Driver is caught in UK Customs VAT cash net

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The case of Robert Blackmore highlights the need to be prepared when taking goods for sale to the UK.

Driving a consignment of scarfs, bags, jewellery and other textiles to Harrogate for an exhibition, Mr Blackmore spent six hours at Portsmouth while he found enough cash to pay the VAT on the goods because ferry operator Condor would not accept any credit or debit cards.

‘Most of the goods were for an exhibition, although some were for sale, so we declared the value to Condor in Jersey the night before sailing,’ said Mr Blackmore, who is a voluntary driver for the Art in the Frame Foundation.

‘I arrived in Portsmouth at 6.

5 am and was stopped and asked to take my papers to the Condor office.

They charged me VAT on the whole consignment which came to over £2,300, which I was prepared to do because it is the law.

‘However, despite two signs in Condor’s Portsmouth office saying that they accepted credit and debit cards, I quickly found out that they don’t.

I was told that the only way I could leave was to give them over £2,300 in cash, which was hardly an option, or arrange a bank transfer.

‘A few frantic calls later someone had to go to a bank in Jersey and transfer the money from the charity’s account to Condor’s account in London.

This took over five hours to complete, and I finally drove out of the port over six hours after arriving, with a journey up to Harrogate looming.

Condor are a modern, efficient company but there are still a few elements that need to be dragged into the 21st century.

However, Condor have defended their actions.

Sales and marketing manager Nick Dobbs said that the company collected tax on behalf of HM Customs so were not prepared to accept payment by credit or debit card.

‘Sometimes we have to take payment at the port and in these cases we will not accept credit card payment because we will get charged between two and three per cent on the transaction,’ he said.

‘We are not prepared to make a loss on a payment we take on behalf of someone else, so will only accept cash or a bank transfer.

‘Having to pay at the port is quite rare, as regular customers have usually set up automated payment.

However, since this case has come to light I have asked our port manager to have a look at whether we can accept credit card payments if the customer is willing to pay the transaction fee.

‘We don’t normally charge for credit and debit cards payments, unlike some airlines, but we do in this instance.

Customers who return to the Island with unsold items can claim the VAT back on them, which we will return on behalf of Customs.

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