Online Christmas shoppers caught out by duty rules

MODERN CHRISTMAS SHOPPING:  Employees select and dispatch items in the huge Amazon 'fulfilment centre' warehouse in ...
REUTERS

MODERN CHRISTMAS SHOPPING: Employees select and dispatch items in the huge Amazon 'fulfilment centre' warehouse in Peterborough, England.

Confusion around New Zealand's import laws may mean those doing their Christmas shopping online face a big bill before claiming their gifts. 

People who bought their presents online from overseas retailers are facing extra, and for some, unexpected charges. 

New Zealand import laws mean almost all purchases under $400 can be brought in GST-free, however customs charges can apply to some goods such as clothes that are above $225 in value, New Zealand Custom Service said.

"There is a common misconception that goods purchased online from overseas websites for less than NZ$400 can come into the country without incurring any duty, GST, or charges," the Custom website states.

"This 'rule of thumb' does not apply to goods that attract both duty and GST, such as clothing, shoes, and accessories." 

Customs said smaller gifts were exempt from added costs, with no duty and/or GST payable if the duty owed on the item is less than $60.

Auckland father Nick Spencer said he feared his children might miss out on their presents this year.

The delivery of children's clothes from English department store Marks and Spencer were at Auckland Airport, but he has been told he has to pay $170 in import costs to clear them.

"It's been a bit of rigmarole, a bit of a pain," he said.

"I might have to bite the bullet and hand over $170. I don't see what choice I have."

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Spencer said the total value of the parcel was about £190 (NZ$383).

Consumer NZ chief executive Sue Chetwin said she expected many people would be hit by added costs.

"More people are shopping online, so more expensive items are coming in," she said.

"It will be happening to quite a lot of people and especially if they've left their Christmas shopping for the last run, they may not get their gifts by Christmas."

Spencer said he had spoken with several people from Customs but there was no chance of getting them to budge.

He said his other option was trying to get the items delivered back to England and then brought over with his parents who are visiting in January.

"I'm not sure how the kids will like it but we may have to have a late Christmas," he said.

"In the future I'll probably do it [shopping] the old-fashioned way."

A survey of Kiwi shoppers by Mastercard showed the most common presents bought online were books, DVDs and CDs (51 per cent), followed by vouchers for goods and services (48 per cent), toys and games (35 per cent), and make up and fragrances (34 per cent).

Despite the rise of online shopping only 17 per cent of the 1000 respondents said they have done their online Christmas shopping this year. 

 - Stuff

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