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Posting to the European Union

Latest update 16.11.21

On 1 July 2021 posting items from the UK to any EU country became problematic. This page will be updated as we learn more about the ramifications and how it affects purchasing books and other items from this website and, in particular, how it impinges on Descent subscriptions.

The UK does not apply VAT to books or magazines, so no tax has been added to any existing subscriptions or book sales posted internationally, including to EU countries for any past or current sales. There are three classification of posting items from the UK: person-to-person, business-to-person and business-to-business. Wild Places posts subscriptions as business-to-person.

On 1 July 2021 the EU cancelled the threshold below which tax would not be charged for business-to-person mail and as a result this introduced VAT on all items brought into the EU. Because the UK is no longer a member of the EU, all items (including Descent) must now pay this VAT to the destination country. The rate varies according to the country. This directly affects existing Descent subscriptions, because delivering each issue requires a customs declaration and VAT payment. In addition, if the tax is not prepaid at the point of posting, it will be charged on delivery plus (potentially) a handling fee (which varies according to the destination country). As of mid-September 2021, feedback from customers indicated that no handling fee was being charged and typical tax fees are under 2 euros (most seem to be around 1.20 euros, but this cannot be guaranteed).

However, by October with more EU countries meeting their legal obligations, handling fees were being added. Discrepancies exist and, as of this date, only a few countries including Germany and Malta were dealing with post and customs correctly (others were delaying post, charging fees that should not have been applied, or were wrongly returning mail that was correctly addressed with all paperwork completed).

Without registering with an EU agent, it is impossible to prepay the tax and it is also impossible for even these agents to deal with existing subscriptions, paid for before 1 July. Registering with an EU tax-collecting agent is prohibitively expensive for a small concern such as us and this is untenable, being a multiple of the entire income from all EU sales. Without prepaid tax, a charge is made on delivery. Continued searches for a solution have failed as of November 2021. The overall position is explained more fully in an editorial in Descent (282), which you are encouraged to read (and read again). A copy and covering letter sent to the relevant UK government MP has failed to receive a reasonable reply.

The upshot is that we were initially forced to close down the website for all orders to the EU as we had no means of posting them. Since then we have reopened for sales, but only with the proviso that the customer accepts absolutely the need to pay any tax or handling charge levied on delivery. We are unable to refund orders where the customer has subsequently declined to pay any fees or not collected the order from any depot.

Attempts to find a solution have failed. We are not alone: all independent small publishers, including caving clubs, are in the same situation and we are starting to hear of much larger publisher withdrawing all sales from the EU. What is apparent is that the lowest cost option for subscribers may be to accept paying the tax on delivery, which realistically equates to the tax that would have been paid if it had been a requirement when the subscription was taken out.

We have emailed all EU subscribers for whom we hold an email address with some specific options for moving forward. We need to hear from you to know you will accept the delivery VAT applied in your country. Without confirmation, we are unable to despatch your existing subscripion, dating from before these changes, on time.

This page will be updated as we learn more. Thank you for your understanding and patience with this situation, which is outside our control.

Chris & Judith

Updated 4.8.21, 11.9.21 and 16.11.21