Last year I had to start paying ransom (VAT) when I receive gifts from friends and family abroad. Not only did I have to pay VAT on the declared contents, but on the postage as well!
Below is an email I sent to those in my Irish constituency related to financial matters. Of the 4 people I sent it to, including the Minister of Finance, only one responded (a local Councillor) and that was to tell me the directive came from the European Union (EU).
I then forwarded the email to the Irish contingent representing finance at the EU level and heard a deafening silence.
Therefore, I decided to post it on my blog in case other people are experiencing the same issue. If more people raise it with their EU representatives, there’s a chance to change the law to at least remove having to pay VAT on the postage of the package. Twice I’ve had packages sent to me from my sister in the US that contain $12-15 worth of items and the postage was over $45.00 (the fact that international postage is outrageously expensive, given most things are automated these days, is a whole separate topic). For me to pay 23% VAT on $60 ($15 worth of items + $45 postage) ends up costing almost as much as the items themselves! It’s no longer a gift at that point, it’s a burden.
Now some may think that the EU has more important things to do than retract a law that’s causing undo hardship on a small number of it’s constituents; however, I would argue that they had plenty of spare time to enact the law in the first place, so they can find the time to amend it.
I hope the members of the Oireachtas had a Happy Christmas. Mine would have been happier had I not, for the first time in the 11 years I’ve lived in Ireland, had to pay ransom to the Department of Revenue to receive the gifts my friends and family sent from abroad.
In 2021 the Oreachtas implemented legislation whereby gifts from non-EU countries would be subject to customs fees and VAT if “the value of the gift (including insurance, freight and postage costs) is €45 or less”.1 There is some jargon on subsequent pages of the website about declaration codes and “negligible value”. However, that is all legal speak that a friend or family member will struggle to interpret, and the post office in the remote location may also struggle to declare.
Has anyone in the Oireachtas tried to send a parcel it the last 2 years, domestically or abroad? At least half the time, the value of the postage meets or exceeds the cost of the items contained in the package.
Over the years since I moved to Ireland, I have been humbled by the generosity of my friends and family who will send me packages even though I gasp at the amount of postage they have had to pay. This year, my sister sent me a package containing $12 worth of contents and it cost $47 to send the 1kg box. A friend spent $65 to send $40 worth of gifts, just because they care about me and wanted me to have a gift along with a few of my favourite things. On the package from my friend I had to pay €28 in VAT (including the An Post fee) to claim this parcel of Christmas gifts.
Who came up with these values and why is postage, freight, and insurance included in the charges? There is no value to the recipient for postage, freight, and insurance, except possibly the love of the shipper, who paid such a price to send a little good cheer.
How is a family going to cope with such charges, particularly in this economic climate? Their friends and family abroad were just trying to be kind by sending something to brighten the holidays, but now the family may have to turn off the heating for a few hours each day for a week, or cut out part of their Christmas dinner in order to pay for the tax on gifts from abroad. Or worse yet, refuse the package, because they cannot pay.
Given this new legislation, which is being implemented with great force this year (I did not have to pay VAT on any Christmas packages last year), I’m going to have to tell my friends and family to stop sending me birthday and Christmas gifts. It’s just too expensive to receive them.1 https://www.revenue.ie/en/customs/individuals/relief-gifts-low-value/rules-gifts.aspx
Finding your EU representatives: https://www.europarl.europa.eu/meps/en/home
Give Me Back My Sugar!
Slowly but surely over the last few years, fizzy drink (aka soda or soft drink) companies in Ireland and elsewhere have been ruining their beverages. First it was Sprite (that I noticed, anyway) and it has made the cycle through almost every other soda I (used to) enjoy drinking, including 7-up, Fanta (all flavors), San Pelligrino Limonata (and other flavors) and even Ginger Ale.
I blame the medical community. The ones who blame the obesity crisis solely on fizzy drinks, as if chocolate, candy/sweets, crisps/chips, and fast food play no part. Nor, it seems, does the entire processed, ready to heat and eat food now available in the supermarkets. The fact that kids don’t play outside much anymore as they are all glued to some form of screen or other (phone, tablet, video game, TV) isn’t on the front line. No, they just put all of their wrath into one type of beverage.
Too much of any of these products is bad for you. Targeting a single product isn’t going to solve the problem.
For every study that says full sugar drinks are bad for you there is an equal study that says artificial sweeteners, when they aren’t causing cancer, can actually cause you to crave high fat and sugar in other foods.
So what have these soft drink companies done? Removed some of the sugar and replaced it with sugar substitutes. They claim they are plant based (Stevia and similar) and give the beverage a ‘great new taste’. Who does their taste testing? I’ve tried these new formulas and each and every one of them tastes like it has been doused with artificial sweeteners – the same taste as saccharin, aspartame, and every other non-sugar sweetener. One swallow is all it takes and I’m pouring the remaining contents down the drain.
Much of this rush to sugar substitutes has been a result of sugar taxes introduced in countries like Ireland and the UK.
I’m not so much opposed to companies substituting part of the sugar for other non-sugar sweeteners, but I do object to them being passed off as the same as the original full-sugar variety. If companies want to create a “lighter” version, that’s fine, but please label it as such. I object to buying a product, taking a swig, and finding out it’s not what I expected and end up binning the rest. Companies need taste testers whose taste buds haven’t been severely damaged by too many artificial sweeteners.
Let the consumer decide. Do they want a sugar-substitute variety at a lower price which may taste different or do they want to pay the price and have their original variety. I’m in the latter category. I don’t drink soda every day, some weeks I don’t drink it at all. I’m not a coffee drinker and not a big tea drinker either, so sometimes when I need a hit of caffeine I reach for a Pepsi (thankfully one of the products that have not succumbed to the sugar switch on its original variety – they have plenty of other part and non-sugar varieties). I like the taste, just as it is.
I also like a lemon beverage when I don’t want caffeine and am out at a restaurant. If I don’t drink coffee or tea and can’t get a decent tasting soft drink at a restaurant, I end up with water. Of course, there’s nothing wrong with water – it’s my beverage of choice 98% of the time. But restaurants don’t make money off tap water – they do off other beverages. So I’m not a cheapskate when ordering water in a restaurant, they just don’t have anything that tastes good that I want to drink.
Did you know an equivalent amount of wine has between 50% and 100% more calories than a can of regular Coke or Pepsi? A pint of beer has almost the same amount as a can of full sugar soda.
Stop hiding behind flawed studies – statistics can be arranged to say whatever the person requesting the statistics wants it to say.
I did write to Nestle when San Pelligrino Limonata, my last frontier, went the way of Stevia. They did write back but the response was pretty much I was out of luck. So I’ve stopped buying their product and every other soft drink product or lemonade that uses artificial sweeteners.
I also complained to Subway in Ireland when they switched to only diet drinks. You can get a sub with double meat and cheese and extra mayo, but you cannot have sugar in your beverage.
The only way to make an impression on companies is to talk with your wallet. If you don’t like the new varieties, stop buying them and let them know why. Hopefully, they will get the message.
Education is the key to building healthy societies, not making decisions for people. Start the education young and follow it through with other healthy choices.
Give people information, but also give them choice. Put a warning sticker on the full sugar variety if you have to, like they did with cigarettes, but let the consumer decide what form of beverage they prefer.