Paying taxes on taxes

I have a credit card where I earn points for spending money, and even more points when using the card to pay for trains tickets. In my previous job I commuted by train every day, so I accumulated quite some points over time. The points can be exchanged for a large variety of items. This winter, a sled was on offer for 2,500 points. I checked that the sled would be sent freely to Norway (as the fulfillment center is based in Germany), and they confirmed that only my points balance would be reduced, but that there were no extra fees involved from their side. First disappointment was that delivery was delayed twice, and the last letter indicated that the sled might be delivered after all snow would have melted. Fortunately, the sled was delivered in February.

Well, before it was delivered, I received a note in my mailbox. The Norwegian postal service notified me of a package that they had kept back. They needed to know my personal registration number and requested that I authorize them to pay customs fees in my name. And I was supposed to send them a copy of the bill stating the value of the package’s content. Alternatively, I could order things with customs myself, embarking on a two hour trip to the Oslo freight terminal. I obliged. I faxed them my signature and a printout of the Amazon web page showing a similar sled. I indicated that the price shoown included German VAT and what the price without VAR was. Some days later I could collect my package at the local post office.

The Norwegian postal service took kr. 110 for handling customs. Norwegian customs took 25% Norwegian VAT based on the price of a similar sled that already included 19% German VAT. In effect, the free sled cost me 2,500 credit card points and an additional kr. 200 (25 EUR) to pay for additional „services“ that I do not need. I wonder how many Norwegian sled vendors are supposed to be protected by customs regulations.

First sled ride last weekend with a lot of sun was fun, actually.

About Author: Hanno Langweg

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