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Frequently asked questions from customers about products and services.

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  1. So the next phase in our nightmare saga called "Brexit" is "wading through all the info about VAT registration in the EU and finding out after spending several hours reading through several headahces, that it's all optional - at least I think it is".

    corsetry supplies at sew curvy

    I asked my accountant about the impending rule that UK businesses will have to register for VAT in one EU country, then apply VAT to EU sales, then pay that VAT to the EU every month.

    Nowhere in the 'official' information given out by HMRC - at least for us mere mortals - is there any suggestion that this is infact optional, but this is Brexit Britain where nothing is clear, least of all things that used to be perfectly simple.

    Nevertheless, my accountant did some digging and discovered the following.

    Option 1: Businesses can register for VAT in one EU country who will administrate the VAT responsibility for the EU VAT.  Most Brits are choosing Ireland because of language.  To do this, the business must appoint a 'specialist' (accountant) who will set up the system for a fee of around £2k, then charge a monthly fee to keep you right.  You also have to register on the online platform IOSS to help you do this.  So that's quite an outlay in addition to the monthly accountants fees and the VAT payments themselves.

    Option 2: Businesses can carry on as they are without registering for VAT in an EU country.  Packages sent to the EU will simply be taxed at the border, as they are now.

    Source

    We can therefore draw a few conclusions:

    1. The main reason for a business registering for VAT in the EU is for customer convenience - to save them having to pay customs on their packages before delivery.

    2. The set up fees and ongoing monthly fees and additional admin, is not sustainable for small and micro businesses

    3. The business turnover for EU sales must be over £10k - more to make it economically viable.

    Sew Curvy pays VAT from profits.  This is the case with most businesses in the UK.  Prices 'include' VAT but VAT is not added to the price of the product to start with - (it's complicated!).

    Obviously as I have reported before, our sales to the EU have dropped quite considerably since "B-day", and so for the time being, we will not be registering for VAT in the EU.  We will continue to send goods into those countries but these will be subject to customs at the border.

    sending corset making supplies to the EU from the UK

  2. English coutil fabric for Corsetry

    So over the past couple of weeks, you may have noticed that our regular herringbone cotton coutil fabric feels a bit different - a bit softer, a lot softer actually.

    First of all PANIC NOT!  This is not a bad thing. The thread count and quality of the fabric is still the same. The sizing has changed - what is 'sizing'? I hear you ask...

    Size is the glue product which is put onto the coutil fabric during the finishing process to make the material stiff and therefore suitable for corsetry.  In the past, to be honest, I think the fabric has been oversized which has resulted in a really cardboard like feel to the fabric.  However, this over-sizing did have benefits too  because it meant that you could dye the white herringbone with ease and the fabric would remain firm even after several washing cycles. 

    Now, we have a softer product but no less strong and certainly still the best fabric to use for making a corset.

    If you do wish to dye the coutil, you can still do so but will need to use starch in order to get a crisp result. 

    The new softer herringbone corsetry coutil allows you much more flexibility especially when it comes to fusing other fabrics to it (ie: silk);  before you would end up with a really stiff and bulky cardboard like fabric which would permenantly crease if you weren't careful.  With the softer base, this will not happen.

    For tips on fusing, click HERE

  3. We're 4 months into 'Post Brexit' and discovering all the things that could possibly go wrong, but for some unfathomable reason that I cannot work out, the operations which are suffering most as a result of the new customs arrangements everywhere, are the couriers!

    post to europe via royal mail

    Typically I used to use UPS for everthing going West - so USA etc., and DPD for everything going East of here - so EU etc.,

    DPD are a French company with a highly sophisticated digital tracking system and I have literally never ever had a problem with them in 10 years.  Now it seems they are in meltdown! I can't understand it.  I would have thought if anyone could cope, it would be DPD.  But alas no.

    I haven't tried UPS because my usual booking company has put them off limits! WTF I hear you say? It's a mystery!

    My EU custom had dropped right off in January as expected, but slowly my lovely EU customers are coming back.  Partly it seems, this is because the only service out of the UK who seems to be getting on with the job with absolutely no problems at all, is the Royal Mail!  I haven't had one single problem with anything going to the EU with the Royal Mail and there don't seem to have been many or any 'problems' with customs (touches as much wood as possible!!).  Customers all over Europe have been reporting safe, quick and free of customs deliveries. 

    SO, I have upped the postage rates for parcels which weigh over 2kg.  This is so that I can break larger orders into 2kg packages and send by Royal Mail.  It's more expensive I  know, but it's the only way I can guarantee you getting your stuff in the usual amount of time, rather than 3 months down the line, but as ever, any excess postage paid will be refunded.

    I'm sorry about having to do this but until the courier companies get to grips with the situation, this is the best we can do for our own service to our customers.  

  4. sending goods to EU from UK

    So it's been 4 weeks since "the Big B", the UK is in chaos, the news is full of 'shocked' consumers and tales of ridiculous customs bills on both sides of the Channel.  It's a testament to the efficiency and honesty of our government propaganda machine - I mean PRESS, that people had absolutely no idea what would happen after Brexit, but here we are.  Business from the EU to the UK has almost shut down completely, and literally everyone on the planet is confused.  I'm here to offer a bit of clarification as far as our customers at Sew Curvy are concerned anyway.  However, this should apply to any small business operating in the UK.

