) The package was posted on 3rd September. This morning, 15th September, a card was pushed through the letterbox to say that a package was available for collection at the post office and there was £11.63 (about $19.25) to pay!

I couldn't think what the package was, because such a large amount suggested that the value of the item was much higher. But when I went down to the Post Office I found that the package was indeed the programming cable. The sticker on the envelope explained that the VAT was, as expected, £3.63. On top of that there was a Royal Mail International handling fee of £8.00!

This is simply outrageous! I have no objection to paying VAT, or even customs duty where it may legally be charged. But then to have to pay a fee for collecting it, a tax on a tax, a fee that is more than twice the value of the tax itself, is ridiculous! Does it really cost more to collect this tax than to physically transport an envelope all the way from the USA to here? This is legalized robbery!

Surely the Revenue and Customs department should pay for the tax collection, not the consumer? After all, when I pay my income tax at the end of the year I don't pay an additional fee for the privilege of having them collect it from me. Unfortunately, other than expressing my indignation in this blog there is not much I can do. Our politicians are only interested in the fat salaries they can get once elected plus the extras they can make on expenses. So who would I complain to?

In total, this programming cable has cost me about £38 (the equivalent of $63.) On top of that I still have to pay ten quid to G4HFQ for the software. The equivalent Yaesu ADMS VX-8 software and cable from a UK dealer would cost £61 plus shipping. So I've still saved a bit, but not as much as I expected.

Once upon a time if you ordered low value items from overseas and they came by post no-one bothered to collect the tax on them. But now that the postal service can make a profit from collecting the tax it seems that no item's value is too small. I shall think twice before making any more purchases from outside the EU.
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