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Support the companies that remove VAT and vote with your credit card

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LAST week a huge box of art supplies arrived in the post. Among the goodies were a number of porcelain ‘paint your own’ kits and a couple of them had broken during the journey.

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I contacted Baker Ross, the company in the UK I had ordered from, and within days they had sent replacements for the broken ones. Their customer service was excellent.

And guess what? They did all of that as well as automatically removing the VAT because they recognise that here in Jersey we are not liable to pay the tax. I didn’t even have to ask.

By contrast, for the past couple of months I have been exchanging emails with the press office of online retailer ASOS after being contacted by a reader.

I started by asking what their policy was on VAT for the Channel Islands and by reminding them that we are not liable to pay it here.

Back and forth the emails went, but the confusion remained. The company seemed to acknowledge that we don’t pay the tax, and said their system takes it into account. But then they couldn’t explain to me why clothes were the same price regardless of if you ordered them to Jersey or somewhere in the UK.

Eventually, after I asked again ‘shouldn’t the clothes be 20% cheaper if you order them to Jersey?’, I was told the help section of their website had been updated. Hurrah I thought, progress!

And this is what it now says: ‘Exports from the UK to the Channel Islands are zero rated, so you won’t have to pay any VAT charges for your order. We’re accounting for 0% VAT, which means that your VAT has been charged at 0%.

‘We take our tax compliance seriously and we pay the related tax due in all countries where it’s required. The total price you see at checkout represents the total price payable by the customer, so you won’t see any deductions on your confirmation email.’

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So I checked again, and a £20 dress still cost the same to send to Jersey as it did Liverpool. Which means if they are not paying the VAT, because they know it isn’t due, then where is that extra 20% going?

Finally, the company gave up on answering my questions and said it had nothing more to add.

And when I asked if they would like to respond ahead of publishing this comment, a spokesman said: ‘We consider a range of things when determining our price, which vary from one area to another.

As a result, we don’t offer any discount or refund any difference in tax treatment between various locations, as other components of the total price at checkout may also differ.’

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Ah, a nod to the old ‘high cost of getting things to Jersey’ excuse. Well, it didn’t seem to stop Baker Ross, who I paid just £4.95 postage to for a big, heavy box to be delivered.

So why am I telling you all this?

Because it is only by sharing stories of good and bad retailers that we can all shop savvy.

And as this newspaper’s very successful campaigns on VAT in the past have shown, including most recently the one which secured a refund for Sky customers, we really can get what we are entitled to if we fight for it.

Last week, on the front page of this newspaper, retired civil servant Juliette White urged Islanders to check if they are owed refunds by British Airways in lieu of charges incorrectly issued to cover another UK tax not applicable to the Channel Islands.

She recouped £52 after pursuing a claim that she had been unfairly charged Air Passenger Duty, which she believed had been incorrectly applied because of a fault with the airline’s online booking system. That fault has now been corrected, and Ms White is pursuing further claims against BA. And the UK tax authorities have advised any Jersey customers with queries about APD to get in contact with the airline via its website.

Firstly, well done to Ms White for recognising this mistake and fighting her case.

And secondly, thank you to her for sharing her story with the rest of us that we could be entitled to refunds too.

But more than that, her case also sets a really good example of why just because we live in a quirky little place some people have never heard of and where the tax rules are different, it doesn’t mean we should accept bad treatment or mistakes.

ASOS may still not be listening, but others will. And we can always vote with our credit cards if they continue to keep pocketing more of our hard earned cash than they are entitled to.

Lucy Stephenson

By Lucy Stephenson
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