    Since 1 January, UK is no longer part of the trading bloc known as the European Union (EU).  We have a 'free trade deal' which does not do what it says on the tin.  It's exactly what our PM said it was, a "non no tarrif deal" (or whatever nonsensical phrase he used).  Basically it means that there are no tarrifs payable on (most) goods going between the UK and the EU and there are no duties on many goods as long as the country of origin is UK or EU.  It's complicated.  Firstly, if you can decipher the difference between a tarrif and a duty from this simple explanation, you are a better woman than me.

    the difference between duties and tarrifs

    Both are taxes, and both are payable to the UK government where goods are imported to the UK.  If you are in a different country, you may have more easy to understand definitions of goods that attract tarrifs and goods that attract duties.  On the whole, if goods are made and sold in the UK or the EU then duties may not apply - there are exceptions such as alcohol.  Apparently these taxes are there to protect our industry, but the only trouble is, that since the UK joined the EU in the first place, nearly 40 years ago, we don't actually have much of what you could call 'an industry' here.  Each country over the years has developed specialties, and ours which was manufacturing, stopped, and now Germany is the main manufacturer for Europe (important to remember this).

    Here's a picture of just how clear the whole situation is to most people including professionals:

    Brexit rules as clear as mud

    OK so on the level of Sew Curvy, as a business which is a small one woman company, not a huge corporation, things are panning out quite simply (I think).  I received my first post Brexit consignment of Steel (remember what I said about Germany? yes that's where all the corset steel comes from) ... There was no duty to pay, but there was quite a hefty 'customs fee' payable to the carrier who imported the goods for me.  VAT was always payable and this has been dealt with in the usual way.  So far so good.  But it was only a small shipment, and I am still suspicious on how things will pan out.

    For my customers, I've seen a massive drop in EU sales - not surprisingly.  I have sent some packages though, mostly to Norway - where nothing has changed, and other countries in the 'rest of the world' catergory - Australia, New Zealand and USA  where nothing has really changed.

    In short, the EU is now treated like "rest of the world" and here is a list of bullet points of everything I know so far.

    For UK businesses importing from the EU:

    • There is VAT payable to the UK government on all imports from EU - this is normal but the way it is applied and paid has changed.
    • There are no duties payable on (most) goods which originate in the EU.
    • There are additional customs fees payable to logistics firms who have to do all the paperwork involved at the port of entry - this seems to be a single charge of around £50-60 at the moment.  If other fees are paid by the logistics firm, then a charge of 2% of the total value of the shipment is also payable.

    For UK consumers importing from the EU and the rest of the world:

    • For orders under £135.00, VAT is payable to the UK government at source.  This means that businesses outside the UK selling to UK consumers must register for VAT with HMRC, and then charge and collect 20% vat and then pay it to the UK government directly.  If the company does this via a sales platform such as Amazon or Etsy, the responsibility for VAT transfers to the sales platform.  If you order something via a sales platform, pay VAT and then are charged VAT again at entry then this is wrong.  There IS an appeals process.  For goods imported by post it's HERE.  And for goods imported by couriers it's HERE.
    • There are different rules if you are both the exporter and the importer (ie if you have a sales office in the UK but ship from the EU).
    • For orders over £135.00, VAT is still payable to the UK government, but at point of delivery which means it should be collected by the carrier who delivers the goods.  There will be a processing fee and an onward postal fee which will make goods quite a lot more expensive.  The customs fees payable in this case are applied to the value of the goods and the postage paid.
    • Our previous threshold of goods under £15 not being subject to fees/taxes etc., is now null and void.  It's been abolished.  There's no threshold.  

    Obviously, small sellers everywhere else, are not going to find it easy to either register with HMRC for VAT (there is no threshold as there is for UK sellers), or commit to the vast amount of admin necessary to be able to implement such a system just for UK customers.  This means that many businesses will simply stop selling to us.  However, in July 2021, the arrangement becomes recipricol.  UK businesses will have to register for VAT with the EU and then pay the EU any VAT charged to EU customers. 

    Is your head hurting yet?

    Right now, we are surviving with our Brexit stockpile and renewed 'faith' that it's not going to be so difficult importing corsetry supplies from Europe as originally thought.  But I'm not counting my chickens or putting eggs in any baskets - I'm taking each day as it comes.  There will be price rises when new stock arrives, but hopefully many hiccups will be smoothed out by then.

    Regarding our sales to EU countries, these are now treated in the same way as sales to countries outside the EU - this is what we have been doing:

    • All our packages now carry electronic customs data
    • We have to complete the tarrif code and the value of goods in our postal system.  This is then stored in the bar code on your address label
    • For safety we are also printing out CN22 forms for all packages going outside the UK - see the picture at the top to see what this looks like.
    • We are not allowed to mark goods sold as 'gifts' - actually this is impossible to do as the system is set up automatically.  The whole reason this electronic / digital system is now in force is because of fraudulent acitivity in the postal world, and governments realising that they are being done out of alot of revenue with the growth of online trading and companies marking goods with no value.
    • So far I have only had a couple of hiccups with EU orders - literally only a couple and I have been monitoring deliveries for the last couple of weeks.
    • I have set all overseas postage to tracked so that I can do this.  In these uncertain times, it is frustrating when it is not possible to track any problems.

    There have been border problems in the UK for goods leaving us, and these have been caused by the pandemic as well as Brexit.  Postal updates can be seen HERE - so if you're not sure how the service in your country will be impacted, do check that list.