...and don't they look smart?
A boxful of PCBs arrived earlier today. And they look great! Well packaged, well ahead of schedule, and no duty to pay!
This is something we're going to have to look into quite carefully - assembled electronics obviously have a VAT element to them when they are brought into the UK (the value-added element that attracts Value Added Tax is that someone has done the work of putting a load of components together for you). PCBs don't attract a VAT element (I remember reading about this somewhere online a number of years ago) but electronics components (such as the 250 shift registered just ordered from eBay) do.
I'm not quite sure where the value-added element of a bunch of shift registers is, to make them liable for VAT. But liable they are - according to DHL at least (and they deal with this kind of stuff all the time, so you've got to assume they're applying customs and excise duty correctly).
Any way, not only do you have to pay VAT on some imported goods, but the handling of that VAT also attracts a handling charge from DHL (to which they add their own VAT). So it suddenly makes a cheap online deal look not-so-cheap!
In future, we'll bulk buy from a single supplier in a single shipment - then we're not only paying carriage once (even if it's more expensive for a larger parcel) but only paying the VAT handling charge once too!